New church planters can be helped by the biblical metaphor of exile, Dan Steigerwald, North American director for Christian Associates International ― a non-denominational church planting ministry ― told a Sept. 18 clinic entitled “Leadership Needs for New Ventures” at the 2013 Evangelism and Church Growth Conference here.
“There is much fear and anxiety in the church and culture,” Steigerwald told the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s annual evangelism conference. “It’s a feeling of being lost.”
The solution, he said, is to realize that you can get your bearings because you belong to Jesus Christ. “When you are lost it is not necessary to attempt to return to where you were, but to acknowledge that you are not lost, you are right here and it’s not necessary to go back to where you started.”
So leaders of new church ventures must start with two questions of themselves, Steigerwald said: “In what ways do I feel lost and disoriented in these times?” and “How do I reorient myself so I can say ‘I’m not lost, I’m right here.’”
The exile metaphor is helpful, Steigerwald said, “because in the book of Jeremiah God tells the captive Israelites ‘you are not captives, you are now missionaries of Shalom.’”
Steigerwald called those words “a breath of life.” In tough situations of trying to start a new church, the exile metaphor helps leaders remember that “those with whom you minister may not be followers of Christ but they are made in the image of God. We need to have that positive internal identity in order to be positive, hopeful ministers in the world.”
Personal leadership development for those who would be “missionaries of shalom” involves a learning posture, a dynamic relationship with God, a “lifetime” rather than short-term perspective, quality mentor relationships to avoid a sense of isolation and a growing sense of God’s destiny.
“The church is meant to be people in motion, not a static sending agency,” Steigerwald said. “When we stand as missionaries of Shalom, we’re providing a foretaste of God’s Kingdom.”