Defining Sustainability

I had a great conversation the other day with Dave Ferguson, Pastor of Community Christian Church in Chicago. It’s a large church with multiple campuses. Dave’s an awesome guy and has a heart for church planting. Since Austin New Church has officially entered the journey of helping plant churches (not just be a church plant ourselves), we were talking about the sustainability of some of the modern church planting movements. And he asked me the question, “What do you mean by sustainable?”

Great question. Initially I thought, well, sustainable is when a church can survive on it’s own without outside support. But then my mind flooded with all the things that should be sustainable that are much more important than even financial feasibility. Is our vision sustainable? Are our values sustainable? Our hope is to create a reproducible model, but while it may reproduce, will it sustain? Do our goals have an inherent reality of sustainability? Are our intentional relationships based on a sustainable foundation or do they end after an event is over? The list continues.

The reality is, the only things that are sustainable are the things of God. And today’s scripture struck a chord with me. Psalm 45 is a wedding song. It’s laced with the imagery of Christ as the coming groom and the church as His bride. As the psalmist begins his description of the groom he writes,

“You are the most excellent of men and your lips have been anointed with grace, since God has blessed you forever. Gird your sword upon your side, O mighty one; clothe yourself with splendor and majesty. In your majesty ride forth victoriously in behalf of truth, humility and righteousness; let your right hand display awesome deeds.” – Psalm 45:2-4

Christ, and all He represents, is eternal. Verse four tells us that it is in truth, humility, and righteousness that He rides forth victoriously and that in his right hand He displays awesome deeds. Verse two says that His anointing mark is grace. It is in His grace that all things sustain. It is in His grace that we find eternity. It is in His grace that we will find purpose beyond our plans.

I’ve had an interesting day already. After leaving an early morning meeting with a group of men from my neighborhood, I sensed the urge to pull over into the parking lot of a traditional Baptist church that I know has seen some recent ups and downs. I sat in their courtyard for a while and just prayed for them. During that time, God convicted me that while I knew all the church planters in the area, I didn’t even know the name of the Pastor who led that church.

As I sat there reading Psalm 45, a wedding song for the Bride of Christ, He reminded me that His purposes are far greater and more sustainable than my plans could ever be. He reminded me that whatever I do as a leader, it needed to include sustainability for HIS church, and never be about “my” church.

It doesn’t take much to make the jump and apply these truths to our personal lives as well. Whether it’s in our family or our career (hopefully both) there are sustainable pursuits and those that are fleeting. Somewhere in there we’ll find contributing factors to the difference between what our reputations are and what our legacy becomes.

Father, your Son taught us to pray for your Kingdom to come and your will to be done. May we see your Kingdom break through in our churches, our lives, our families, and in our priorities. We know this will happen when we submit our will to yours. Give us the desire, the wisdom, the hope, the courage, and the will that it will take. Amen.

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” – Psalm 51:12

“Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed.” – Psalm 119:116

“Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me.” – Psalm 119:175

“The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.” – Psalm 147:6

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” -Isaiah 46:4

“The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.” -Isaiah 50:4

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About Brandon Hatmaker

Church Planter, Missional Strategist, Non-Profit Collaborator, and Author of "Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture". View all posts by Brandon Hatmaker

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