I’m continuing to think about my last post about Generation Flux and the role of the church in it…
Shortly after reading the Generation Flux article on Fast Company’s website, I read an intriguing article by Andrew Jones (aka Tall Skinny Kiwi) with an even more intriguing title: 9 Reasons Not to Plant a Church in 2012. It’s worth the time to read.
This may seem counter-intuitive in nature, and yet new winds of the spirit bring new opportunities (and new limitations as well). Reading our context, not church planting strategies, is the first work that goes into seeing if there are new ways the Spirit wants to work. Again, read this post here about the dangers of building permanent docks when the cultural water levels are constantly changing. The seemingly ‘right church model’ in the wrong context becomes the wrong model. And the ‘right church model’ ten years ago
may not probably won’t be the right model today.
Church planting is great. I’ve loved planting our church. But let’s be clear: church planting is not the silver bullet. It is not the magic pill, the final solution or the secret sauce. It is a great expression that God uses to see the kingdom flourish, but it is not the only way to go about seeing the kingdom expanded.
We need all kinds of kingdom expressions – various sizes and shapes and colors and expressions. Anyone who says that there is only ‘one way’ of doing church has a complete myopic and inaccurate view of just how big God is and how creatively He works. Dallas Willard reminds us that the local church should be a beachhead of kingdom activity. Others have said, if you plant a church you may have disciples, but if you make disciples you will always have the church.
When we started Renew we actually started with a similar premise as what Andrew is advocating for. From Day One we said that our community of Lansdale, PA probably didn’t need another church (a weird thing to say when you sense God is calling you to plant a church). Instead, we believed that what our community needed were fresh expressions and fresh extensions of the kingdom of God – whatever that might look like.
It actually did turn into a church plant, as it might be called, but it looked drastically different than our original thought process. We meet all together as an entire church every other week, while the opposite weeks we meet in house churches located all over the region. Again, this is not the structure that we had when we started out. I’m sure there are other churches that have this unique structure too, but we haven’t come across it yet. (If you know of another church who does this, please let me know).
We have a mantra at our church that goes like this: the structure must always submit to the Spirit. Easy to say, sometimes hard to do. In many ways, that’s what I hear in Andrew Jones’ article. It’s a new wine/new wineskin paradigm.
When we pour old wine in new wineskins or new wine in old wineskins it ruins the wine, the wineskins and sometimes both. All this to say, the structure is not important – it’s the content. The point of the wineskin is only to hold the wine. How often we forget that fact.
It’s one of the reasons that I love working with Fresh Expressions US, an organization devoted to encouraging, supporting and celebrating the flourishing of new wineskins in a changing context that is seeking to communicate the powerful message of an unchanging God. It’s heart is to work with all kinds of churches – large and small, mega-churches and house churches, suburban, urban and rural – but it also works with things outside of our traditional understanding of churches: community centers and non-profit organizations and coffee shops and concert venues.
Where the wind blows, we cannot anticipate or plan for. Regardless of the direction, location, amount of sacrifice or outcome, we follow, whether it looks like a ‘traditional’ church plant or not.