What’s the Plan?

This is the ever present question surrounding the planting of Grace Community here in Northeast Atlanta. What is the plan, John?

The first step in the plan is to pray. This is the premier step in discerning the will of God as opposed to the will of man, even my most considered plans for launching a church. Unless the Lord builds Grace Community, my efforts and those of other men will surely be in vain.

The next step is to meet people and build relationships. The old way of doing church was to open a franchise. Demographics suggest that there is a need for a church generally and our flavor specifically. So we build a building or these days rent space in a strip center. We open for corporate gatherings. Those that were raised Anglican look for an Anglican church. Likewise, Methodists, Lutherans, and Baptists look for the corner church with their flavor.

And in many ways we continue to operate the same way, out of an aging and failing model. Churches attempt to draw a crowd to a flavor. Traditional, contemporary, formal, casual, liturgical, and free form – these are many of the ways in which we describe church. Distinctions are made in the way we worship, what happens when we gather the assembly. The distinctions in worship assume we all believe the same thing about the Lordship of Jesus Christ. That may not be an assumption we should take for granted.

Regardless, using a flavor to create a crowd (or church) makes something other than the main thing the main thing. How we worship is what unites a people (call it church or community) fashioned in this way. By design, what should be universal in scope is reduced to something very specific, and that something is fleeting. As Dean Inge said, he who marries the spirit of the age finds himself soon widowed. Flavors change. I once loved chocolate ice cream. Then it was praline almond crunch. Now, when I allow myself to indulge it is chocolate chip cookie dough or better yet, Cherry Garcia. Tastes change.

Church growth or planting should be rooted in the eternal, the one who was, and who is, and who is to come. The Body can only be built out of members who have a deep relationship with Jesus. The Body is first and foremost the assembly of people who have been called out of the world and into a relationship with Him. Believers are then drawn into a relationship with each other. We are the called out people undivided by race, gender, socioeconomic class and certainly undivided by flavor.

Don’t get me wrong. I have a personal preference for worship. This is unavoidable and perhaps should not be avoided at all. But our relationships with Jesus and with each other should transcend flavors. “I don’t like the kneeling.” “I really don’t care for the drums.” “I think the music is too loud.” I think the band members should wear khakis not jeans.” “I” and my flavor become central to the equation as opposed to Jesus and our fellowship in Him. Unfortunately I’ve experienced this often throughout the years.

The Apostle Paul helps us here. In the opening verses of Romans 12 Paul is revealing what our response to the great mercies of God should be. To offer ourselves as living sacrifices, this is our reasonable worship. Living daily as a sacrifice is a 24/7 (read “universal”) proposition and can never be captured by finite flavors.

As a planter the Lord has put it upon my heart to keep the main thing the main thing, or first things first. While the Lord will dictate where Grace Community goes, I imagine one day that one of the called out people, a people He has forged beginning with a life-giving relationship with Him, will suggest all the called out people gather corporately to worship. If so, we will have been followers, individually and together, before we pursued a means of corporately expressing that we are fans.

So pray and build relationships. That is the initial plan. Remembering all the while, that while we plant and water, it is God Himself who gives the growth.

3 Responses to “What’s the Plan?”

  • Robert Smith Says:


    Good thoughts. As a friend of church planters, and as one involved in ministry, I know it’s easy to let “flavors” or secondary issues overshadow the main thing: worshiping Jesus Christ. I’m sure there will be temptation for you and for Grace Community to wed the culture and do the same. Praying for strength and resolve and joy as you all seek His plan for His church.

    Love in Christ,

  • John Richardson Says:

    Thank you Robert. Keep us informed as your own ministry continues to unfold. His blessings upon you as you labor to advance the cause of Christ Jesus!

  • Jon Shuler Says:

    Well John, now that you got that off your chest, I hope you hold on to the great mystery that there is NO church without sinful men, but there is a Bride (even leprous until cleansed) being perfected unto that Great Day. She has flesh and blood, as well as Spirit, by God’s immutable plan.
    The New Testament can not be used to separate the incarnate church from the mystical church. It is not Biblical, nor Anglican.

    Again, glad you got it off your chest. Now build Her up with the authority you have been given.It comes to you from Her Lord.

    Pax Christi.

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