Church Planting

The Rev. Jason Stellman, an erstwhile Calvary Chapel church planter and contributor to The Blog Of Which We Do Not Speak and current minister in good standing with the Presbyterian Church in America, has written a short but very spot-on critique of the whole “we gotta contextualize the Gospel” mindset here.

Great article by Chuck Warnock here.

Let’s face it: small churches, like Rodney Dangerfield, get no respect. Or at least very little. Small congregations typically are viewed as stodgy, dead, or sick—that last one according to a very prominent church consultant who will remain anonymous.

I am sure we could find small churches that would live up to each of those perceptions. But I have also seen larger churches exhibit the same characteristics. Why is it, then, that small churches get such a bad rap? Numbers. Small churches don’t have the numbers to validate their success, and our culture is all about numbers, even in ministry.

Here’s an example: last year a prominent denomination offered a "small church" conference. Just offering a small church conference was a minor miracle, but guess who was asked to speak? You guessed it—large-church pastors. The clear message to those small-church pastors who attended was, "Come to this small church conference and we’ll teach you how to make your small church into a big church.

Great article. Go read it.

Chris Elrod hits a homer here.

Okay; I just grabbed a second to catch up on my blog reading – it’s been a wild whirlwind of a month, trying to juggle the church and my day-job-to-support-my-habit so that I can keep diapers on my boy, so I haven’t had much time to do much of anything else.

Oh, except for reading a lot; you get to do that on planes & in hotel rooms & stuff.  While I don’t mind TV (after all; hockey season’s coming up), I vastly prefer to read. So my “extra-cirricular” entertainment reading has been stuff by Jack McDevitt (sci-fi writer; I just finished Eternity Road and Infinity Beach, both of which were just flat-out awesome), Robert Charles Wilson (his book Spin – oh…my…goodness was it good… Probably the best speculative sci-fi I’ve read in a very, very long time; I can’t wait until the sequel is released in e-book format), Peter Hamiltion (The Dreaming Void – sequel series to the Commonwealth Saga and set 1500 years after the events in Judas Unchained – Pete’s perhaps my favorite modern author, with McDevitt a very close second), Stephen Baxter (light on character development, but loooooooooooong on plausibility and taking our current cosmological and physics understanding to the limit – great speculative fic, Vacuum Diagrams was a great summary of the truly epic sweep of his Xeelee Sequence) and others.

But other than that, I haven’t had time for much of anything else.

So after a discipleship meeting this morning with a great brother, I fired up my blog reader, and found this absolutely awesome pearl over on The Blog Of Which We Do Not Speak which I think succinctly describes the critical key differences between “leadership” (which so very many in the Growthinista camp are all a-goo-goo over) and servant leadership – which is a very exceedingly different sort of thing altogether.

LeaderMan: Wants a platform on which to say something

Servant Leader: Has something to say


LeaderMan: You almost feel you know his family, because he’s your Leader

Servant Leader: You allow him to influence you, because you know his family


LeaderMan: Wants you to know he’s a Leader

Servant Leader: You’re not sure he knows he’s a leader


LeaderMan: Loves the idea of the Gospel, and the idea of The Church

Servant Leader: Loves God and the actual individual people God brings across his path


LeaderMan: A great speaker, but self-described as, “Not really a people person.”

Servant Leader: Makes himself a people person


LeaderMan: Helps you find where God is leading you in his organization

Servant Leader: Helps you find where God is leading you


LeaderMan: Gets together with you to talk about his vision

Servant Leader: Just gets together with you


LeaderMan: Resents “sheep stealing”

Servant Leader: Doesn’t get the “stealing” part, since he doesn’t own anyone to begin with


LeaderMan: Wants the right people on the bus

Servant Leader: Wants to find the right bus for you, and sit next to you on it


LeaderMan: Shows you a flow chart

Servant Leader: Shows you his whole heart


LeaderMan: A visionary who knows what the future looks like

Servant Leader: Knows what your kitchen looks like


LeaderMan: If it’s worth doing, it worth doing with excellence

Servant Leader: Not exactly sure how to even calculate “worth doing”


LeaderMan: Talks about confronting one another in love

Servant Leader: Actually confronts you in love


LeaderMan: Impressed by success and successful people

Servant Leader: Impressed by faithfulness


LeaderMan: Invests time in you, if you are “key people”

Servant Leader: Wastes time with you


LeaderMan: Reveals sins of his past

Servant Leader: Reveals sins of his present


LeaderMan: Gives you things to do

Servant Leader: Gives you freedom


LeaderMan: Leads because of official position

Servant Leader: Leads in spite of position


LeaderMan: Deep down, threatened by other Leaders

Servant Leader: Has nothing to lose

I absolutely love this list, and I’m printing it out and framing it in what passes as my office to be a continual reminder.

I have no time – or patience – for “leadership.”

So go to all the seminars and coaching networks and hoedowns and interpretive finger painting classes as you’d like.

But in my opinion: “Leadership” (as it is currently defined and as is currently all the rage) is for sissies.

In this blogpost, a church planting pastor bares his heart, and in the process offers a resounding critique of modern American Christianity® Inc.

HT: Vee

…aka, “Open Letter to the Growthinistas, Pt. 1.875.”

One of the things that I believe strongly in is reading/listening to dudes I don’t already agree with.  I like reading fellow Calvary pastors’ stuff – and I do.  But I need to read the stuff from other streams that I’m not directly a part of, for two major reasons:

  1. To fight the natural tendency towards provincialization in thinking that happens when one drinks from his own bathwater, intellectually speaking, and, close on the heels of the first reason:
  2. To be challenged in my thinking. I already agree with myself; because it’s simple human nature to have blind spots in our thinking, and by definition we can’t see our own blind spots, it’s a great habit to get into to read/listen to/interact with as broad a range of thinking as possible to constantly challenge your presuppositions, and hopefully thereby identify and deal with those blindspots.

Being that I’m no friend of Emergent, I specifically choose to read as much of their stuff as possible (by the way – not for the purpose of proving them wrong; if that’s the motive, stop; you’re not thinking, you’re reacting – and besides, the ECM is hugely self-defeating anyway), and one of the ECM sources I like to read is the Next-Wave e-zine.

Next-Wave is a great resource; it’s a mostly-regular online publication where ECMmers contribute mercifully short articles on subjects near and dear to the Emergent heart.  (I say “mercifully short” because, due to the inherent limitations of articular writing, they’re largely forced to actually focus their thoughts, eschewing their habitual obfuscatory grandiloquence, and for the most part restricting their wonted overuse of bromidic ECM catchphrases like missio dei, neo-monastic, and incarnational…zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…)  I try to read it whenever it’s updated; in doing so, I have shaken my head in mystified disbelief more than once, chuckled at the apparently not-obvious-to-them pretentiousness of it all just about every time…and been deeply challenged on more than a few occasions.

I have also read stuff that I have, to my deep and abiding shock, been 100% in agreement with.

Honestly…didn’t see that one coming.

It turns out, however, that many ECMmers actually have some good stuff to say; some of it is even marginally orthodox.  You can imagine my surprise.

This month’s issue deals with “Church Pirates” – you know, the kind that Ed Young knows and loves.

…or, wishes he didn’t know and doesn’t love too much.


But tucked away in this month’s missive (and I haven’t read all of it yet) is a gem of an article by a Vineyard church planter, titled Things They Tell Church Planters That Are Simply Wrong.  It is, incidentally, simply right.

He comments on some of the things he’s heard as a church planter that have proven to be out-of-kilter with what is truly true.  Things like:

  • It’s all about Sunday (hint: no it’s not)
  • If it’s not working, your signage or location is wrong
  • What counts is attendance, baptism and signups for membership class (hint: Jesus leaves the ninety-and-nine to minister to the one – what about that, eh?)
  • For the first two years, work as hard as you can without burning out
  • The goal of every pastor should be to be full-time paid (wouldn’t that be nice… ;D )
  • Some people are just scaffolding people
  • Gather a crowd first, figure out who the disciples are later

This is a stunningly good article by a brother I probably wouldn’t agree with much on…but who apparently loves Jesus and “gets it” when it comes to a true Kingdom (not kingdom-building) viewpoint.

I give it eleven thumbs up.

  • It’s amazing what an environment of faith, love, and truth can do.
  • We limit ourselves to ourselves too much.
  • Paul had a heart of great boldness in God, but with great conflict.
    • The people who had wanted his help initially, turned on him & lit into him
    • “The last time I was sent somewhere by God, I got my head kicked in!”
    • …but is it worth it?
    • …it is if you’re called.
  • Can’t look back – keep fighting through for the sake of the people God called you to.
  • Conflicts are part of the ball game – they don’t go away.
  • “If you think about it, most of us (pastors) just aren’t all that sane.”
  • The devil would love you to “play church.”
  • Satan hates your guts.
  • Conflict is a gift – it’s a great purifier – it will either crush us, or draw us to the Lord.
  • This isn’t heaven – so get up & fight
  • “We have been approved by God to be entrusted with the Gospel” – & that’s wat drove Paul on.
  • Am I seeking to please God…?
  • If I’m seeking to be approved, I will be tested.
    • Everything I want to trust in I want to be tested
    • What’s more powerful, more important than the Gospel?
  • Does the Gospel own my heart…?
  • My relationship with this Book (the Bible) is a heart thing.
  • I would rather teach a small little sermon that had real faith than a fancy one with sophistication that draws men to my imagined greatness.
  • Don’t despise the day of small beginnings.
    • That Bible study for 5 people is just as important to God as one for 5000
  • What is it that’s holding me back?
    • Does the Lord have my heart, or have I let it grow cold…?
  • A local church, to not labor in vain, I must have a mother’s affection for the people.
    • Does my son ever thank me for changing his diapers?
    • …see how this applies to the ministry?
    • It’s not about being appreciated – and I probably won’t be
  • Pastors have to be “non-quitters” – but also gentle.
  • God would fan the flame of someone who was about to go out.
  • There are many bruised people – treat them
    with gentleness, not brutality.

    • We can’t be too busy not to cherish the people & be gentle.
    • Chuck seems to love everybody – even the bruised.
  • Give not just the Gospel, but mylife, too
    • When you give your heart to people, you’re going to get hurt.
    • Paul wasn’t a disconnected professional.
    • Many of the people you give your life for won’t like you.
      • Do it anyway.
  • Fathers invest in their kids and don’t expect anything in return.
  • The Gospel is what it’s about – not me.

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