The Church Planting Fad Continues…

“…Somewhere along the way the focus shifted OFF of the disciple and ONTO the number of new churches being started…”

I know those of you reading this blog have heard me harp on the issue of making disciples vs. planting churches many times. We can all agree that if we start with “church” we do not always, or might I say, very often at all, end up with a true Disciple of Jesus Christ. However, if we start with the Disciple we will ALWAYS see CHURCH planting follow close behind….

We have seen “church planting” become quite the fad in America over the last 20 years. In the past 5 or so years we have seen the trend shift a bit…Now, it’s not just planting a church, but planting a church that plants other churches. Somewhere along the line we decided that planting a new church is good, but we’re still just ADDING churches. To see the Gospel spread rapidly we need to see Churches multiply. For that to happen we must see the new churches planting newer churches, and so on and so forth. I believe that as the CP Fad has shifted, and we’ve created a new “scorecard”, or criteria for success we have still fallen short of the principle we agree upon in the first paragraph. Unfortunately, churches that plant churches are still not the answer…

In the past few years I’ve had the joy & pleasure of watching many of these trends unfold. I’ve watched myself fall into many of the traps myself, and seen behind the scenes of what happens to guys when we fall victim to an inaccurate metric for success in the kingdom of God. The very thought of a phrase like “metric for success”, or “scorecard” brings with it the illusion that we must perform to earn God’s favor. Obviously, this goes completely against the message of the Gospel, and purpose of Christ’s death on the cross. We must be VERY careful that we:

“…do not perform to earn God’s favor, but OBEY because we are overwhelmed that we ALREADY have His favor.”

There are obvious scriptural references that lead us to believe, as followers of Christ, our lives should bare much fruit. In order to bare fruit it is wise to have goals, and ways to “measure” the fruit of those goals. However, we must constantly be open to whether or not the goals we were pursuing were the right goals in the first place. Are they producing Biblical fruit based upon what Christ has commanded us to do, or a worldly product that men have declared as “fruit”?

What I am submitting with this post is that our “pursuits/goals”, & the “measurement system” that follow are still far from what Christ had/has in mind. (Perhaps the goal in and of itself is a good one, but the order, and/or route we choose to get there is where the problem lies…?)

The problem with the “new fad”/goal/measure of success being a “church planting church” (A church that intentionally plants more churches out of it) is that it STILL does not start with the disciple. Somewhere along the way the focus shifts OFF of the disciple and ONTO the number of new churches being started. Guys, we can TALK all we want about how we’re about “fulfilling the great commission” and “starting with the disciple”. However, our actions, budgets, time, energy, conferences, books, sermons, blogs, twitter posts, etc. PROVE that we are about planting churches (NOT the goal) and NOT about making disciples (The GOAL). Again, the D will result in CP. We have, once AGAIN, bi-passed the initial/root PURPOSE of focusing on the DISCIPLE-trusting that as we MAKE DISCIPLES Christ will “build His Church”.

Let’s face it-a large church with lots of money, people, & and an influential leader can plant lots of churches…and God help us, those new churches can be started without many TRUE Disciples of Christ being raised up. When the goal/fad that sells the books and gets the attention is on church planting-we, as sinful men, will do all that we can do to be successful in that goal-even if making disciples is set on the back burner.

I have been, and am still fighting against falling into this trap on a daily basis. Let’s face it: Intentional Gatherings looks much much more successful as an organization if I tell it’s supporters that we’ve seen “40 new lay-led simple churches started in the last year”. When that becomes the goal, how we measure success, and what causes people to believe in what we do we will accidentally start frantically trying to plant more churches instead of obediently making disciples…ouch.

The point here is that the professional staff of a church, or “church planting organization” continue to be the ones planting the churches. Money is thrown around like candy at guys in the name of “church planting”. No new lay-led communities of faith are birthing from the Harvest. The entire body of Christ is not being equipped to BE the Church & live out their faith in such a way that acts as a conduit for the Gospel to spread rapidly. In fact, you might find that if you interviewed “members” of a well-known “Church Planting Church” that “Church Planting” is foreign to them, and not “on their radar” at all. It may be an important goal/pursuit of the staff/leadership, but hardly thought about by the lay members.

Not everyone is called to be a “church planter”, or “apostolic leader”. However, EVERYONE IS called to make disciples. If we KNOW that the result of disciples being made will be new communities of faith being birthed then we should be seeing thousands of new faith communities starting all over the place as the Gospel invades the lives of unbelievers.

I have seen tons of churches started in the past few years, and even started a couple myself in name of “church planting”…Did God use them for good, and His glory? Of course. Were some disciples made, and others matured in their faith? Of course. Is it good? Yes. Could it be better? Always. Should we pursue GREAT? I want to. If we know that it starts with the Disciple, and the “church plants” will follow as disciples are made then why in the hell won’t we start focusing on the Disciple, and stop focusing on the church? Again, most of us want praise, recognition, etc. You don’t receive that type of recognition/praise for doing this…

Advertisements

Student CPx is coming to AUSTIN!

“Join us August 10th-20th to engage the diverse communities of Austin with the Gospel through a kingdom lifestyle of encountering God in community and planting churches among the lost.”

SCPx Austin promo simpleAugust 10-20. Cost: $250 (meals & lodging included)

Click Here for more details & info. about Student CPx Austin.

Click Here to register for Student CPx Austin.

Many of you are familiar with the Student CPx (Church Planter’s Experience) training that we, in partnership with several other organizations, host in different parts of the country. You may remember the “concentrated” version of SCPx we hosted in Vegas in January 09′. (More on what happened there HERE & HERE) Or, if you go way back with “aholydiscontent” you might remember me mentioning the first ever Student CPx training in Lawrence, Kansas last summer. You may have even watched powerful Baptism videos from these training experiences.

Either way, the Lord has been moving in the past year, and ordaining relationships that will hopefully lead to Student CPx trainings all over the country many times each year. The dream is that these training experiences would be led primarily by students who have gone through a previous SCPx.

That is exactly what has happened with the upcoming Student CPx in Austin. Lauren Nanson, a UT student who has gone through SCPx, had a vision to see this type of training experience brought to Austin. Many of you in the Austin area have already been pursuing this movement, and have been training students to start campus churches; we are BLESSED to partner with you in the city, and grateful to the many of you who have committed to being a part of making this happen!

I hope you will all check out the information about Student CPx, and consider being a part of this experience. If you know anyone who might benefit from SCPx please send them our way, or to the website for info/reg. If you are closer to Kansas then we encourage you to register for the SCPx in Lawrence, Kansas, which is taking place July 19-31.

Details:

Student CPx Austin: August 10-20. Cost: $250 (meals & lodging included)

Click Here for more information.

Click Here to register.

Feel free to email Lauren Nanson: l.nanson@mail.utexas.edu OR Aaron Snow: aaron@intentionalgatherings.com for more information.

What Would You Say…?

I know that a lot of you out there are brilliant, and have learned a ton about making disciples to produce movements in the past few years. So, I thought I’d get some input from you…I’m in Austin, Tx. right now, and will be chatting with a group of college students tomorrow who are “movement minded”. They get the theory, and many of them have already begun pursuing starting “simple churches” in the area. What are 3 things you’d say to a group of young people who are sold out, and passionate for seeing a CPM in the states? (Practical Steps, how to avoid potential roadblocks, etc.)

1, 2, 3….come on, don’t be shy.

Next week I’ll be heading out to Orlando with my close friend, and mentor, Lance Ford. Lance has partnered with Alan Hirsch over the past few years to start www.shapevine.com

In Orlando we’ll be putting on the “missional track” at the annual “Exponential Conference”. This will be the second year in a row that shapevine heads up the “missional track”. During that track I will be participating on a “panel discussion” with several other guys. We will be discussing many issues, mostly revovling around CPM’s, and making disciples. There is room for 500 in the missional track, and it’s close to being sold out. This makes a 24 year old guy a bit nervous. If you could share 3 things with a room full of pastors about ANYTHING what would they be? (Let’s get creative here please…)

Thank You “Church Planting Movements”…

Church Planting MovementsAs you may know I have been slowly reading through a wonderful book by David Garrison called, “Church Planting Movements“. This book is brilliant, and prophetic. I came across something this morning that encouraged me, and gave me much hope for the future…

“Converts are put on a pew while they demonstrate their conversion through years of faithful church attendance.  If the convert grows disinterested over time, the faithful conclude that his conversion was not genuine, when, in fact, he may have simply grown bored. This patter has led to a staggering attrition rate for evangelical churches around the world. The passion and zeal of the new convert is slowly absorbed into the church pews until an anemic, nominal Christian finally drifts away. Lost people are finding the message of the gospel powerful both in its appeal and its ability to change their lives, but they find life on the pews to be less satisfying.

In recent years, evangelical churches have improved discipleship training in an effort to conserve new converts. Some of these efforts have proven effective, but often they concentrate on indoctrination that results in better-educated Christians, but not necessarily better-assimilated Christians.

In Church Planting Movements prospective converts often begin serving Christ even before they become His follower. A Southeast Asia missionary began meeting regularly with a group of Vietnamese physicians. Though the physicians were not yet Christian, they met weekly for prayer, Bible Study, and sharing a vision of what they perceived to be God’s desire for them and their people.”

Garrison, David. “Church Planting Movements”. 2004. Wigtake resources. Pg. 230.

Student Church Planting Movements

I have been in Lawrence, Kansas since early Monday morning. I was asked by my friend Erik Fish to come here and speak, along with several others, to a group of about 35 college students about starting “missional communities” on their college campuses. This training that Erik, and the “Campus Church Network” crew (Jaeson Ma, Sam Lee, Benson Lee) has organized is called “Student CPx“.

It has been such a blessing this week to share with students that they can be part of a CPM even…especially while in college! These guys & girls are pumped, passionate, and excited. There was no deconstruction process to go through for why “this & that” is wrong, broken, or ineffective. Praise Christ! I did not have to spend any time trying to convince them to simply hear me out on the topic of “missional community” multiplication. They were hungry for the story of “Intentional Gatherings” in Ft. Worth, and what we are up to in Las Vegas. They wanted to hear practical ways we seek to foster intimate community among believers for the purpose of accountability, discipleship, service, and reproduction. They asked all of the right questions; many of which I simply could not answer, but encouraged them to begin “writing their own story”.

As I’ve spent time with different students on an individual basis throughout the week it gives me such hope, and excitement to think that they are embarking on a journey that could result in the rapid spread of the Gospel throughout America. These students are from different college campuses all over the country. Five different countries are represented, as well as almost 15 different states. All 35 students will return back to their campuses and start simple churches, or “missional communities” that reproduce…if they have not already done so. This excites me.

I sat around the table for dinner tonight with, who I truly believe are some of the sharpest minds in the organic/simple church reproduction “world”. It was a true pleasure, and blessing from God to share in kingdom centered conversation with these guys. Jaeson Ma, with all of his energy and excitement shared dreams and visions the Lord has given him recently. Erik Fish shared a beautiful opportunity the Lord has placed in his lap between two amazing organizations. Neil Cole, in his humble wisdom breathed discerment into the entire conversation after sharing with us a key element that must be present in a CPM here in the states. We dreamed and brainstormed about some potentially huge things in terms of kingdom growth and CPM’s. I have certainly learned more here in Kansas than I have taught, and pray this is the case everywhere I go.

“Jesus, we pray for a student volunteer movement to sweep across this country throughout college campuses in the form of “missional communities” being started and multiplied. Use us, release us, and set us free.”