I last posted on the weak link in church revitalization. I think it’s only
fair to discuss a weak link as I have seen them among churches and church planting. These are general impressions and shouldn’t be taken as a brand on any particular church (especially any that I have been a member at!). I find that there are several threads that are frayed and needing re-tooling or being done away with altogether.
Church planting has become a very popular buzz word among churches over the last 15 years or so. With the advent of groups like Acts 29 and a fresh initiative from denominations to plant churches, I have found that people (particularly pastors) like to talk, but don’t do a lot by way of actually taking strides in planting churches. Here are some brief thoughts on the problems as I see them.
1) Assuage guilt. Let’s be honest. We read the Bible and churches being planted is a natural consequence of Christians living faithful lives. We look at our lives and our churches and, quite frankly, we don’t see a lot of disciples. We see a lot of people gathering around common preferences. But little, by way of sharing the Good News and people being converted, is happening.
Little is done to remedy the issue in practice. A re-tooling of the way we’ve always done it is just too hard. But, we know it should be important to us. . .so. . .we talk about it. Ad nauseum. We talk about mission. We talk about vision. We talk about evangelism. We talk about loving the lost. We talk about taking risks. We talk and we talk and we talk. Jaws are flapping, but feet are planted. We have this perverse way of calming our conviction by collaborating, but never do.
2) Church planting is TOO cool. Put another way, planting a church is so important and so vital and so awesome that we don’t know where to start. Too many folk have focused on the man in church planting. Too much emphasis and pressure is put on the person planting the church, that if St. Patrick or William Carey themselves came, they probably would be turned away. [ASIDE: This is not hyperbole. I have heard of men being turned away for the very things that these men struggled with.]
Church planting is not too big or too important that we can’t take risks. So many churches put the pressure to do it just right because if it fails, then people will be disappointed and disenfranchised. You know what? Failure does happen. Relationships do fracture. People get hurt. I think this issue is more endemic to North American Christianity than it is worldwide. Brothers and sisters in Africa or South America are preaching the Gospel and churches are being planted. Do we have so many structures and protocol that we often miss the bus of what God is doing in our midst? I’m afraid so. I’m afraid that we want t’s crossed and i’s dotted to a fault.
I appreciate the gravity that folk place on doing it right. That’s not what I’m railing against. I am railing against the acute tendency to faithlessness because we want things to be perfect.
3) We have no clue of what it would look like for the Spirit of God to sweep us off our feet. This is related to 2 above. I am afraid that we so organize and plan that if God swept through our congregations, we would try to stop him. Church planting is messy. I think that’s part of God’s design. In our efforts to be “successful” and to “ensure growth,” we eschew the power of God to mess up our worlds. We compartmentalize and call it being a good steward. We sit down and call it counting the cost. Could it be that God would want to wreck your world? Could it be that the pretty plans tied in a bow is actually a keg of dynamite intended to be blown up?