Monday, 24 March 2008

Church planting questions

Bruce Frost, who has done some study with us over the years, got in touch to ask "I am wondering if there is anyone interested in the strategy and theology of church planting who can help me decipher a baffling array of information that is available on the topic. I see concepts like emerging church, organic church and Acts29 and dont know where to focus."

It's a big question. Here are my comments, and other people may want to add something.

First of all it is great that Christians around the world are recognising that "church planting" is the key mission strategy. Sometimes the term is used for ministry that is just shuffling Christians between services, but when it is done well it should involve setting up congregations which are Christian communities and part of communities which are not touched by the gospel. These may be defined by geography or some other social grouping. The day of the mass rally or the individual rally being the key to mission is over (I think). Church planting is truer to the New Testament gospel, which creates communities in which non-Christians encounter the word proclaimed and lived.

Emerging church is a growing trend in the US. It is a movement which makes sense against the backdrop of US evangelicalism. It is marked by a desire to question both church practice of the baby-boomer mega-churches and traditional evangelical doctrine. It includes people who are radically questioning traditional doctrine, and people who are more interested in changing ministry models. Scot Mcknight, who is a theologian in the emerging movement has explained his take in an article in Christianity Today. There was an interesting discussion among some of the 'insiders' at the AAR conference last year. Mark Driscoll was part of the movement in the very early years, but has become a strident critic as he explained at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary last year. There was an interesting conference at Westminster Seminary in 2006 and we have the CDs of that at PTC. There is an Australian 'version' of Emerging church, which as a different feel to the US.

Acts 29 is related to Mark Driscoll and his Mars Hill Church in Seattle.

I haven't come across "organic church". I see some links to it on google, but I'm not sure where you have got the term from.

What do you focus on? I think we need to focus on how we help churches in Australia to communicate and live the gospel in our society. We need to look at new ways of 'doing church' and our ministry models, but not get excited by the novel just because it is novel. I know some of the Queensland Presbyterians are planning to get church planting material from Tim Keller at Redeemer Church in New York. I'm sure that will have some interesting things for us.

There are plenty of Australians thinking about planting and you might be interested in a conference Plan to Plant in Sydney in July. I can email you the details since there dosen't seem to be a website at all. NCLS did some research on Australian church planting in 2003.


bruce frost said...

Thanks John for your thoughts.

I take it Emerging church ideas can be put ot one side.

Thanks also for statistics on new church plants. They really surprised me in that the new churches have a profile very similar to their mother churches. There is the same level of newcomers in both types of churches.

Martin Morgan's seminar should be interesting. I took a group to a seminar put on by Gospel Outreach ministries (Stuart Robinson) at which Martin was a presenter. They are big church thinkers though. We were told that our church replants were a lost cause - we were too small and too far gone. Fortunately all 8 people we had there, representing three churches, either didnt hear Philip Jenson or didnt believe him.

Big church planting is more like propagation by taking cuttings. Both the mother church and the plant have to be "big", and a lot of intervention is required from the gardener. Small church is more like propagation by seeds. You only need a few people from the mother church, but qualified people, and growth occurs by the gospel being shared and new beleivers. Given that our churches are only small, this has generated interest in finding small models. The term Organic Planting comes from book by Neil Cole which is interesting read. Seems effective way of breaching social, ethinic and religious barriers to the gospel.

Thanks for allowing comment on this topic.

Bruce Frost

Dave said...

Hi John and Bruce. I am not an expert on the Emerging Church, but before youplace it to one side I would like to say I think John has misrepresented Mark Driscoll. In his book (Confessions of a Reformed missionwhatever Rev.) he ties himself to the Emerging Church, especially in it's early days but wants to be very distant from what has grown out of the Emerging Church, the Emergent Church or the Emergent Village. The link to the talk that he gave he actually ties himself to one of the three groups that he sees making up the Emerging Church. This is just my take on it though...and this is just a 'conversation'...

George Alexander said...

The cds on the emerging movement that John mentioned (from Westminster) were really helpful. Highlights are Scot McKnight, Ben Inman and the last guy (can't remember his name!).
George Medvedsky

Dave said...

Here are a couple of links that might give some insight into Organic Churches. In a nutshell they want to remove the institutional aspect of church. They usually come in the form of house churches.
With Emerging, Emergent and Organic Churches they are all about doing church, or packaging church differently. Theologically there is not much new about them. As Mark Driscoll explains, the Emergent Church is like the liberal version, and contains what he describes as revisionists. The Emerging church he describes as having basically evangelical types who have done nothing wrong worth shooting them for, and then ‘Cool Calvinists’, which is how he describes himself.
Matt Glover provides some good insights at his Blog, at link below.
A big thing for both Emerging and Organic Churches is that they want to make church culturally relevant. If you are going to plant churches then I think this is something you need to think about! Hope this helps.