Monday, March 16, 2009

church-planting frustration

There's lots of church planting stuff around the blogs at the moment.

I'm all for church planting. There are people out their who need to hear the gospel, so let's start more churches. Great.

But I'm frustrated (you may have already picked that up...) with alot of the current church planting talk.

Here's why.

It all seems so glorified. A big conference in a big city in America with big super-star christians. Getting to hang with the big names. Associate yourself with them. Video them. Quote them. And make plans for how we can save the world like them. It's hard to be at a conference like that and not want and imagine yourself to be the next Mark Driscoll. (But would Mark Driscoll have ever attended such a conference? Actually, all the succesful church planters I know don't go to those kinds of conferences. They have their heads down!)

Christian ministry is not about glory. It rarely looks impressive. I'm sure the trainee church planters are being told (fairly constantly) that it's hard work, but I think the glitz of the big names undoes what is said. Your congregation is not going to sit and adoringly listen to you. Many will be Sunday-only Christians. Often they just won't show up. Sometimes your best people will be jump into big-time sin. Each day your little sins (which may actually turn out to be biggies) will nag at you and at those around you. You are not going to be nailing your message every week. Often you will be dull. Your church may never look big or exciting - it may look like the church in Corinth. Will you feel like a failure if it does?

I remember our principal telling us at college that most of us would not lead Philip Jensen type ministries. Most of us would just faithfully teach the bible week by week in average churches. That's just how it is and such ministry is valuable and good.

There are other reasons why I find the current church planting noise frustrating. But that's probably the main one.

Am I being petty and ungenerous? It's likely. Tell me to pull my head in.

UPDATE: Andrew just read this post and told me to pull my head in. He reminded me of some of the fantastic Australians with significant ministry experience who are over there... He's right, of course. Still interested in what you have to say.


  1. You're frustrated by church plant chatter? Wow. Me too.

    While I appreciate Mark Driscoll and love him for his passionate teaching and church growth strategies - if you can call them that - I don't think his is an easily reproducible style.

    I would say the church planters who are running these conferences were not only not going to these church planting conferences - but were not even following a church planting recipe.

    I don't set out to be Gordon Ramsay in the kitchen, and I'm not going to set out to be Mark Driscoll in church planting. I think the beauty of being both a celebrity chef and a church planter is that you work with the ingredients you're given - and in most cases the ministry you forge (or the food you make) works best when it reflects your unique personality and not a cheap imitation of a trailblazer.

    These guys all seem to be wanting to be trailblazers by following someone. And that seems contradictory.

    My word verification word is "blest" that's so almost holy.

  2. I think we get lost when we take our eyes off Jesus. When we start to look for earthly crowns. When we start to value things that the world values (prestige, visible success, numbers, size of your 'following', numbers of books in print etc), we've got it all upside down. Some of the most dedicated servants of God will not be known this side of heaven.

  3. I don't mind other people's enthusiasm - but here are my frustrations:

    1. when the enthusiastic intending church planters, act like there's noone at churches at the moment trying to reach the community with the gospel already, and imply that all the churches around are out of touch with the world... I'm all for more churches, but not with a disparaging tone for those of us at churches already... don't know if that makes sense (typing while watching tv!)..


    2. I am concerned that there is a lack of understanding about crossing cultures, not everything that works in the U.S will work here?!?!

    3. And there are lots of church planters and church workers over here who have much to say that is great, and working already, but it's somehow not as 'in' to listen to them.

    Harsh? Yeah, probably I'm just grumpy at the moment, but I too am finding it frustrating.


  4. yes yes and yes. I'm agreeing with you all.

  5. Yes - another hand up for feeling mixed feelings about all that is going on.

    On the one hand, I'm thankful that people are wanting to see more people saved. I don't want to misread their intentions.

    But...on the other - , all the things you said, the photo-opportunities with *gasp* Mark Driscoll. The impression as someone else here said that this group of people will be doing something no-one else is doing.

    I hope that there will be some serious considerations of the concerns raised, and they will not just be dismissed as being from "negative" people.

  6. I've had a go at articulating my frustrations here.

  7. I am excited about all the talk about church planting (presuming it will lead to action). But at the same time I think you have nailed it re. the dangers of celebrity worship versus the tough reality of ministry. Church planting is just a name unless it is the fruit faithful evangelism and discipleship.

    Another factor rarely mentioned is that all "church planting" is not equal. On the one hand you have the team which goes into an unreached community and start from zero doing evangelism and building a church. On the other hand, church planting can refer to a congregation (or part thereof) moving out from an existing church into a new location. These (and other types of cp) are all legitimate and needed. But they are not the same thing and will not have the same impact on reaching the unreached.

    I think the danger of the church planting buzz is that we all want to be involved and will claim that we are doing it but without actually doing more evangelism than at present.

  8. Good post, Simone.

    I too feel uneasy with the celebrity elements of chruch planting, but I wonder if a lot of it comes down to a whole lot of enthusiasm, passion and excitement, but a lack of...what's the word...patience and willingness to listen to those in Australia who have been doing this for years? A typical tussle between the old and the young?

    Ruth, I don't think people who make comments like that mean it that way - at least I'd like to take them at face value and assume they don't. I think they are excited, and maybe in that excitement, aren't so careful in their words.

  9. Soph - I just re-read some of the comments that came to mind when I wrote my initial comment, and sure, it's enthusiasm, but it's a little more than wordy carelessness. I am taking most of these words at face value, not doing a heap of assuming.

    I have quite high respect most of the bloggers that made these comments, so am more likely to err on the side of assuming good intentions. But the words that I was referring to, I thought, were pretty clear. I could quote some, but I wont, cause I think it an unhelpful exercise.

    I'm happy to put it down to youthful enthusiasm, with just a pinch of arrogance. But, hey, if the gospel is going to be preached, then great - that's the main thing.

  10. Maybe I haven't read these comments, then? I was thinking of articles in Sydney Anglican, not blogs, so we could be talking about two different things! In which case, sorry to have misunderstood you.

    I actually was also more reflecting about Sam and myself, and thinking about how our words may have come across to other people. We have been known to make comments like this - not just on our blog but in person to people. So it was more a comment that was a corrective to my own behaviour, if that makes sense...

  11. Totally makes sense. I didn't read the Syd Ang about it all...what I was referring to was on blogs. And it wasn't necessarily just the bloggers, some were blog commentors. Soph - you totally rock. :-)

  12. I've gotta say - I'm agreeing with Ruth on this one.