When Hope is Eclipsed, We Look Up

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They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going… -Acts 1:10

I stood on the buggy church lawn, clutching a box with a pinpoint hole in the top, taking short glimpses at the sky through a pair of borrowed ISO-approved eclipse viewing glasses. August 21, 2017 – the day of the anticipated solar eclipse that would sweep across the country, causing millions to pack into cars and dare to enter the zone of totality. I hadn’t joined the wayfarers; I wasn’t close to the totality zone, but the “they” of the news and online science reports said we’d get an 80% view in Virginia.

It’s not every day that millions of people are staring up at the sky. Everywhere, people stood in backyards, along roads, and in office parking lots. People stared at the sky, held boxes and homemade contraptions, and kids ran around the legs of the adults. My brother in Charleston, SC texted me pictures of the “night” descending on their downtown. I scrolled through Facebook seeing black, white, Asian, Latin American, Indian, and African faces donning the same goofy glasses, taking the same photos of the same August sun hiding behind the darkened moon. I saw Republicans and Democrats, young people, elderly people, CEO’s, stay-at-home moms, teachers, landscapers, and pastors not just staring at the sky, but interacting with the people around them. Smiling. Being people, just people under a sun.

Just being.

For two minutes and forty seconds, we were unified in what we really are— earthly human beings who were created to get outside ourselves, look up, with a desire to be part of something bigger. Under Someone bigger.

The solar eclipse induced the dose of humanity we’ve been missing.

The solar eclipse induced the dose of humanity we’ve been missing. Click To Tweet

After what has seemed like weeks and months where hate, bigotry, racism, white supremacy, and fear have touted the daily headlines, a darkened sun made us all look up. In looking up, we don’t deny what’s happened.

In looking up, we, as the Church, don’t stand motionless in our call to be harbingers of justice, salt and light.

In looking up and pausing from our work, we don’t put aside the hard work that healing and building and re-building relationships takes in such a time as this.

In looking up, we aren’t saying it’s time to move on to the next exhibit or that white supremacists are done their rallies or that the Church can now just shrink back to the safety of our buildings and predictable congregations.

It’s in looking up at an eclipse with millions of other image-bearers when we recognize we are all insignificant creatures with faulty vision, defective understanding, and overblown perceptions of ourselves, where the cosmos is concerned.

It’s in looking up in awe at a covered sun that we realize we are all insanely loved by a Creator-God who didn’t stay up in the sky but rather moved into the neighborhood as a Palestinian man.

It’s in looking up and around that we see beauty in the diversity standing on the sidewalks, at pools, in parks, on the city streets, and at the beach. It’s in looking up from the mess that we being to see—and appreciate– the dramatic difference light makes when it’s not hidden, when our humanness is celebrated, when we know who ultimately wins.

It’s in looking up and around that we see beauty in the diversity of our humanity. Click To Tweet
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  1. My biggest fear is simple. I’m a paid full-time pastor, and I have no idea what I’d do to keep my family afloat (and we don’t even have kids yet). I also don’t know how I’d get there from where I’m at today. How do you guys do this? Do you have people come live with you for a while and learn the vision, and then go forth from there to seed new communities? Are there other places like you where one could go and become a part of an organic sending community? I love this post, btw. And I can’t wait to see what other say.

  2. Michael,whoah … alot of good questions … Let me just state up front … we’re in the process of doing this. Another basic assumption is that all “pastors”/leaders will be are preparing to be bi-vocational – sharing the labors of leadership – and growing from there. Much to talk about, hopefully we get some discussion here.
    Peace .. and hope to meet along the way.

  3. I came as part of a team and followed the Church planting 101 model. Didn’t burn out but we all came close and probably have various underlying issues we need to trust God will work out in his time.
    David, we’ve been morphing into what you are describing – both as a mission team living incarnationally and church community that is striving to be less 101 and more organic throughout. Alan Hirsch (and Michael Frost) has been very helpful to us as a team and the organization I am still with.

    To answer Michael’s questions. Some context: I was a banker and left ‘secular’ work to do ‘sacred’ work as a church planter. I’ve since had my theology reformed – heavenly good of earthly work – and have been moving away from being 100% support based (really only 50% support & all donors from the USA). Now I opened a business that is increasingly and very soon to be 100% of our support. An angel investor helped me do this but I was formerly a banker and that field wasn’t what I thought was my next step as it meant moving further away (proximity and lifestyle) from the missional leadership community I have covenanted with.

    If I had to give advice about a shift or finding others. First, I’d do what a graduating student or person contemplating a change of careers would do. Look at your gifting, skills, speaks with trusted friends/colleagues, survey the needs of the community you are in and take a educated plunge into a new/different line of sacred work; perhaps morphing into something that is part time paid church work and part-time other? For me it was originally connecting with a church planting organization that had values and approaches that were missional and incarnational rather than a prescribed model. They valued diversity in approaches and teams. Second, for finding others, I’d work through existing friendship or networks within your denomination/church. You’ll likely find others who would have a similar desire to be a covenanted missional leadership/church planting team. From there lots of dialogue & prayer to confirm agreement/unity in the Spirit. It the end, it might mean that you stay put and just change the way you do things locally amongst your existing friends. I recommend Alan Hirsch’s book the Forgotten Ways (page 40-42 talk about their personal & community shift).

    As a side note to this post: I have found I am providing personal (pastoral) counseling to employees, building friendships with customers, displaying godly work & Kingdom values as I network with other businesses, am worshipping like mad as I am so hungry to be filled and generally feel more in touch with my gifting in my current business owner role than I did as a full time support based missionary church planter. For me, it was realignment rather than throwing the baby out with the bath water!

    Peace, Mike

  4. […] thinker, pastor and professor David Fitch has a great post on the common fears people have of planting missional churches (Fitch is also a great writer. I highly recommend his book The Great Giveaway for all Christian […]

  5. This was an excellent post, and my first time on this site. For me as an African-American, I feel like a missional church is completely outside the box for many from my the black community and context, and leaves me wondering what kind of support we will receive from local churches. Many of the concerns mentioned above are also legitimate concerns for me as well.
    Nonetheless, I have been praying with a close friend about doing such. Again thanks for the post.

  6. Dave,
    I wanted to go to the back porch, but when the end of the week rolled around I opted for an unquiet night with the fam and little caesar, instead of quiet hot dog and discussion.

    This is partially off topic, but related so I’ll shoot. I know you are committed to the 150 limit for churches; what happens when you get there. The most organic thing that comes to my mind is a 50/50 split or 67/33 split where a significant part of the community decides as a group to meet together in a different location. Some of the paid and unpaid leaders tranistion with the new community as well and in both places new leaders will need to be identified and brought up in time. Any thoughts?

    I do really appreciate your thoughts on the missional order team though. I would think that these missional orders would be formed from start, yes?

  7. I am currently planting a Church in Nor-Cal. I work full-time having raised most of my support working with an organization.I find that most fear of Church Planting in any paradigm is rooted in the idea that failure will consume you.
    I want to encouarge anyone considering church planting because of what God has done in me through the process. I used to be so unhappy in my church employment. I have never been more happy, fulfilled, filled with joy since following this call. I would have loved to plant with a team but there was no one I knew willing to take that risk. But that has been a blessing because it has caused us to seek out friends and partners.
    I have found God doing more through asking people to serve with us rather than join a Bible study. That is the essence of planting in our current culture. Serve before you gather. Just some thoughts from some one on the field six-months.

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