About 16 months ago I became friends with another pastor in my area. As we got to know each other, he began to realize that his church was reaching the eleventh hour of planting a new work just a few miles down the highway from our church campus. He called me and asked if we could go to lunch. When we sat down, he very graciously began explaining that he wanted to make sure I knew that their church wasn't trying to invade our territory or steal people away from us - that they very strongly believed in what the Lord was doing through us and our people and didn't want to take away from that. Understanding (and greatly respecting) the heart of what was being said and the one who was saying it, this is how I responded:
"If the Lord has very clearly laid on your heart - and the hearts of your people and your leaders - that He is calling you to step out in faith and start a new work here in this city, in that spot on the highway, who am I to judge this? If the Lord begins working in the heart of a new movement - stirring the hearts of people - and someone at my church feels drawn to be there, so be it. This isn't about territory, like it's the Oklahoma Land Rush. These are peoples' lives! This is about reaching the lost for the Kingdom of God. Plant that church!"
Just the other day I spoke to a friend who had recently begun to sense God calling him to be part of a new work - a church plant. When the Lord moves in this way, it's almost bizarre the range of reactions that come from different people. But particularly when church plants come out of an already existing church, there's always someone who's thinking - and some who are even voicing - "Well, what if so and so leaves and goes with them?" A sense of fear will always be knocking on someone's door, begging them to wonder and question how it's fair for these people to "steal" our members. I felt led to preemptively encourage my friend to make sure he was alert, prayerful, and discretionary about WHO he listened to and WHAT he would allow to be worth his attention. I gave him 2 words of caution:
Do NOT listen to anyone who speaks out of FEAR. Wisdom and discernment, spoken from the mouth of a Godly friend or mentor are completely different than words of fear spoken from someone who is too paralyzed to actually take the steps of faith that you're preparing to take. We have to be discerning of the motives of the people who give us advice. And...
Do NOT let anyone tell you that if what the Lord does through you takes people away from somewhere else that this is a bad thing. Yes, people leave churches all the time to go and be part of new works that the Lord is doing. This can be for several reasons. But any pastor, elder, deacon, or church member who claims the ownership of a person, and is more concerned with their continued "membership" than they are with that person pursuing the call of God and going where the Spirit is working and moving, is a toxic poisonous voice. God will ultimately silence them.
Here's what I know: When some step out in radical faith it causes others to tremble in paralyzing fear. To put it even more simply, FAITH BREEDS FEAR. This is why people like Joseph and Daniel and David had so many enemies. They were disrupting the comfort and complacency and (most importantly) the agendas of those around them. That's dangerous. Faith is dangerous!
As Christ-followers, we have to decide which one we will be. We have to determine if our lives are about our own agenda and comfort...or about His glory and His Kingdom.
Is there an area of your life where the Lord may be asking you to step out in faith? Make sure you listen to His Spirit and His voice more than any other.