by Dr. Garth Leno
WINDSOR, CANADA – When we planted The Gathering in Windsor, Ontario, in 2014, we were a rag-tag bag of people who gathered on Saturday nights for Bible study, prayer, and fellowship. We drank coffee after the study and ate too many cookies.
In the beginning it was super casual. But when we organized and launched our small, but enthusiastic, church plant with SEND Detroit, we knew we needed to implement some structure.
Since then, The Gathering has taken on more organization and ministry diversity. We hired staff and implemented policies, and the lanes began to feel a bit crowded with so many “good things” for us to do.
Jesus is adamantly opposed to anything that gets in the way of people encountering Him. So, we need to ensure that our churches, newly-planted and well-established, do not become cluttered. Clutter makes it difficult for people to encounter the simple, powerful, life-changing message of the Gospel. We don’t want our earthly expressions of the Bride to get so weighed down with programs that people get busy doing church instead of being the church.
Vision leaks and mission drifts, so we are convinced that we must cling to a simple process that pulls everything together; a compelling process that moves people toward spiritual maturity (Col. 1:28).
What are we here for?
The Gathering exists to bring glory to God through lives changed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our mission statement succinctly describes our heart. We exist to bring glory to God. This is the chief aim and purpose of humanity and of all creation. The glory of God is ultimate (1 Cor. 10:31). What is your vision? What’s the vision for your church?
The gospel is the historical narrative of the triune God orchestrating the reconciliation and redemption of a broken creation and fallen creatures through the life, death, resurrection, and second coming of Jesus. In short, the Gospel is the good news that the everlasting and ever-increasing joy of the never-boring, ever-satisfying Christ is ours freely and eternally by faith in the sin-forgiving death and hope-giving resurrection of Jesus Christ (John Piper).
We are unashamedly gospel-centered at The Gathering, as every church plant ought to be, because the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, and in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed (Rom. 1:16-17). We intentionally emphasize the centrality of the gospel in our preaching and teaching, in worship, in calling people into community with one another, in service that seeks to extend his grace and mercy to others, and in making disciples who make disciples and planting churches (Matt. 28:16-20).
What’s at the center of your life and your church?
How can we avoid “drift?”
The expanding ministries of our church must keep the vision and mission dead center at all times. We must remove congestion from our church by courageously saying “no” to good opportunities so we can say “yes” to the best opportunities. We cannot allow the vision to leak or the mission to drift off course. We must be tenacious and bold in order to maximize the energy of everyone in our church by creating alignment. If ministries or events do not align with our vision and purpose, we must firmly say no.
At our church we seek to make gospel-centered disciples by following a simple plan:
Create significant, meaningful, Christ-centered Sunday morning worship experiences that are full of simple worship, passionate prayer, and strong teaching.
Expand the scope and influence of small groups so that everyone has an opportunity to join a gospel-centered fellowship where they can get connected, grow in faith, care for one another, and serve God and others. Life-change happens best in small groups!
Offer courses, seminars, workshops or conferences (on topics like marriage, parenting, dealing with addictions, etc.) that supplement the teaching and life-change ministry of our church.
Say “no” to everything else.
Let’s keep it simple. Focused, directed, centered ministry. It’s the best way to make disciples.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Garth Leno lives in Windsor, Ontario Canada, with his wife and one daughter, Jamie. Two more children, Nathan and Kristin, are married with families of their own. Garth is the senior pastor at The Gathering which he planted with friends in 2014. He is also on the Send Canada Advisory Board. He has a master’s degree in church planting from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and D.Min from Bethel Theological Seminary.