I’ve been pondering this a lot lately. Why do churches get planted? And why do churches sometimes talk about planting but struggle to ever get around to it? Why do some never even consider it?
I remember my own experience at Lesmurdie trying to lead the church to a place of planting a new church. I don’t think it would be unfair to say that in the absence of my driving the project it just wouldn’t have happened. I pushed it hard.
It wasn’t especially high on anyone else’s radar, because most people don’t think about planting churches in their day to day life. That’s not bad – not a ‘judgement’. It’s just an important observation because in the absence of an apostolic (Gk ‘apostello’ = sent one / missionary) type leader it probably won’t ever be on the radar in a serious way.
At Lesmurdie discussed it, approved its progression as leaders and then even voted on it as a church. We agreed to the idea, but no one put their hand up (either internally or externally) to grab the bull by the horns and actually lead it. I spent 14 frustrating months trying to persuade existing pastors to leave their full time jobs and move into a new and risky space, with little guaranteed income and when no one was keen I approached some entrepreneurial types and asked them if they would consider applying their skills to church planting. No one had been sitting around thinking ‘gee I wish someone would ask me to plant a church!’ (And – on reflection – if they were waiting to be invited then chances are they may be the wrong people anyway.)
I have realised most people don’t wander through their days thinking about where, how and when to plant churches. I rarely stop thinking about it. That’s not especially virtuous – it’s just a product of how I have been gifted and formed.
Nowadays I still think about planting churches, I see opportunities and I wonder about how we will move forward into them, but (unless I have a bolt out of the blue) it is more about having an eye out for the up and coming, younger apostolic types. I sense the bottom line is that churches don’t plant churches – apostolic leaders gather teams and plant churches. Existing churches support these people with prayer, resources and encouragement but churches don’t just plant other churches. There is too much bureaucracy and red tape to get thru for churches to do this – and committees rarely move quickly. So my advice if you are a church and wondering if this should be on your radar:
First – the answer is yes – in healthy organic systems birth happens, but it is preceded by desire, conception and gestation. It takes time… (If your system is unhealthy then it shouldn’t be on the radar until the issues are resolved.)
Second – if you have someone with the apostolic (missionary) drive to initiate this kind of thing then get behind them and support them. They may not even realise that this gifting is in them! So encourage them and help them flourish into the unique people God has created them to be.
As a result of Christendom, our churches are light on for apostles, prophets and evangelists, but we need these people to be encouraged and empowered to do their thing in the church so that we can achieve our mission.
I remember leaving Scarborough Baptist after 5 years as a youth pastor and heading to the hills for a new role. In between time the BUWA ran a church planting course. I remember hearing of it and thinking I must spend a week of my holidays here! I did and I was inspired by what I heard. I knew then that this was going to be high on my life’s priorities and that at some point in the future I would be doing this.
Later, when we were leaving Lesmurdie, a long time member said ‘well good luck to you. It isn’t something I would ever want to do!’ I heard his words but all I could think was ‘What a hoot! What a buzz! What an adventure!’ It wasn’t his thing – and that’s fine. But if you are reading this and thinking ‘yeah, yeah YEAH!’ – then maybe it IS for you!