What does a ‘softer’ approach to church look like?
“You’re soft! You’re all soft! You’re going to get creamed out there.” I [Charlie] can still hear my peewee football coach reverberating in my brain. We were middle school boys at varying levels of skill (and puberty), but all of us learned one thing – being “soft” was bad. Being soft would lead to negative outcomes on the field and…in life.
The fruit of the Spirit is not combative, confrontational, or violent. The kingdom of God identifies the peacemakers, the meek, and the persecuted as blessed. Jesus Christ claimed that those who live by the sword will die by the sword.
And I think too many are killing their souls and cities with the sword.
Aundi Kolber, a trauma therapist and author, wrote a book called Try Softer. In her work and writing, she identifies how many of us have made the premise of trying harder the foundation of our lives. Kolber calls it “white knuckling” through life. But hard isn’t always best. There are spaces, like healing from trauma, that require a softer approach.
I often think about how Dallas Willard said “Grace is opposed to earning, not effort.” The life of faith is filled with striving and straining as Paul wrote to the Philippian church. But there is a violent way and a gentle way of applying effort. And I think Jesus calls us to gentle effort. Healing from trauma, following Jesus, and starting a church all benefit from trying softer.
Church planting is an adrenaline- and dopamine-soaked experience. You vacillate between your greatest fears and highest hopes on a daily basis. This leads to a white knuckled-ministry approach. The temptation we face is to manipulate people and manufacture a church.
How do you soft launch a church? How do we all try softer as Christ followers?
Jesus calls us to follow Him and learn His gentle and lowly way of life, His unforced rhythms of grace. In following Jesus, we find rest for our souls.
Is that the tone of discipleship we’ve been taught? It definitely doesn’t sound like the majority of church planting strategies.
We told our community at our most recent 4th Sunday Gathering that we were going to soft launch City Coast Church this fall. We refuse to manipulate people or manufacture a church. We are making major transitions moving from monthly to weekly gatherings with hope that consistency will deepen our relationships and allow more opportunities for engagement. We are beginning to implement music and establishing a children’s ministry without staff because God hasn’t stirred the hearts of people to join us in that way. We can’t force Him. We can only follow.
We’re committing to meet every week from October to Christmas unsure of what 2023 will bring. We’re trying softer because we don’t want to do violence to our souls and cities in the name of Jesus. Our gentle and lowly Savior is also our gentle and lowly Lord. He doesn’t entice us into His fellowship and then become a peewee football coach.