DashHouse.com

The Blog of Darryl Dash

This blog is about how Jesus changes everything. He changes:

Our relationship with God

Our relationship with others

Our vocations - how we live and work in this world

Our ministries

This blog exists to explore some of the ways that Jesus changes everything. It provides resources and articles that will help you think about the ways that Jesus can change every part of your life.

The Lord himself invites you to a conference concerning your immediate and endless happiness, and He would not have done this if He did not mean well toward you. Do not refuse the Lord Jesus who knocks at your door; for He knocks with a hand which was nailed to the tree for such as you are. Since His only and sole object is your good, incline your ear and come to Him. Hearken diligently, and let the good word sink into your soul. (C.H. Spurgeon, All of Grace)

Filtering by Category: Church Planting

My Second Biggest Temptation in Church Planting

The temptations in church planting are endless, just as in the rest of life. Overall, I find that there are two that are the most common for me. One is the temptation to rely on my own strength rather than planting in complete reliance upon God; the other is focusing more on the worship service than on making disciples.

Don’t get me wrong: I believe in the priority of corporate worship, the preaching of God’s Word, and more. I would react equally against an approach that downplays corporate worship. When we planted, we began with an emphasizing the importance of corporate worship. We are not as down on this as some church plants who purposely downplay the corporate gathering.

The danger is that church becomes a weekly service rather than a group of disciples who are living on mission, and that church attendance becomes a greater metric than the making of disciples in everyday life. I wrote of this danger years ago, and I'm living it now. I'm struck by what Dallas Willard once said:

We must flatly say that one of the greatest contemporary barriers to meaningful spiritual formation in Christlikeness is overconfidence in the spiritual efficacy of 'regular church services,' of whatever kind they may be. Though they are vital, they are not enough. It is that simple.

I long for more of the ministry described in books like The Trellis and the Vine, which includes corporate gathering but a whole lot more discipleship taking place throughout the week.

What do you think? If you are church planting, what other temptations have you noticed?

My Biggest Temptations in Church Planting

There are two temptations that I face continually as we plant Liberty Grace Church. I’m going to share one of them today, and the other one next Tuesday.

The biggest temptation that I face in church planting is relying on my own strength rather than planting in complete reliance on God.

My thinking often goes like this: church planting is the effective implementation of best practices. If you get those right, then a church plant will be successful.

When I write this out, it looks ridiculous. Sure, I can learn from church planting principles. In fact, I had better do this. But the minute that I think that the key to success in church planting is a set of pragmatic principles is the day that the church begins to resemble what can be accomplished through human strength and activity alone. It’s the day that I start to see prayer as robbing my time from management and leadership.

I love how Francis Schaeffer put it:

To trust in particular methods is to copy the world and to remove ourselves from the tremendous promise that we have something different — the power of the Holy Spirit rater than the power of human technique…

Is not the central problem of our generation that the world looks upon the church and sees it trying to do the Lord's work in the flesh? Let us ask ourselves the hard questions: do we really believe God exists, and do we really believe God?

As Adam Sinnett told me early in the process, church planting is the overflow of one’s relationship with Jesus Christ. Other principles are helpful; that one is central. I saw this modeled the other week as we visited a church in Ottawa: the most important thing you can do as a church planter is to abide in Christ. Everything else is secondary.

In the end, this is an invitation rather than an obligation. I get to be part of something much bigger in which it isn’t all up to me, and in which things happen that I can’t explain. Why would I want to do this any other way?

Leah's Babies

Head back in your Bible to Genesis 29 and you find the story of Leah, someone who seems to have had a very tough life. She had bad eyes; she was married when her father passed her off as her more beautiful sister Rachel. As might be expected, her husband Jacob never seemed to warm up to her. Imagine life as the ugly sister with bad eyes who was married through a mean trick. It hardly sounds like a joyful existence.

Leah had one advantage over her more beautiful sister, though. She could have babies, while Rachel seemed to be infertile. Finally, something seemed to be going Leah’s way.

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So she had babies. After her first baby she said, “Now my husband will love me.” It didn’t seem to work, because after the second child she said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.” Again, it wasn’t enough to make Jacob love her. Enter a third baby. “Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.”

Poor Leah. She based her identity on the babies she produced, thinking that they would give her the acceptance she longed for. It didn’t work. She was caught in a fool’s game of trying to measure up, thinking one more would give her what she was desperately looking for.

Something seemed to have happened to Leah. She finally had a fourth child, and this time her words were different: “This time I will praise the LORD.” Finally, she stopped looking for Jacob’s approval to fill her heart. She found her identity and meaning in God.

It turns out that it was through this fourth baby, Judah, that Jesus eventually came.

I know Leah’s babies well. I often think that if my church plant is successful, then I will get the approval I need. Perhaps if I’m noticed or recognized, then I will finally be happy. There is a huge whole in my heart, and I think that one more success will bring me the satisfaction I’m looking for. "This time it'll work," I think. Just one more.

I want to skip all of that and get to where Leah did. “This time I will praise the LORD.” This time I will not base my happiness on the approval or recognition of others; this time I will look to God for my lasting joy.

Jacob could never give Leah what she was looking for. All the church planting success or recognition from others will never give me what I am looking for most, and what I already have: the smile and recognition that is mine through the gospel. With that I will be content.

Top Seven Blessings of the Past Year

A year ago today we moved into Liberty Village. It seems like yesterday, yet it’s hard to remember not living here.

Moving Day

Here, in no particular order, are the top seven blessings we’ve experienced in the past year:

  • Provision — I remember lying awake at night wondering how we were going to make this work on a church planter’s salary (or, sometimes, lack of salary). God provided for us: We found a condo that fit our family’s needs. We sold our house. The day that we moved in, we received the largest single donation we’ve received as a new church. Church planting can be very financially challenging — we’re in the middle of that right now — but God has provided for us.
  • Friends — When we moved in, we really didn’t know anyone in Liberty Village. We’ve been privileged to make some very good friendships here. We have met some of the nicest people in the past year, and I’m blessed to call them my friends.
  • Co-workers — I remember Nathan and Sarah saying that they would love to get involved with Liberty Grace, but they just couldn’t see how they could ever move down here with their family. Not only did they move in, but they brought another couple with them. God continues to send amazing co-workers. We arrived alone, but we didn’t stay alone for long. God is so good.
  • HealingArticles like this are a little on the depressing side, but there is no doubt that ministry can leave bruises after many years. The past year has been a great one for dealing with some of those bruises, and finding ourselves healing. The alternative is bitterness, and that’s not pretty.
  • Grace in suffering — We went through one of the greatest crises of our lives early this year. As usual, we grew in the middle of that suffering. As tough as it was, we discovered that God’s grace was just as abundant as our pain. And we discovered that our weakness is not a surprise to God; he uses us in our weakness.
  • Greater health — We’ve been eating better and building strength. My wife works for a great company, and we’ve really benefited from one of their online programs. This has not only been fun to do this together, but it’s helped us feel a lot better.
  • Seeing God work — We are planning our first baptism. And I had the gospel explained to me the other day by someone who started attending our church when we launched in September. How do you beat that?

All this to say: God is so good, and we are so grateful.

For the Love of the City

A year ago this month we moved into Liberty Village, a condo community in the heart of Toronto. I grew up in the suburbs of Toronto, and have spent the past 20 years living in the inner suburbs. Moving into an urban condo community was a new experience for me. I thought I would love it, but it’s been even better than I expected.

I want to be careful in this post. I don’t want to suggest that cities are inherently better than other places. Sometimes you get the impression that people think city-centered ministry is what really counts, and everyone else has missed out. That’s not at all the case, and I don’t want you to think that’s what I’m saying.

But here is what I am saying: I love the city, as many of you love where you live. And here are just two reasons why.

Liberty Village. Photo courtesy of Carlos Pacheco

The City as a Great Place to Live

My father lived in a village in Kent, England. When I visited him I appreciated many of the aspects of village life. We walked everywhere. We relied on public transit (bus and train) when we needed to travel. We visited the high street almost daily. We got to know others in the community. It was easy to see why a village is a great place to live.

When you live in a certain type of city neighborhood, that’s exactly what you experience. Liberty Village isn’t called a village for no reason: with train tracks on the north and south, and only a few ways in and out, it really does have the feeling of a village within a large city. We tend to walk everywhere. To travel within the city, we often use transit. (It’s almost a kilometer to drive our car from the parking spot to the street outside, for one thing.) We shop the local shops and regularly bump into people on the street. We meet them at parties and community events. We have the best of village living in the big city.

Not only that, but we have all the benefits of urban life as well. We have many of the ingredients of great city living: diversity, culture, food, a critical mass of people. Our commute time is low because we live where we work. Jane Jacobs and others have described the qualities that make cities healthy, and many of them are present here. Contrary to what many people think, the city is a great place to live if you want to improve the quality of your life.

The City as a Great Place to Serve

As far back as Ray Bakke, and as recently as Tim Keller, people have been arguing for the importance of city-centered ministry. I won’t go over all of the arguments, but there’s no doubt that there is a need for churches in the city, just as there are in the suburbs and the country as well. I love how James Boice put it:

Not every Christian needs to live in our cities, but far more should live in them than do now. They should live in them as their mission field of choice….since we want to be ahead of the times rather than lagging behind them, we should probably lead the way with an even higher percentage of Christians relocating to the urban areas. Many thousands should move there.

The whole post on Boice’s view of the city is worth reading.

I really resonate with Boice’s statement, “And while we’re working on it we should not think that the world is utterly opposed to us. Society is often less hostile than we think.” One of the reasons that the city is such a great place to live is because there is such a need here. When a church shows up that loves the city, it is often met with more receptivity than one might have guessed.

One more thing: city ministry has the potential to be much more community-based than in other settings. We are essentially starting a parish church. I don't have to get in my car and drive 15 minutes to a church meeting. I can walk a few minutes and meet most of the people who are part of Liberty Grace Church. The potential for living in purposeful, missional community is staggering.

So What?

The city is not for everyone. Some people are city folk; some aren’t. We need people and churches everywhere.

My point is not to run down where anyone else is living or serving. My point is to tell you that the city is an amazing place to live, and a great place to plant a church, and that you should consider it for yourself.

Last year, Nathan and Sarah Fullerton moved into Liberty Village to join us. It was because they have a love for the city, a calling to the city, and a desire to serve here. I'm so glad they share my love for Liberty Village, for the Lord, and for service, and that they've brought others with them. I want their tribe to increase.

Don’t believe all the bad press about how cities are such a bad place. (A lady told me the other week: “Good luck working with all the murderers in Toronto!”) If you feel the draw to a city, consider how you might live and serve there for the glory of God. We certainly could use more servant-minded believers who love the city in our church plant and other church plants!