11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart,
This promise is given in the context of hope spoken during exile. God is promising that a day of redemption will come, and God will bring the blessings promised. The promise is intended to give people hope during the exile, so that they will be willing to trust God enough to follow through on what God is asking of them now. “Yes,” says the LORD, “I will bless you and bring you back to your homeland, but for now:
5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
I think this is really the pivotal passage as I think about New Church Planting. If we are to hear this promise from 11-13 as directed toward us (keeping in mind that this was never intended to be an individualized promise, but is given to a people, a nation) then it is predicated on our willingness to be faithful to the call that God gives us in verse 7: Seek the welfare of the city, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare will you find your welfare. This, it seems to me, is central to what it means to be a new church planter, and thus what it means to be faithful church anywhere – seek the peace of those in whose midst you find yourself, even if you feel as though you are in exile. What a great teaching for congregations ‘stuck’ in the midst of a community that has transformed away from the demographic of the church folks. What a great message for a congregation like the one I serve (www.fgcctx.org) where we are wrestling to know what it means to be faithful to God in our community – seek the welfare of the city. Tomorrow morning I will make my regular visit to the Allen Chamber of Commerce networking gathering “Tuesday Morning Live.” Why? To seek the welfare of the city – simple as that.