Thursday, November 25, 2010

Adversarial Church Planting

Recently I have become aware of a trend that seeks to promote church planting by describing the inadequacies of established churches. Two examples include Total Church and the recent ACL address.

To be clear; I like much of what these authors say and I am not anti church planting. My father and mother were involved in planting churches, our established church has planted, re-potted and revitalised congregations. Many of the criticisms that are made of established churches are valid. It is true some churches and ministers have lost their way and can make it difficult for church planters. Despite this I dislike adversarial church planting for five reasons:

  1. It is not shaped by grace. Paul in writing to the Corinthians writes to a church which is clearly dysfunctional and in desperate need of help. Paul’s solution is not to point out all their faults with a mind to planting another church; instead, Paul confronts their issues with the gospel of grace and continues to plant churches.
  2. Church planting is about the gospel of grace. I am concerned that new churches established in a reactionary way may have DNA’s/ identities that encourage Christians in new church plants to treat their brothers and sisters in more established churches as second class citizens.
  3. It encourages a lack of graciousness in the established churches. I have felt this tension. Near my local church there have been several attempts at church plants. In one case it was another Anglican church who planted a new congregation with very little notice or discussion. I support what they were trying to do, I even thought it was needed, but it was a challenge to be gracious when we were completely ignored in the process. On the other hand, a different Anglican church established a congregation near my church and the leader came and we talked together about the exciting possibilities of his church, he has my encouragement and support. Indeed, some members of our church have gone there with my blessing. I like Broughton Knox's insight when he says: “Moreover, Christian fellowship is naturally not restricted within the local congregation; the congregation is the expression of the fellowship which is the church of Christ. This latter will overleap the limits of geography to create fellowship between congregations.” D. Broughton Knox – ‘Selected Works’ Volume II, Church and Ministry – (Matthias Media 2003) Page 27. S
  4. Established churches are not always the competition. Sometimes the established church would only be too glad to help out-we know we can’t do everything. In my case we have administrative and physical resources, a staff team who would only be too happy to pray with and support a church planter.
  5. It encourages leaders of church plants to be angry-ministers-planting churches out of frustration, disappointment and anger. Although it is true established church leaders face this problem too.

My conviction is church planting has to have at its core, the promotion of the Gospel, not only to those who don’t believe but also to those who do. In the end let’s plant churches and let’s encourage those in established churches to get on with the proclamation God’s grace, but let us not be adversarial in our promotion of church planting. Just wondering – what you think?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Church Planting

I am writing an essay that is considering issues around church planting in the Sydney Diocese. Initially I am looking at the broader literature and have noticed that most advocates of church planting examine either all or some of the following five areas to support and articulate the cause (many overlapping):




Biblical

For example Keller in the Redeemer Church Planting Manual argues:

“Virtually all the great evangelistic challenges of the New Testament are basically calls to plant churches, not simply to share faith. The Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20) is not just a call to make disciples but to baptize. In Acts and elsewhere, it is clear that baptism means incorporation into a worshiping community with accountability and boundaries.”

Theological

This usually involves discussions around ecclesiology and missiology. Murray Stuart’s Church Planting: Laying foundations is a good example

Historical

This often includes an overview of the Pauline programme of church planting, references to the Celtic Missionaries, Reformers, 18th and 19th century protestant heroes and more recently C. Donald McGavran's work.

Contextual

This often includes:

  • Observations about the stultification of the current churches and leadership, for example Al Stewart's ACL address or the Trellis and the Vine.
  • Observations that variously describe the gap between church members and their local communities. These observations are made using the frameworks of philosophical enquiry and or social and behavioural sciences. This includes world views, gender, ethnicity, generation gaps…
  • Observations about the lack of church growth for example in Australia:

o Between 1991-2001 (even with the growth in the AOG churches) Protestant churches in Australia declined by 6% and Australian church attendance declined, by 3%

o In 1991 - one church for every 1561 people in Australia

o In 2006 (estimated) – one church for ever 2054 people,

I have noticed that much of the emergent church material is driven by these observations.

Pragmatic

The oft quoted pragmatist Wagner is a good example:

The single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planting new churches. (Wagner, “Church Planting For a Greater Harvest,” Page 7.)

In addition to this there is lots of how to material.

Just wondering if I have missed anything? Comments?