My co-pastor has a big ol’ tattoo on one of his big ol’ biceps that reads “Bad Theology Kills,” which is the kind of tattoo you can only get if you’re planting a new church. There’s a lot to unpack in those three simple words. Bad theology has time and time again lead to the destruction of bodies and communities. There are entire cultures that no longer exist because of some super busted theology – arts and languages invalidated and annihilated. The separation of families seeking asylum and the subsequent caging of children are justified only by the unique hate of bad theology.
But none of that is what I’m writing about. Not that those aren’t worthy topics of conversation – the opposite is true. They deserve many more words than I’m willing to churn out this Sunday afternoon.
No, the “bad theology” I’m talking about is the idea that “uncertainty is equivalent to unfaithfulness.” If you are uncertain, according to bad theology, it means you are not trusting God enough.
And that’s horse-apples.
The very nature of planting a new church is wholly uncertain, and you will not survive that uncertainty only by invoking some higher, divinely-directed plan. Instead, you’re going to get comfy in it – live in the uncertainty. Settle down, build a house, and start a family in it because there’s really no avoiding it.
I’m a 29-year-old writing a blog, so am I really going to make a reference to whatever movie I watched over the weekend? Absolutely. My wife, Monique, and I rented Annihilation and it is a buck-wild sci-fi ride that doesn’t give two poops if you understand what’s happening or not. It doesn’t have time for certainty. You don’t know what’s going on, the characters on screen don’t know what’s going on, the deeply unsettling monsters for sure don’t know what’s going on
and it doesn’t matter.
That’s simply not what the movie is about. It’s about you sitting up to your belly-button in uncertainty and learning about yourself in that process.
And cancer. Annihilation is also about cancer, but I’m not talking about that, either.
Here’s a churchier example: in the early stages of our church start, Kristian and I were working with a local Baptist church who will remain unnamed. We were originally going to be planting in their space and serving the same community, but they dragged their feet through their part of the process. This feet-dragging lasted 14 months from initial contact to our decision to move on – 14 months that were dripping with uncertainty. Kristian and I were never sure how the relationship with this nameless church was going to play out and any certainty on our part would have been fabricated purely to ease our own anxiety. I had friends tell me that they knew it would work out because it was “God’s plan for me,” quoting Jeremiah and all (it wasn’t). But it just as easily could have been God’s plan that it not work out with the nameless church (it didn’t).
Instead of pulling our hair out over the uncertainty of it all, we used those 14 months to prepare, to learn as much as we could about planting a church and bi-professional ministry and all that other good CBF stuff. We made some friends with people stuck in the same uncertain swamp, many of whom are writing posts for this same blog. We focused on the moment and learned about ourselves.
Was the uncertainty horrible at times? Absolutely.
Was it worth it?