Here at the Summit, we have an audacious goal of planting 1,000 churches by 2050. (By God’s grace, we have already planted 298!) One of the most bittersweet realities of planting churches is sending out your best leaders. One of the greatest benefits is getting to learn from them along the way. So we decided to ask some of our Summit Network pastors to give back a little and share some of what God has taught them.
Every Monday throughout the summer, check in here for a dash of wit and wisdom from some of our Summit Network church planters. To find out more about how the Summit Network equips leaders to plant, grow, and multiply gospel-centered churches, visit thesummitnetwork.com.
Our grand finale: Andrew Hopper!
–Chris Pappalardo, Editor
Having been a part of planting Mercy Hill Church almost seven years ago, I still get the question, “What would you do differently?” I find I have a hard time choosing between all the things we probably didn’t get right, but one thing I think of immediately is the struggle we had in building a generosity culture in the church.
For many churches, growth is stifled by a lack of resources rather than fueled by an abundance. The biggest reason we’ve seen for this is a lack of vision that fuels generosity.
Mercy Hill was a perfect example. We started out well, according to the conventional wisdom of the day. We took up an offering during the service while talking about the importance of giving. We talked about giving in our member covenant. We showed videos of people talking about generosity in an attempt to replicate what we were celebrating. And yes, even as a church plant, I had no problem preaching about giving on the weekend. But while we were busy checking boxes, we were missing the most critical piece in this whole discussion: vision.
While it’s true that “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” vision sets culture. The greatest tool for building generosity within the church is giving people the picture of what could be. I’m not naturally great at casting vision; but, leadership is focusing on what needs attention, not what you are already good at.
The greatest tool for building generosity within the church is giving people the picture of what could be.
As we’ve applied ourselves to improving in this area, we’ve learned there are two components to setting vision: heart and opportunity. All the opportunities in the world won’t matter if people don’t first realize that generosity with time, talent, and treasure may be the greatest marker of a growing Christian.
I recently had the chance to preach from 2 Samuel 19, where David returned from exile and Mephibosheth came to meet him. A dispute had occurred between Ziba, a former servant of Saul, and Mephibosheth, Saul’s grandson, and Ziba slandered Mephibosheth in order to regain power and wealth. To settle the dispute, David simply divided the land between them. But the response of Mephibosheth reveals his heart: Instead of complaining about having his land divided, he tells David to give it all to Ziba, because he is so overjoyed that the king had returned.
In the same way, our hearts are revealed in what we are willing to give up for the King. So, at Mercy Hill, we had to make it a priority not to simply preach truth but to always couple it with an invitation for practical gospel living, which almost always has something to do with generosity. That’s a good way to end most sermons: In light of the gospel, what are we willing to give up for the King?
From there, we not only celebrate what God is doing but show people what could be. By God’s grace, we have had the chance to learn from some of the premier vision casters in the country, and all of them have at least this in common: They always let people see the opportunity to grow their hearts in generosity. One of them frequently tells his people, “The mission of God will go about as far as his people take it.”
So, whether we’re talking about unreached peoples, residency programs, a new campus, or a new ministry in the community, we must show our folks the opportunity of a better immediate future—and that that future depends on our investment.
Andrew Hopper serves as one of the lead pastors of Mercy Hill Church in Greensboro, N.C., which he and a team from The Summit Church planted in 2012. Since then, they have seen God do amazing things by his grace, and they continually pray for more.