Courtesy of Vitamin Z, here are two more takes on church planting.
First we have Fred Barnes’ account of being a part of a church plant from the beginning after 25 years in the “mother” church that birthed the new one. Very interesting indeed. anyone, no matter how famous or not, can be a part of a church plant. What was especially interesting to me is that the pastor of the plant was a theologically conservative Episcopalian who felt like the only way to flex his theological muscles was to start a church from scratch:
For a growing number of young preachers like Christ the King’s Mr. Glade, planting and then leading a new church is an ideal option. As orthodox Anglicans, they didn’t feel welcome in the Episcopal church. And they felt a strong calling to lead their own parish. Mr. Glade grew up as an Episcopalian in Jacksonville, Fla. After graduation from Florida State, he came to The Falls Church as an intern and spent four years as a youth leader before attending Trinity Seminary outside Pittsburgh. He returned to The Falls Church eager to lead a theologically conservative Anglican congregation. “In order to do that, you had to go out and do it yourself,” he told me.
BTW, the new church is doing well:
“Every new church has an awkward phase, figuring out who they are and getting to know each other,” Mr. Glade says. That phase is over. Christ the King has also become financially self-sufficient. It aims to be a “healthy church,” like its parent. “A healthy church reproduces itself,” Mr. Glade says. Christ the King may soon do just that. Its assistant rector wants to plant his own church.
Do you see the mindset? “a healthy church reproduces itself.” In other words, it plants churches. That is why planting churches happens. Because people in a church (especially a church plant) catch the vision of the Great Commission and decide that it applies to them individually and not just to “the church” as a whole.
The second article is not so cheery. In this one, Dan Edelen professes not to understand the need for church planting.
What constitutes church planting in the United States baffles me. The four churches at that intersection were built at different times, so at some point some group of church planters said, “Despite the fact that there is already a gigantic church right across the street, we’re going to plant a better one.”
If I plant a church right across the street from another church because I believe that my brand is better, then I’m not sure that should be labeled church planting. It’s more like the competition between McDonalds, Burger King, and Wendy’s. Same burger; slightly different flavor.
But here, it seems to me what some church planters do is more akin to fostering envy. Their new church is hotter. Their new church is cooler. Their new church meets a felt need not addressed by the church across the street. So people in that community shuffle from church to church. Or the new church plant sucks completely dry some older church that wasn’t quite as hip. And the church planter gets a pat on the back for doing a fine job moving people from Them to Us.
Meanwhile, the percentage of people who are genuine born-again Christians in this country continues to drop. Meanwhile, the number of people attending church on the weekends falls off a cliff. More new churches than ever, and yet worse results.
What really troubles me is that you don’t need the Holy Spirit at all to start what passes for the average church plant here in the U.S. You just need a clever marketing campaign. In fact, if one of the challenges on the TV show The Apprentice were to start a church that had a hundred regular attendees within six months , I suspect the contestants would have no problem doing so, even if not a single one of those contestants was born again.
How sad is that?
I’ve had church planters attempt to explain all this to me—the need to plant a church right next to an existing one, the need to plant it in a highly visible suburban area with high traffic—yet their responses always seem to be missing something.
I’m not writing this to break the backs of church planters. I understand their zeal. It’s just that I have these questions and no one seems to have a answer for them that makes any sense.
So, these are good questions. Why indeed? Why another church, when churches are all around us?
When I was in Arkansas, I noticed the ridiculous number of boxes with steeples on display. It was amazing. There would be one on each corner of a block and two in the middle, and that is just on one side of the street. I knew that God was calling me to do something, but it certainly wasn’t to start another box with a steeple. That market was saturated.
Since leaving our home church here in Austin last year, we have visited at least ten relatively new churches right here in Austin meeting in school cafeterias/cafetorium’s, one in the HideOut theater and one in a Holiday Inn ball room. We have heard of several others. I have often wondered just how many groups of about 100 people are gathering across this city every weekend full of whatever is driving Fred Barnes’ group in the Washington D.C. area. I would imagine that there are at least 5000 folks spread out around austin meeting in rented rooms every weekend. Probably more than twice that number if you include Austin Stone in the list.
Why? Why do it? Here is the answer that I pointed to recently. and here is my post with a synopsis of our story.
What other answers do you guys have for Mr. Edelen’s questions? Why plant churches? Is it just about having a cooler place than the guy across the street? are we just convinced that the world needs our particular variation on the burger flavor? is it just pride in ourselves and confidence that our way hasn’t been tried yet? what is it?
I hate to say it out loud, but is it the false god of “impact” that Phil Vischer describes in the post just below this one?
“God would never call us from greater impact to lesser impact! Impact is everything! How many kids did you invite to Sunday school? How many souls have you won? How big is your church? How many videos/record/books have you sold? How many people will be in heaven because of your efforts? Impact, man!”
He began questioning this belief system:
“The more I dove into Scripture, the more I realized I had been deluded. I had grown up drinking a dangerous cocktail – a mix of the gospel, the Protestant work ethic, and the American dream… The Savior I was following seemed, in hindsight, equal parts Jesus, Ben Franklin, and Henry Ford. My Eternal value was rooted in what I could accomplish.”
Filed under: church | Tagged: church planting, coolness, dan edelen, fred barnes, mission, sheep stealing | 2 Comments »