Stoking the fire

Mission & Ministry: We need others around us to retain our enthusiasm for church planting

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My friend Monte told me a parable about a charcoal fire. When the coals are piled together, each coal remains hotter for a longer period. The coals help each other remain white-hot. Conversely, when a coal becomes separated from the others, it cools more quickly. Like hot coals, we need other Christians around us so we can remain “white-hot” for Christ.

For the past few years, the whole world has felt like a lonely, separated coal that’s lost touch with the others. I’ve felt that way as well—not within just my extended family but also our Mennonite Brethren extended family. It’s been a tough couple of years. As a pastor, it’s been hard enough to do just local church projects, but it’s been even harder to travel and connect across the country with our district and national MB relationships. Like coals in a fire that get separated, we lose our “heat” faster when we’re apart.

But I see new hope and even a fresh start on the horizon. We can and we need to reconnect. The devil loves it when we’re disconnected. It causes discouragement. It leads to hopelessness and isolation. It limits our ability to do God’s work. So, with renewed vision, we need to reconnect on critical matters like discipleship and evangelism.

And that’s why I’m writing my first ever article for the Christian Leader. One way I’m excited about seeing this reconnection happen is with the newly formed national USMB Church Planting Council (CPC). The CPC has been formed in 2021 to help facilitate and collaborate for planting and enhancing MB churches across the U.S. In other words, this council is designed to get us connected to “pull the coals closer together” for church planting, church growth and church encouragement.

The CPC is designed to be a resource and an encouragement, working alongside the five districts and local churches. I’ve been on the Southern District Conference’s church planting commission (CEEC) for most of my 17 years in Oklahoma, and I for one, love the idea of a national collaborative effort. It’s hard to plant churches, and it’s hard to do it alone. It’s hard to dream when you feel you have limited resources. We’ve got some amazing people serving on this new national council, and in the months to come, I hope you get to meet some of them in person to, “fire us up” to start more churches.

Like individual coals, each of our churches alone may struggle with a momentous project like planting a church. But collectively, even if our contribution seems small, we can participate in the “heat” of a cause. One of our CPC goals is to foster more organic conversations about pooling our resources, experiences and our passion for planting.

Let’s make this practical. If you come to my church and say, “Go plant a church!” that might be overwhelming. But what if you say, “Let’s get a group of church leaders from your region to pool our resources, locally, district-wise and nationally, to plant a church.”

Imagine a half-dozen churches in this conversation. One church might have a young family that’s been thinking about planting, another might be able to cobble together some money for startup costs and another might be able to offer workers for specific project assistance.

Those coals that were spread apart couldn’t do much alone, but together, with each coal providing some heat, the whole becomes greater—hotter than the sum of its parts. That’s why the new national Church Planting Council exists. Increasing impact: together.

Brian Harris serves on the new Church Planting Council with Christian Kohs, Aaron Hernandez, Henri Ngolo and Don Morris.
Brian Harris
Brian Harris is lead pastor at Pine Acres Church, a USMB congregation in Weatherford, Oklahoma. He is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and Grace Theological Seminary. In 2015, Harris received his doctorate of ministry from Grace Theological Seminary. He has been married to his wife, Stephanie, for 25 years. They have two daughters.

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