I've been in combat in two combat theaters, but church planting has been the most grinding thing in my life. It's also brought me the most joy. So, if I had to sum it up in five words, I would say church planting is: grinding, joyful, mind-boggling, exuberant, and learning. Here's what that has meant for me.
It's official. The "back to the city" movement seems to be winding down, at least for the foreseeable future. For years now in North American ministry circles, much discussion has occurred over the rise of city populations. However, trends seem to be shifting once again toward the suburbs. While the particulars of strategy are most often confined to the specific local context, there are at least three high-level insights that merit a mention.
How many new church plants start to decline after they acquire a permanent building? I recently received this question in an email. Though I don't have the statistics, I do have stories. These are stories of churches that have slowly started their decline after completing building projects and others that have built and are still thriving today. But what has made the difference?
In a dramatic scene of the 1987 movie The Untouchables, Jim Malone presses Eliot Ness on what he is willing to do to finally catch Al Capone. Though I'm certainly not advocating for illegal activity as Malone was, I think it's a great picture of what we need to innovate and reach gospel saturation in and beyond our city.
If your way isn’t working where you are, are you prepared to learn a new way? As leaders, we need to be asking ourselves and allowing trusted people in our lives to ask us the same question: “What are you prepared to do?”
“We need more planters.”
I can remember, only a few years ago, speaking with representatives at some of our national church planting agencies and hearing they were at capacity. At the time, the conversation was centered on increased efficiency in equipping. Processes needed to be streamlined in order to run through more planters. Capacity was the issue back then. Now, it's scarcity.
With both of these sending problems, the answer lies in the way we think—and more importantly act—as sending churches. How do we move past mere rhetoric to actually become sending churches?
If you pay attention to ministry conversations on the internet, there's a good chance you've heard the term "replanting." In the last couple of years, this idea has really gained traction, and I think with good reason. Today, you can find podcasts, books, and a growing pile of online articles that take up the task of church replanting. What is the difference between church planting and replanting and how might they make the difference in spiritual vitality of a community?
2018 has brought a lot of things our way: heavy losses, exciting possibilities, and hard discussions. Likewise, our blog also had a lot of fascinating and pertinent articles for the year. As we prepare for what God has in store for 2019, we'll first pause to remember and celebrate the top 10 articles of 2018.
I was in a meeting a couple of weeks ago with two churches wanting to share a building. The host church is almost 60 years old, and the church wanting to share their space was an immigrant congregation that is about 5 years old. It was a challenge to work out the details across cultural worldviews and language barriers.
“Do you have any good websites I can visit for demographic data on my neighborhood?”
If I’ve been asked that question once, I’ve received it a dozen times. Many pastors and church leaders now understand the need to know their ministry context and contextualize their mission strategy to engage their neighbors in a meaningful way. But how do we find and use those resources?