A guy’s gotta dream, and being part of the work of planting a new church sure does get your imagination going. After all, there is a lot involved in planting a church and without a pretty substantial imagination a person probably would not even accept the challenge of doing it! In some ways the passion to start comes from a vision of where you will end up. I think that is why Christians should have a good imagination! I mean only people with imagination can live in this strange space where all the evil powers, principalities, and kingdoms are coming to an end all around us. Only a Christian could have the grace given imagination to see the world as it truly is; in transition. We live in that space where a new heaven, a new earth, a new Kingdom is being established day by day before our very eyes! These are the last days of an old world and the first days of a new one! Nothing is more inspiring than looking at a neighbor, a neighborhood, a community, a city, and imagining what the New Kingdom will look like there as Christ continues the restoration work and invites you to be a part of it!
The fact is that a church planter’s’ gotta dream! In fact, it is one of my favorite past times and if anybody questions its importance, or warns of wasting my time with my head in the clouds, I can just remind them that using imagination is part of what the Spirit empowers us to do. Now I could not say it better myself so just listen to Peter: “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy” (Acts 2:17-18). We were made for this imagination, Spirit inspired, dreaming stuff! So, if you would indulge me, I would like to share some of my dreams for the Blackman Community Church with you. It is these dreams that drive my ministry. These imaginings inspire the work of planting this church! So, imagine with me! Imagine one day with Blackman Community Church.
I spend a lot of my time having these really amazing conversations with people all around me about what their community looks like and what they wish it looked like. A lot of my conversations start like this, “Hey you lived here very long? Well, I just moved here but I really like it. What’s your favorite thing about it?” Now, you need to know that I spend about three days a week substitute teaching so normally this conversation is being had with a student counselor, a lunch lady, an educational assistant, a teacher, a parent, a student, or even a member of the school administration. Usually, people are pretty eager to say a few good things about their community. This is especially true of the Blackman Community in Murfreesboro. I mean, I don’t wanna be too biased but it really is a great place to live! Still, when they finish I normally follow up with a question like: “Yeah man so much great stuff going on here? But you know every community has a few rough spots. You know what I mean?” I generally pause here to give my conversation partner a chance to jump in, and they almost always do! As I listen to their response my imagination goes crazy!!!
Case in point. The other day I was talking to one of the Blackman Middle School guidance counselors over my heated up stir fry and her PB&J when a conversation like this took place. After I asked my first questions she started talking all about all the great activities that the Blackman Community had to offer. She especially likes all of the sports activities available for students of all ages. It probably doesn’t hurt that she has an 11-year-old football playing son! Still, like any proud mom and community worker she waxed on about how these sports activities gave students a safe place to get energy out, spend time with friends, get exposure to coaches of good character, and hang out in those hours between school ending and parents getting home from work. She capped it all off with a, “Ya know it’s just so awesome to live in a place that has safe places and people for my kid to spend time with doing the thing he loves without me having to worry. I am glad he has it.” My cheeks almost hurt from mirroring her smiles by the time she finished. After following her up with some affirming observations of my own, such as the fact that I live in an apartment right next to a little league after school football field next to the Blackman Elementary School where my wife works and it is awesome, I asked my second question.
She paused and said, “I know you know that I am a student counselor. I also know that a lot of people say that we don’t have needy kids in the Blackman Community, but did you know….?” She went on to tell me that Blackman Middle School consists of over a hundred students who get free and reduced lunches, that a sizable portion of the student body are considered “homeless” because they do not have a stable place to live, and that she meets weekly with single parents struggling to make ends meet by working two or three jobs while trying to make sure they are also actually doing a decent job of raising their kids. I’ll admit, initially, I had no idea where she was going with this. Then, after explaining this situation she said, “Now, do you know that it costs around $200 for your kid to be on one of the city football teams? It’s even more if they join a travelling team that gives them a chance at playing high school ball! Now, do you think that a single mom, with no stable home, working two jobs, and trying to make ends meet can afford $200 so her kid can play ball? Nope!” She went on to explain how these kids, with no stable home, had to leave school, get off the bus, and spend the two or three hours before mom or dad, grandma or grandpa, gets home trying to find something to do. If they don’t find something to do, then something finds them. As I ate my stir fry and listened to her explain the details I began understanding what she was seeing. She was seeing a community where kids had great opportunities to be valued, do what they love, and be influenced by people of character if they could afford it. She was seeing a community where single parents worked themselves half to death to provide for their children and yet still find that it was not enough to provide them a safe place and great opportunities. She was seeing a community with a need. She saw a tragedy! I began to see an opportunity! Even as she spoke my imagination started pumping! I began to imagine what this community would look like when one day there was a Backman Community Church.
I began to imagine that one day there was a Blackman Community church that offered opportunities for kids to be valued, safe, and happy in those hours between the end of school and the time when parents get home. What would this look like you might ask? It might look like a sports team or two that is sponsored by BCC. These sports teams would be for those who could not afford the fees that other sponsored teams require. This would be a team coached by Christ-like BCC men and women who love children and love sports. This would be more than a sports team but an opportunity to be introduced to a community that exists for loving and sharing with our community. I imagine one day that Blackman Community Church will influence those children without stable homes, with single parents, with nowhere to go after school, with the love of Christ by providing a place for them to be safe and positively influenced doing the things they love. I imagine that the Blackman Community Church will not stop there but will continue to look for ways to value families of all shapes and sizes in our community by loving children and passionately scheming to find ways to meet the needs of our community! A sports team or, an after school program, a conversation with a community worker about community needs, dreaming about Kingdom opportunities in our community. I imagine a day when every day of the week is filled with BCC members engaged in acts of worship such as these. Worship done for the community and in the community.
Another case in point. There are not as many churches in the Blackman Community of Murfreesboro as you might think. However, just a few weeks ago, as Halloween drew near, every church sign that you passed had something on it about a trunk or treat, fall festival, or some other type of Halloween event. Each one of them said something like this, “COMMUNITY TRUNK OR TREAT OCT. 31 AT 6:00PM RIGHT HERE! EVERYBODY WELCOME!” Now, I have to admit that I have a strange mind, only made stranger by the fact that I have become a church planter. At first sight these signs warmed my heart. It is so nice to see churches intentionally having community events. In fact, I had just talked to my neighbors earlier that week about where to take their children for Halloween. They just moved to Murfreesboro and were wondering if there was a safe place to take their children. They did not know the area well but wanted to do something fun with their kids. Actually, several of our neighbors with kids had the same thought. Living in apartments means that Katie and I come into contact with a lot of new comers to the Blackman Community. Some move into apartments cause it’s all they can afford, for others it is until they buy a house, and for others it makes them feel safer to be living within a larger community. Whatever the reason, almost all of them have kids! This is why a community Halloween event is a good idea! There is just one thing I cannot help noticing about these signs and the events they promote. They assume that the community will come to them and understand the culture of their church event. I mentioned this to one or our Launch Team members at BCC and they said, “Oh yeah we went to one of those at the church closest to us last year.” She explained how they planned to arrive at 6:00pm but, having a child, arrived about 30 minutes late. When they arrived people were finishing up a meal. They were told that everybody had already finished eating, dinner had started at 6:00, but in another 30 minutes they would be ready to start the kids part; at 7:00pm. My launch team member explained how, when they looked confused and said they thought the sign said it started at 6:00, a church member explained that they had always done it this way and that it worked better for them. The assumption behind this event is that the community will come to us and that they will willingly enter into our culture of gathering without even knowing that we have one!
Imagine with me one day when Blackman Community church assumes that, instead of the community coming to us and entering our culture, we must go out into our community and enter its culture? Next week Blackman Community Church will be picking up a system of lighting, staging, projection, and sound that is %100 portable. That means that we can setup our setup any place we want! It means that if we can imagine it, then next Halloween we can go to the community! Imagine what it would look like to say, “COMMUNITY TRICK OR TREAT RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE!” Imagine what it will look like when Blackman Community sets up at apartment complexes, neighborhoods, and community centers to offer opportunities to serve our community, have fun with our community, share life with our community, and just love the life into our community from our very center! Imagine one day a Blackman Community Church that assumes we are sent, instead of assuming people will come! It sure does get me pumped! After all, this is the assumption of Christ who came to where we are, entered our community, and loved us, shared life with us, and sent us to do the same. Just imagine!
Just imagine what it will be like when this church exists in this community! What would it look like if a church got started with a burning desire to be a part of the work of the Kingdom right in their neighborhood. What if a church started that really believed when we find the welfare of the city into which God has sent us we also find our welfare? What if we believed the Kingdom of God was coming in our schools, our apartment complexes, and our neighborhoods? Imagine a church that knows what it means to love God and be loved by God, to share life and service together, and constantly be sent and sending out to that community in the name of Jesus Christ! You better prepare yourself because dreams given by God really do come true and there is no act of the imagination to great for the Kingdom of God! With God all things are possible! I cannot help but think of that chorus by Lennon: “You may call me a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you will join us!” Join me in dreaming. Join BCC in imagining what it will look like one day when this church is at the heart of this community!
Now, imagine that your community was filled with people looking for a place to be loved, a place to share life, and a place where they could find the joy of being sent out for a mission greater than any other! Imagine that you were walking around your community with a pocket full of cards announcing that the place they were looking for was right under their noses in the Blackman Community. A church just for the Blackman Community! Imagine what the consequences would be of walking up to a co-worker, neighbor, friend, or stranger that you imagined needed the gift of the church and handing them an announcement that the gift had been given! What kind of a difference would it make? Now, before you dismiss the potential of something like this, remember, we are the dreaming people! Don’t you dare be to “realistic”! God is up to something!
I attended a conference for church planting several months ago and listened to a church planter talk about dreaming and visioning. He talked about the need for imagination. Then he said, “The miracle of the Gospel is that dreams and visions become reality by the planning of a church planter, the work of a Launch team, and the power, grace, and faithfulness of God!” Come on and see! Come on and lets just join the miracle of imagining! Let’s join the company of dreamers that Pentecost has created! Here we go to start a church together! Imagine the miracle that one day soon there will be a Blackman Community Church of the Nazarene!