Andrew Jones is probably one of the best bloggers out there. I love reading his blog purely for it’s ascetic value as a fine example of post second millenium blogging style. But aside from his near perfection of the art of blogging he also has some rather fine content. While I suspect that Andrew and I, if we sat down over a cup of coffee (or tea in his case), might not dot all the same theological “i’s”, I must confess I love his questions and his gentle (or not so gentle) pokes in the ribs of our church cultures. I love his meditations on what it means to live in the Kingdom. I love the way he gets me thinking and challenging so many of my preconceptions and inherited assumptions on what it means to follow Jesus.
If you don’t follow his blog you should – you will be richer for it. By all means, don’t feel you have to agree with everything he says – but let him ask the questions, let him make you feel uncomfortable, let him point you on the journey of discovering what it could mean to follow Jesus in 2012.
With no more ado and ramblings of a brevity-challenged blogger. Here are Andrew Jones’ 9 Reasons not to plant a church in 2012. Much of this content resonates with our own vision for ministry and is a helpful discussion starter to understanding some of what we are on about. My comments are in brackets and non-italics below.
1. The typical church planting model, in which the solo-church planter starts a gathering that he/she invites potential members to join and commit to lacks satisfying precedent in the Scriptures where Jesus sent out people in teams (2, 12, 70) to find people of peace (them, not us) to allow Kingdom ministry in their venue (not the planter’s venue). Add to that the lack of biblical support for a paid professional pastor and the awkward extension of the Temple tithing system into the present day and the whole package seems a little suspect or at least in need of some recalibrating with the New Testament. (not sure either way is right or wrong, more a case of wise or unwise)
2. The measurement criteria of the church planting project, focusing on numbers of attenders and momentum of new church launch, is too narrow, too shallow, unholistic and ignores more vital measurable signs of a transformed society in its various spheres (economic, environmental, social, impact outside the church environment, etc). (I would probably prefer to use a more focussed category – discipleship. But when people are being discipled then these other areas of impact should be seen)
3. The people most likely to join a new church plant are usually those with some kind of church background – the de-churched, pre-churched, ex-churched – which means ignoring really lost people and duplicating the ministries of existing churches. (exactly – this is the heartbeat of what we are trying to do!)
4. The focus on people pre-disposed or pre-favored towards church culture can lead to competition among churches to gather people from a diminishing pool of potentials and, worse, to “sheep stealing” which, although a shortcut to acheiving the goal of planting a church in the short term, fails to extend the reach of the gospel into a new culture as well as creating disunity and distrust within the existing church. (Another spot on comment!)
5. The challenge for new members to commit to a church meeting rather than be involved in Kingdom mission activities in the world can often lead to a consumer mindset among new members. By not hosting an event for members but rather inviting participants into mission, a different calibre of people is attracted to the ministry. (People who are born in the context of mission grow up on mission and live on mission)
6. The new church plant creates a higher institutional visibility in sensitive countries which places it in danger of either stifling regulations or physical threat to its members.
7. The lack of traditional funding sources that used to fund church planter’s salary and the first year of operation (often US$100,000) has dried up in the midst of the global financial crisis and changing funding priorities, which has mademore sustainable mission practices like micro-businesses and social enterprises become more important as initial building blocks of new ministry environments than trying to start a regular worship service, in which the only sustainable piece is the generosity of the initiates. (We simply have to begin considering other sources of income for mission. Particularly as we engage in pioneering new ministries and new ways of doing mission)
8. Church planting normally thrives in wealthier areas or suburban areas but ignores the urban poor. Stuart Murray Williams addresses this weakness here. It also focuses on the functional people rather than the high-need people and so we end up with church that prioritizes the rich, something we are warned about in the Scriptures (see James). (The predominant models of church planting require resources and expertise that make it extremely difficult to do effective church planting or ministry in poorer areas. New models with greater sustainability, mobility and flexibility could really see something radical and beautiful happening here in Africa)
9. In a country where the church already has a bruised reputation for greed, immorality and unethical practices, basing a strategy around starting another church and having people join it, and actually give money to support it, is a hard sell and a troubled solution.