August 10, 2006
Fallow Fields: 20 ways to waste time while not planting churches
Sorry for the long delay between posts. Url has been away in the only patch of North America without internet access. I recently listened to a speaker praise the state of the church in America. He lauded the efforts of politically active conservatives, affirmed the family-friendly movies being released, said the sale of pornographic magazines has taken a dive for 10 years, and was excited that churches are growing bigger than ever - all because Christians in America are living holy lives.
Apparently he hasn't read Ron Sider's book The Scandel of the Evangelical Conscience where surveys reveal American evangelicals aren't living any holier than their secular neighbors. Nor has he studied the report by Outreach Magazine, "The American Church in Crisis" that found church attendance in the U.S. isn't keeping up with the population growth. And does anyone really believe pornography use is declining because fewer magazines are being sold?
His positive, if ill-informed, message reminded me of something sent to us by Steve Addison, the Australian Director of Church Resource Ministries. Steve is passionate about church planting and has written a tongue-in-cheek list of suggestions for the church in America (or anywhere else the church is losing ground).
We've had some good input lately on why we're not seeing church planting movements in the developed world to the same degree we're seeing in the global south. If that's the case, we need to find something to do while nothing's happening. Here are 20 suggestions for what to do while we're not multiplying churches.
1. Call yourself an apostle. Have some business cards printed. Hand them around.
2. Throw lots of money at subsidizing unhealthy, declining churches.
3. Throw money at "experimental missional initiatives" and never evaluate their effectiveness.
4. Set goals for multiplying new churches but don't make it clear who is responsible to accomplish the goals.
5. Make someone responsible but don't give them any real authority, discretionary time, or funding. Change the appointment every two years. After ten years, save money by retiring the position and making everyone else responsible.
6. Appoint a committee to undertake a study and write a report. Wait three years then do it again.
7. Hire a consultant to undertake a study and write a report. Wait three years then do it again.
8. Appoint the wrong people to plant churches. When they fail conclude that church planting doesn't work.
9. When you see a healthy church plant say, "Yes it's growing but it's not really a (choose one) Reformed/Baptist/Assemblies of God/Presbyterian/Methodist/New Vine/etc. church."
10. Require pioneering leaders to be theologically trained before they can plant a church.
11. Throw your best leaders at your biggest problems, not at your greatest opportunities.
12. Watch pioneering leaders exit your movement and then comment on their lack of commitment.
13. Reward pioneering leaders with promotions. Get them away from the front line. Harness their drive to keep the institutional wheels turning.
14. In the 1960's change the word "missions" to "mission." To usher in the new millennium change "mission" to "missional." Around 2010 plan to change "missional" to "postmissional."
15. Agree to plant new churches when: (a) You're large enough (b) You're healthy enough (c) You have the leaders to give away (d) You have the money to spare (e) God has clearly shown you it's time (f) When the cow jumps over the moon.
16. Run workshops on church planting. Hold conferences on church planting. Offer a course at your theological college on church planting. Do nothing to follow up with the people who show an interest. Make sure only experts get to teach. Keep the practitioners away from the students. Keep the students in the classroom.
17. Grow your church, facilities, staff, and budget as BIG as you can. Let your vision stop at your car park. Let church history end with you. Let the Kingdom dream die.
18. Set ridiculous but catchy sounding goals like "500 in 5 years," or "2,000 by 2,000." Three years after the target date expires set new goals. Don't forget to change the dates!
19. Modernize your theology, then postmodernize your theology. Remove evangelism and church planting from the centre of God's mission in the world. When decline hits make sure the paid professionals are the last to feel the pinch.
20. Lastly, set up a blog on church planting. Link to other bloggers on church planting. Be sure they link to you. Add smoke and mirrors.