by Byron Pellecer, WDC Associate Conference Minister (Texas-Based)
Lately, I have been reading and reflecting on Nehemiah’s life and ministry. Nehemiah began his mission with self-reflection, repentance, and confession of sins (Nehemiah 1:4-11). The wellbeing of the city was his concern and despite mockery and criticism, he could mobilize a community towards God’s mission (Nehemiah 4:13).
I was inspired and challenged by his determination, willingness, and disposition when he was called and entrusted with a risky mission, to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 4:6).
By the way, the project did not happen overnight and it was not an easy one. On the contrary, it took time, resources, faith, and trust in God (Nehemiah 4:22-23; 7:1-3).
After reading about Nehemiah many thoughts came to mind, but one stood out with me the most. He was the right man to rebuild the walls. He was the man for a broken city.
Once he accepted God’s calling, he began all necessary preparations. He prayed over the project, he assessed the situation and then he moved into action.
He also listened to other people and their reports about the condition and circumstances of the city. One more important fact constitutes Nehemiah’s capacity to inspire others to join as investors or as coworkers in this endeavor (Nehemiah 2:7-10). It is important to have support systems to fulfill a vision, in the religious, social, political, and cultural context of a community matters.
Support systems are key in church planting, especially in the early stages of this spiritual endeavor. The formation of a prayer team, a mentor, a support group, and a sister church network, just to name a few, are important for the accomplishment of the emerging congregation. Church planters are encouraged to create this support system sooner rather than later.
Another factor to be considered is the overall culture of the intended community where the emerging missional congregation will witness to Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Context and culture matters, especially in church planting. This type of conversation needs to take place between the church planter, the sending body and his/her mentor-coach as early as possible even before the vision statement is formulated. Therefore, it is important to be mindful of the political, social, and religious context. Likewise, it is crucial to know about its culture.
For instance, proxemics or distances may vary from one culture to another. For the Hispanic culture the personal distance, eighteen inches to four feet, is the space for close relationships; this might explain also why Hispanic culture is prompt to expresses affection with a handshake, a hug and or a kiss while greeting each other or when meeting people regardless ethnicity.
For the most part, this affection expressed by Hispanic culture is more likely to happen inside of the eighteen inches distance and for some other cultures, this proximity among individuals could be seen and understood as an invasion of personal space.
On the one hand, understanding spaces-distances helps to understand how individuals and groups relate to one another.
On the other hand, spaces and relationships walk together. Therefore, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors-teachers, and the missional community needs to be aware of it.
In church planting it is natural, and somehow expected, to get more comfortable and familiar in personal proxemics. Yet, we need to be aware of these spaces and enjoy them without becoming invasive.
Emerging congregations are more likely to create the conditions to allow and welcoming one another to enter each other’s personal space not only for spiritual matters but also for the overall life.
Like I said earlier, I am inspired and challenged by Nehemiah’s faith, determination, and ability to connect with his community and to inspire them to join God’s mission.
Friends, I invite you to entertain these questions: How is God at work in your life, in your church and in your community? How are these three connecting?