Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New Wineskins Convocation V – November 11th







A few more dahlia pics before getting to the blog. These dahlias are from my 2008 garden. The dahlias in the order they appear are: Hamilton Lillian, Helen’s Carl, Hillcrest Fiesta and Hillcrest Liam.

Today was the final day of the New Wineskins Convocation. Today’s most significant learning time for me was the time in the Church Planting seminar. The learning did not end when the seminar concluded. Following the seminar I had an extended conversation with Bill Meyer (Chairman of the Joint Commission of the New Wineskins and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church) on the topic of church planting. (Note: Thanks Bill—and I do have his permission to use his name)

The PCUSA (the denomination of which I am a part) has failed miserably in church planting (known as “new church development” in PCUSA lingo). We fail because we start so few churches. As dollars at the presbytery level shrink so does the church planting. Another reason for the failure has to do with the goal of the project. The goal should never be to “start a church.” As soon as the church has been “started” the goal has been reached. Too often, it is at that point where the focus of the new church turns inward—building a building, paying a huge mortgage, etc. The goal of church planting should be to “reach people for Jesus Christ.” This outward focus must be a part of the DNA of the new ministry that is being started.

Bill suggested that the church planter needs to forget everything they have learned about “being a church.” A church mentality says, “We need a youth program.” or “We need to start a Sunday school.” The small new ministry can not create these programs that can compete with churches that are already doing those things well in your area; besides, it is those who are already “churched” that are looking for these types of programs. Those who do not know Christ are not looking for a Sunday School or youth group program—they are not even on the person’s radar. Bill suggests that most energy and effort needs to be focused on looking outward—encouraging people to spend time with those who do not know Christ. These are the people that the church plant is seeking to reach.

The seminar pointed out that it is important for a church plant to be in a location where the community is growing (this is not to be confused with missions that are established in low income, high crime areas where the needs are so great). This new ministry must be formed with people who are “outward” focused. Most American Christians are not outward focused. One poll asked Christians a question that went something like this: “Should the church’s primary focus be to those who don’t go to church or to you and your family?” Eighty nine percent of the people said that the primary focus should be me and my family. What a tragic answer. It is no wonder that most Christian churches in the US are declining in size.

It is my belief that the PCUSA, the EPC and the New Wineskins Association need to be intentional in starting new churches. It is almost impossible to “turn around” a declining church. The resources and effort should be placed in starting new churches. The best way to form these new ministries is to have larger churches “birth” daughter churches. This process in involves a significant core group going to start the new ministry. They bring with them financial resources and enthusiasm.

Church planting MUST become a priority!

Check back tomorrow for my final thoughts on the Convocation.

4 Comments:

At 1:21 PM , Blogger David E. Holt said...

About starting a new "church"- in my case a whole Baptist Association decided to get together to sponsor a new church. Something not usually done. But it was during a difficult financial time similar to the one we are experiencing today. Suggestion: carefully select a small core of those who will be responsible for guiding the "church" into being. Create a Mission Statement as a guide to keep the young church focused on its reason for being - this will help protect from well meaning people seeking to "kidnap" the direction and mission to which God has called it. Then, determine a Philosophy of Ministry - this has more to do with your vision and understanding of God than anything else. How do you see God? What is His view of humankind, and His attitude toward them? If we are to represent His grace on earth, and share that grace with those to whom He offers it, in what spirit and in what manner are we to do it? Find as many ways to publicize the results of your Mission Statement and Philosophy of Ministry as possible!
David: fsdeh@embarqmail.com
http://www.strategicbookpublishing.com/ABCsOfMinistry.html

 
At 2:39 PM , Blogger Dave Moody said...

Amen!

 
At 2:02 PM , Blogger Suzanne said...

Heard Paul Nixon speak at our Presbytery meeting this week on his book "I refuse to lead a Dying Church". He indicated we have to "do church differently in the 21st century" and from what I understood him to say about the existing church today, much of the same would certainly apply to new church plants. I've ordered several copies from Pilgrim Press, resonably priced, to read and pass on.

 
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