Thursday, February 17, 2011

Creating a Culture for Planting Churches, Part II

In my last post, I stressed the need for a culture-shift within Associations of churches that results in a high priority on the multiplication of churches. I'd like to continue on that theme today with a couple of additional steps that I think are crucial to developing this kind of atmosphere.

-Don't Give in to Resistant Churches. Changing a culture is a precarious undertaking in any environment, and when you seek the kind of substantive change neccesary for a organization-wide culture shift, it is inevitable that you will run into strong opposition. Baptist Associations are no exception to this reality and in fact, sometimes the opposition in this environment can be worse than in the corporate world.

When trying to create an environment in which new churches can be birthed, you will have churches (and regrettably, you will also have pastors) who, for whatever reason, don't like the new emphasis, don't want it, and will seek to undermine it. You should be nice to them. You should treat them like the brothers and sisters in Christ that they are. You should serve them selflessly as you would any other church in your network. When they call, you should pick up the phone. When they ask for help, you should provide it. But you should never, under any circumstances, allow them to influence this process.

The problem is that most Directors of Missions are like most pastors. We like to be liked, and we truly believe that the best way to facilitate cooperation is sometimes through compromise. The problem with compromise in this area (and I have the personal experience to back up my claim) is if you seek compromise in order to simply placate naysayers, you will accomplish nothing, and regardless of what you do, you won't make them happy anyway.

Think for a moment about how you would counsel a pastor dealing with a similar situation in his church. If there is some grumpy old guy sitting on the back row with arms folded who does nothing but incessantly complain, you would tell that pastor "love him, minister to him, serve him, but do NOT place him in a position of leadership or influence of any kind!" As an Associational leader, you should take the same approach with naysaying churches. When it comes to leading a culture-shift of any kind, applying "consensus leadership" will result in a grand total of nothing, and may even grant the greatest amount of authority to the most carnal congregation in your network. Don't go there!

-Intentionally Mix the Established and Emerging. One of the worst mistakes I’ve seen guys make who are trying to change the culture of their association is that they sequester the church planting types away from the established pastor types. For the most part, this action is unintentional, and occurs through hosting necessary events, training, and gatherings that are exclusively for church planters. And church planters need to learn from each other. But they do NOT need to find themselves totally cut off from the established church world, and especially from older men who have spent decades as pastors and have much wisdom to instill.

Additionally, if the “established” and “emerging” church world stay separated from each other, it becomes much easier to criticize and stereotype each other. The planters view the established guys as old, out of touch, trapped in the 1950s, and resistant to anything innovative. The established guys likewise, tend to view the planters as young, proud, bratty, and maybe even a little heretical. The more you can get these two groups together in the right context and circumstance (NOT a business session!), the better. If I am a pastor, and I have a real-life, flesh and blood church planter in front of me, and I’ve spent time with him, prayed with his wife and played with his kids, its going to be much harder for me to stereotype and criticize. In that same vein, if I’m a young church planter who senses that this older man actually cares about my mission and ministry, I’m much more inclined to slow down and listen and in the process, gain some much needed wisdom.

As a matter of regular practice, when our Association hosts a planter-specific event of any kind, there is always an open invitation issued to our Associational officers. Through getting to know each other in these contexts, the relationship between old and new churches has greatly improved over the past several years, primarily because both sides have learned to look past the style, dress, worship, and ministry model differences, and understand that each is simply trying to make Jesus known in his own context. This helps all sides see that the basis of a church planting culture is not methodological, but theological. It grows out of the healthy soil of a common understanding of who Jesus is, who His church is, and what He has commissioned His church to do. And that theological culture is built, first and foremost, in a relational way. So do everything you can to keep these groups together, not apart.

Taking care to implement these steps will, over time, result in a significant change in how the churches of your Association view church planting. Without that kind of passionate culture of advocacy, you will never produce an environment of church planting churches, no matter how sophisticated your support system.
At the same time, once you have helped create the passion necessary for this culture-shift, you will need to be able to give direction to it, which will require a support system at the Associational level. In the next two posts, I’ll speak to the non-negotiable components of an effective church planting system.

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