Church planting in Ontario, Canada
By Philip and Lisa Wright
A beautiful verse in the book of Malachi says: “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and you shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall” (Malachi 4:2 KJV). Take a second look at the words, “and you shall go forth, and grow up.”
Our idea is that we grow up first, obtain knowledge, get comfortable in our skin and “really feel ready,” and then off we go. That sounds like conventional wisdom, but it is not necessarily God’s idea. He said, “go forth” first, and then you will grow up. We could say God’s motto is “Growing is in the going!” And going isn’t necessarily heading off to a distant geographical destination; in most cases, it simply means to start doing what you feel God has placed in your heart to do. That’s basically the story of “The Gathering” and perhaps it’s your story too.
When my wife, Lisa, and I started our house church in 2002, my heart was in the right place, but God had to do some major work in my head. Prior to this time I had been the senior pastor of two churches, from 1984 to 1996, in a more typical or traditional church structure. Then I traveled full-time in ministry from 1997-2001, speaking and teaching in churches and conferences. Beginning in 2002, Lisa and I started a church plant in Woodstock, Ontario, with a deliberate focus on the house church model.
When in casual conversations with the pastors in our town or with other Christians, the question would inevitably arise: “Where is your church located?” Suddenly I would find myself hyperventilating and my words would get caught in my throat, “Ahh . . . it’s in my house.” I felt embarrassed to admit that. A pastor in our town told some folks in his church that what we were doing wasn’t a real church; it was “just a Bible Study.” He didn’t think we were actually a church, but how could I fault him—I wasn’t sure either. How could I convince others that what we were doing was legitimate when I was not convinced myself?
Thankfully, today I feel secure in the fact that we are doing what God wants. I love the simplicity and the ease in which we are able to communicate with one another.
I have learned many wonderful things on this journey. One important principle was realizing that those whom God had sent to us did not see everything the same way I did.
I was convinced that in a brief span of time the others in our small group would begin house churches themselves, and I taught with that expectation in mind. Don’t get me wrong, church planting is certainly a great thing; it is biblical and needed. But Lisa gave me a more balanced view when she pointed out that God created us with a variety of goals, gifts and drives, and that I needed to stop my relentless push to force people out to plant churches.
Paul makes this variety of gifts abundantly clear in Romans 12:4, 6-8: “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office. . . . Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teaches, on teaching; or he that exhorts, on exhortation: he that gives, let him do it with simplicity; he that rules, with diligence; he that shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”
After I pulled that beam out of my eye, I was amazed by what I saw and wondered how I had missed it. I love to listen to how people are having an impact in our community and beyond—whether through interactions with those they work with or among family members or friends, through divine appointments that happen in the most curious of ways, through loving and mentoring “at risk youth,” … I could go on and on. As we go forth to do God’s will, He grows us up!