“Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can He?’ They left the city and were on their way to Him.” (John 4:28-30)
How do you start a church? At the turn of the twentieth century, as the late William Hyde recalled, it was simple. As a young Methodist preacher, Hyde was taken by train to a small town in Nebraska. He was told that there was one Methodist in the community, but that he had probably become a Presbyterian, that there was a second-floor hall that could no doubt be rented for a gathering place. And then, as the train pulled from the station, the district superintendent called out a simple formula for beginning a church: “Dig or die, Brother Hyde!”
In our day, church planting has become a science. Some progressive seminaries offer special programs, even doctoral studies, in church planting. Statisticians can project how many thousand telephone calls will produce how many hundred in attendance at an opening service, and what mass mailings will appeal to what segments of a population, as well as the type of music, the style of worship, and the level of preaching that will be most effective in a given community.
I confess that I fall somewhere between these two very different methods. The unreconstructed grump in me favors the first, while the researcher in me opts for the second. But on one thing, I am sure. If I were starting a church, I know the person I would want for my first member. I don’t know her name, but I know everything else about her, and I can tell you this: Give me this wild and wonderful woman, and with God’s help I will soon have a thriving body of believers.
— J. Ellsworth Kalas in “New Testament Stories from the Back Side”