Kenda and I had the joy of helping steer The River Church Plant 13 years ago this July, and it’s been quite the ride; a ride that continues to this day. The reason I say “helping steer” is that for me it provokes an image of being in a canoe together with others, all working together towards one singular cause…listening to the direction of our ultimate Guide. Without Jesus giving us direction along the way, and the people He invited to join us on the journey, we wouldn’t have made it this far.
One of the key paddlers in the canoe has been our C&MA CPD team, who God gave us as an incredible resource, providing us with support and encouragement along the way. We thank God for you CPD team!!
Many of you who are familiar with church planting know that it can be likened to birthing a baby. And just like birth, there are stages of development – it begins with a zygote (barely an idea), embryo (core team begins to form), fetus (launch plan), leading to new birth! As I consider these stages, I think way back to 2004 when we first approached the CPD with our dream to plant a church in Squamish. By God’s grace, they too caught the vision and began to pour into us in some very practical ways. One of the things they did was send us to an inter-denominational church planting boot camp weekend. Along with many other church planters from a wide array of denominations, God began to equip us for the journey before us. I still look back on that event and remember, with gratitude, the significant tools we were given for the task ahead of us.
13 years later, The River is no longer considered a church plant – some might say we have grown up and are no longer considered a newborn or even a toddler anymore – and by God’s grace, we are perhaps entering early the stage of adolescence by now! Who knows? But this we know for sure, the cultural and spiritual landscape we find ourselves in here in Squamish is ever changing and morphing, requiring us to either adapt and change or become irrelevant. If you’re like me, maybe you have seen this same pattern in the developmental stage of your church that the Spirit often asks us to re-think, and re-define who we are called to be every 7 years or so. We at The River have found this to be true.
This is where the CPD comes in again. Passionate about Jesus’ Kingdom and equipping pastoral teams to be all God has called them to be, I was invited to attend a New Leaf Design Shop. Understanding that the spiritual and cultural landscape where we live and serve continues to change, they realize models and tactics also need to change. Even ways of learning changes. This is why I so valued and appreciate what I received from my New Leaf experience. The trainers didn’t just lecture and tell us how it’s done, these seasoned church planters led us in creative, interactive teaching moments that were truly transformational. I feel like I was equipped with tools that were tried and tested in the world we find ourselves in.
At first, I was reluctant to attend, wondering if the content would be relevant for a church at the stage we found ourselves in but was I surprised! Pleasantly surprised. In fact, I would encourage any church board, any outreach team, any simple church seeking to launch new simple churches, to attend a New Leaf Design Shop. I believe in New Leaf and the content they present is a gift to any church at whatever stage they are in the journey. I look forward to taking what I have learned, adapting it to our context, and working it through with our team this fall, and on an annual basis.