Abundance and Scarcity in Church Planting Travis Cunningham By Travis Cunningham May 29, 2020
Acts 29 - A diverse, global family of church-planting churches

On February 2, 2019, my soon-to-be church plant held her first event. It was entirely unremarkable. We served coffee and donuts, sang songs, and I spoke about what we desired our church to become. We asked people to pray about joining our core team and then we were dismissed. As I said, unremarkable.

The week leading up to the event, however, was remarkable for my heart. Many things were revealed about my view of the church and church planting in particular. One lesson has stuck with me since then: we have the option to view church planting through the lens of abundance or scarcity. We can focus on what we don’t have, or we can lead from all we do have in Christ.

I had a scarcity mindset leading up to that first meeting. I was consumed with what our church didn’t have and couldn’t offer. We didn’t have a meeting space, equipment to project sound and images, or signage to welcome people. We didn’t have a reputation in our community, a history to lean on, or a gifted team of influencers. We were weak, feeble, under-resourced, and we were wholly aware of it.

I spent the week of this first event constantly asking God to provide these things for us. In his kindness, God met me through his Word, particularly Colossians 2:10, “And you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” The Colossae believers were caught in an onslaught of false teaching claiming that Christ wasn’t enough. Paul responded by pointing to Christ’s sufficiency. In having Jesus, we have everything we need, but if we don’t have Jesus, we have nothing at all.

God’s Word challenged me to shift my focus from all the things I didn’t have to plant a church, and focus on what I do have: the crucified, risen, reigning, King Jesus. If I have all the money in the world, the most beautiful building, a charismatic personality, and a huge core team, but I don’t have Jesus, then I have nothing. However, in having Christ, I can offer our city everything they need.

I walked into that first meeting a changed man. Deeper freedom to preach nothing but Jesus. Radical honesty that church planting would be hard but worth it. A death to my performance idol—it’s not up to me to build what Jesus promised to build. From that day forward, our church plant has operated under two principles concerning abundance and scarcity.

Lead from Jesus

God says of Jesus, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). As someone united to Jesus by faith, the Father also speaks that of me. I’m adopted, loved, accepted, and cared for by God because of Jesus. There’s more abundance in that than any earned love could ever provide.

In leading through the ups and downs of planting a church, I can wake up every day knowing God is pleased with me and has provided new morning mercies (Lam. 3:22–23). More importantly, as I rest my head on the pillow at night doubting decisions I’ve made, regretting comments I’ve said, and questioning our church’s future, I can rest in the finished work of Jesus and the pleasure of God.

When we neglect to lead from acceptance and abundance in Jesus, we exhaust ourselves trying to earn what God has already given us. But when we believe these truths, our witness is more effective, our worship more robust, our obedience more delightful, our one-anothering richer, and our love for God purer.

The true scarcity in church planting isn’t in a lack of resources, but in a scarce comprehension of the breadth, length, height, and depth of God’s love toward us. And true abundance is found in being rooted and grounded in Christ’s love that surpasses our knowledge, and in his power at work within us. (Eph. 3:17–21).

Lead to Jesus

We not only lead from Jesus but to Jesus. This concerns what our church can provide versus what Jesus can provide. If we lead people to the resources of Story Church, then those resources are scarce. We’re limited in what we can provide from programs, service opportunities, and gathering points outside of Sunday.

However, if we lead people to the resources of Jesus, then those resources are in abundant supply. In leading people to Christ, we’re leading them into a beautiful, life-giving relationship. That’s all we want and need. Truthfully, it’s all we have. And it’s enough.

This church-planting season has helped purge my heart of desiring many things that aren’t Jesus and his good news. I’m continually dwelling on these truths and teaching them to my wandering heart. As God’s people, we’ve been filled in him, united to him, and saved by and for him. His Son is our abundant Savior who’s more than enough. He’s mighty, satisfying, and generous.

Church planter, abundance—true abundance—is only found in Jesus.

Travis Cunningham Travis Cunningham

Travis Cunningham (MDiv Western Seminary) and his wife, Katy, have two kids, Peyton and Owen. Born and raised in Rancho Cucamonga, he has a vision of planting a gospel-movement in his hometown that spreads across Southern California and to the ends of the earth. He planted and now serves as pastor of preaching and vision of Story Church. He’s spent time ministering in both Oregon and Texas, most recently as a minister at The Village Church in Flower Mound, TX.

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