Looking down from the mountain

I've just spent a day trekking through the Tongariro National Park, New Zealand. Here's a shot I took from Mt Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom in Lord of the Rings) looking out across to Mt Tongariro.

Lost the trail and wandered through the snow for an hour or so in gale force winds. Terribly irresponsible of me. But lots of fun and I lived to tell the story.

The experience made me think of two recent conversations about the increasing scarcity of church planters. . .

The first with a leader whose denomination has a strong history of multiplying new churches. He was concerned because the younger leaders in their movement aspired not to pioneering but to gaining a position on the team of the larger, successful churches.

The second conversation with a leader in another church planting movement. She and her husband have planted three churches in their ministry together. When I talked to them about helping a new generation plant churches she told me, “I not sure if I can do that. I feel they'd be ”cannon fodder“. I'd be sending them out to face possible failure.”

It's natural to want to gravitate to what is successful. It's natural to want to protect people from ‘failure'. It's also a sign that a movement is transitioning out of it's dynamic phase and beginning to settle down.

When you're at the top of the mountain, you're at the height of your success. You look back and you remember when you had nothing. You remember when you risked it for a cause you believed in. Without the resources, without the know-how. In spite of the opposition.

But now you have accomplishments to protect. Instead of thinking about risk, you think of securing what you've achieved. At that point a movement plateaus. Decline has not yet set in, but the rate of advance tapers off.

People who change the world have a cause that is worth risking everything for. Their lives become like grains of wheat that fall to the ground and die and in doing so produce much fruit. They count the cost but consider the rewards worth the risk. They keep climbing the next mountain and the next. . .