Saturday, January 24, 2009

Staying Attentive to God's Leading

Several weeks ago we wrote about being attentive to God's leading. It seems that you can analyze and evaluate information, seek Godly counsel, and consider all the pros and cons - but after all is done, we need to be attentive to what God's Spirit is speaking into our lives. "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." (Galatians 5:25)

After much prayer and consideration, we HAVE decided to partner with the other network we've been discussing. You may know them as the Montana SBC. We have recognized that God was moving us in a certain direction to plant a relevant church in Helena for this generation, while at the same time moving the Montana SBC to do the same through their "AA Strategy."

We can't ignore that our paths crossed and we feel that the Spirit was leading us to this decision.

ARC is an incredible church planting organization and has been an important step in this process and we wouldn't be in this place without them. Attending the ARC Church Planter Assessment helped us evaluate ourselves and gave us a professional opinion as to our suitability as church planters.

We are so grateful they have recommended us as church planters and are willing for financially partner with us as well. We hope to nurture the relationships we've formed through ARC through the coaching and financial resources they provide.

There are comparable funds and resources available through the Montana SBC. In contrast to ARC, none of the funds from the Montana SBC will need to be paid back – regardless of whether we succeed or fail.

We are already forming some sponsorship relationships with churches here in Helena and Montana and will also receive assistance with fund raising a portion of our salary and startup costs through other churches in the SBC network. We are already praying that God will open those doors wide open. Like ARC, another portion of funds will come from our own fund raising and Encounter's Planting Team.

The relationships we've already formed within the Montana SBC have already been a blessing both on personal and administrative level. While the whole process through the SBC is a bit more fuzzy than ARC's straight forward plan, they do have proven success with our model. Here are some great churches affiliated with the SBC network:
One thing we were concerned about is the kind of oversight that the Montana SBC would have over us. We don't want such oversight and traditions to be a barrier to the vision God has given us to reach those who have been turned off by church. We've made it pretty clear that we are seeking to plant a relevant, engaging, missional church here in Helena.

We've gone over a number "hot-button issues" to see where we stand, but for the most part the SBC allows churches to be autonomous within the network. In addition, we are in theological alignment with the Montana SBC and are impressed by the SBC emphasis on global missions; probably the best organization for missions in the world.

We've carefully examined the implications of this partnership, and feel that we can still pursue a non-denominational approach while still aligning ourselves with the Montana SBC. We maintain that the un-churched are more open to attending a church that appears to not have the "baggage" and institutionalism associated with many denominations.

While Encounter is partnering with the SBC denomination, is in alignment with their theology, missions emphasis, and cooperative program, we will focus on the heart of Jesus in our teaching and practice. As Paul expressed it, we will be about "preaching Christ and Christ crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2) rather than building denominational walls.

One of our first training experiences with the Montana SBC was the Church Planters Boot Camp we attended last weekend. We are planning some more training near the end of February to follow up. As we move into March, we will be visiting potential sponsor churches and forming valuable relationships, and learning more.

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