August 13, 2012

Doh! Doh! Disappointment With Church Planting #2

The divorce statistics are skewed by the fact that second marriages have a far higher propensity for failure than first marriages. This is to say nothing about third, fourth and fifth (sixth and seventh in Hollywood – Ed)

This tells us at least two things. First, that marriages subsequent to the first are often a triumph of hope over experience (not always a bad thing!).  But secondly, the issues that plague a person in their first marriage are invariably dragged into their second – unless they are dealt with openly, honestly and, if not decisively, at least in a manner that goes towards resolving them.

The same can be said of church planting.  A church planting friend in the US remarked that he personally knew a number of church planters who, tragically, had ended their lives over severe pressures for which they could see no remedy.

One of his concerns was that people get into church planting as a way of escaping another way of doing/running church that felt like it wasn’t working for them.  They assume that a new model would resolve these issues, and when it doesn’t, where do you turn to next? Yet another model? The real issues are masked by the “new wife”.

I make this observation because, for a while at least, church planting was “the new wife” for many younger, burnt out pastors. I have been involved in church planting groups for about seven or eight years now – long enough to see the gloss come off.  I have attended meetings of burnt out blokes, for whom the daily grind of ministry in a traditional church model was seen as the problem, to which a low-key missional/emerging plant was seen as the solution. A Mac, a local cafe and a group of keen post-conservative Christians seemed to offer salvation. Which of course, it doesn’t.  Only Jesus offers salvation, but, given our natures, we will seek it in any number of places – even good places – rather than in the great place.  We need to run to the right place for our justification.

My experience bears this out. A burn-out in a traditional model a number of years ago precipitated my involvement in church planting. While this was initially with a more emergent group, it settled where I was more theologically aligned – theologically conservative/ecclesiologically radical.  Leaving that group burned rather than burnt out raised the question again: Where do I run for my justification?  We know the answer to that question by where we find ourselves:  New church model/new wife/new whatever. If we don’t find ourselves running to Jesus at that point, then disappointment is sure to be the end result.

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There is no guarantee that Jesus will return in our desired timeframe. Yet we have no reason to be anxious, because even if the timeframe is not guaranteed, the outcome is! We don’t have to waste energy being anxious; we can put it to better use.

Stephen McAlpine – futureproof

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