Our church family have just been on a weekend away. We are part of a family of churches that originated out of the same plant and are seeking to reach Birmingham with the Gospel. The church holiday brought the three congregations together. During the weekend, one of the speakers talked about our vision as a collective of churches to reach the city and the place of church planting in this. He said that if we are going to do this, then we are going to need to be ready to multiply by planting swifter, smaller, simpler.
This was music to my ears because regular readers of faithroot.com will know that this is what I’ve been arguing for some time. Conventional church planting tends to happen when a church grows to a significant and sustainable size. It then encourages perhaps 30 or so people to consider separating to form a new church. I believe that such plants have their place and will continue to do so. However, if we rely on that model alone then it will take many years before some places have a Gospel witness if ever at all.
It takes time because a church needs to reach a position where it is ready to send people out. To be honest, you always feel as though you are still too small to plant. Even if you have the numbers in attendees, you still lack core leaders including potential elders and ministry teams. It also takes time because often the least reached places are also the places that Christians from existing churches are likely to move to and even if they did in those kinds of numbers it would be unsettling for such communities. Hence, the need for us to go swifter, smaller, simpler.
Swifter because traditionally we wait for those leading plants to have gone through formal training and then a period of ministry experience as an assistant in a larger church. However, often those processes are not open and accessible to many potential planters, especially those from working class and ethnic minority contexts. What then if we were to encourage people to get planting whilst receiving on the job training and equipping for the job?
Smaller because instead of waiting until you have 20-30 people ready to join a launch team, you can start to plant with a core team of 1 or 2 couples or 2-3 individuals. You could begin to plant by simply opening up your home where you are or by intentionally moving into a community. As you launch, you may choose to remain linked in to an established church, maybe joining with their main Sunday Gathering before inviting people to meet with you at other times.
Simpler because often we think of church in quite complicated terms. We have views about the sorts of ministries needed, the leadership structures, the financial burden etc. We try to replicate worship styles, mid-week meetings, youth and children’s ministries etc from the mother church. Yet, the Bible offers a much simply picture of what a church is. Look at the New Testament and you realise that the essential ingredients are that people get together to hear from God through his word, talk back to him in prayer and praise and encourage one another through spending time together. That is all. This isn’t to say that all the things we normally do in our churches are bad things, just to say that they aren’t necessary and aren’t always helpful.
This idea of planting that is swifter, smaller, simpler than we’ve known in the past is very much at the heart of what I’m trying to encourage in the urban West Midlands. Indeed, one of the key reasons why we’ve chosen to stay in the West Midlands and join with this particular church is a sense of sharing in that same vision for our city.
I’d love to hear from you if you think that you might share this same vision. There may be ways that I can encourage and help you. This might include through coaching/mentoring/training – I’m available to do this 1-1 and in small groups. It could also include joining together with a group of people who have a shared vision to pray together regularly and encourage one another. It may also be that you can make use of resources provided through Faithroot.com to help facilitate your gatherings together. There are a range of audio/visual and written resources available from this site.
Please get in touch with me if you would like to talk more.