Every month we have a gathering over at our house on the back deck. We call it “Missional Back Porch” and the goal is to gather, put something on the grill, and sit around together talking about what it means to live together into the Mission of God.
Last Friday, the question was “what is your biggest fear about getting up and moving to a new locale with 10-15 other people to seed a missional community (i.e. join a missional order)?” We’re getting ready to do this two or three times in the next two years. So the question of these “fears” is an important question for us. Some of the fears I suspect are derivative of the ways we planted churches back “in the days” of Christendom. I list only the three biggest fears mentioned? Here they are with a personal reflection on each one.
1. My life (or my family’s life) would be consumed if I went and planted a church with some other people.
I think we often see church planting along the lines of establishing of an organization. It is almost like we are starting a business. We will have to provide a list of goods and services right from the start (a first class worship service, a weekly Bible study class, children’s ministry, and evangelistic outreach program etc. etc.). This is traditional church-planting boot camp 101.
This way of planting churches is nigh impossible in post Christendom. This approach was nigh impossible even in Christendom when there were ready-made “consumers” for these services and an ingrained Christian readiness (by already existing Christians) towards volunteer service in the local church. Neither of these things exists in post Christendom for good reasons and other reason not so good. As a result, a church-planter-leader-participant who enters “community seeding” with this approach will burn out nine times out of ten in three years. Often leaders and their families will be severely injured.
Instead I plead with the community planters/leaders/participants to see community seeding as a way of life. We are simply moving into an “under-churched” place, in close proximity to one another, living simply and missionally, tending to the surrounding community relationally out of the vision of the Gospel. We worship simply and organically and it develops over time. We tend to our children, simply and organically partnering with others as available. The Holy Spirit enlivens the ministries with power. The gifts of the Spirit flourish. Ministries, and the organization that accompany these ministries, happens over time, as an post facto development.
The first sign that this is a “church plant of the flesh” is when families and leaders are exhausting themselves and their families to the point of destruction. There is just too much evidence that NT leaders (both men and women) were not allowed to lead if their families were in disorder.
2. I will be leaving behind my relationships and starting all over again.
We plant with 3 defined leaders (defined within an APEPT model). We take 12 to 15 people in all that have agreed to the common vision and mission for an extended period of time (no less than 5 years). These people will be by definition some of your closest friends already. Through this common agreement and move, you will find some of the most intense, God honoring, life flourishing relationship possible in this life.
3. There will be a leadership rift – people will not all be on the same page, they will get mad, and break-up the ministry – and we will be left hung out to dry.
It is very important that the three main leaders be mutually submissive to one another and in agreement on the main things/Vision of what we’re doing. It is important that they be able to grow and know each other’s limits. If this is not in place the community will fail. Far beyond all the assessment in search of the entrepreneurial personality type to start a church plant, we should evaluate the character of the three (or four or five) leaders in their ability to mutually submit to each other, to grow out of relationship one to another, and the compatibility of their giftedness in relation to each other (according to say the APEPT list of gifts in Eph 4:11 – Alan Hirsch offers this diagnostic tool here). As the leaders lead this community, they must be adaptable, capable of listening, incorporating criticism and changing with the movement of God in this community and neighborhood. If this is not already fleshed out. If there is not evidence of this. The “missional order” is not ready to move into a new neighborhood.
WHAT OTHER FEARS DO YOU HAVE? CONCERNING THIS MODE OF CHURCH-PLANTING”? HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO THESE FEARS?