Sorry I missed April 1st, but better late than never, right?
10 Rules for a Church Plant
Here’s some honest-to-God rules for church plants:
1. As soon as it stops being fun, we’ll fold it up and go find something else to do.
Some people think this is ridiculous. After all, being a Christian isn’t all fun and games. Didn’t Jesus say that the same world that hated Him would hate us?
Yet throughout the decades I’ve been a part of or observing typical church life, the congregations that stop being fun aren’t under persecution. In fact, the enemies of God have never, as far as I’ve seen, been the ones to make church life miserable: it’s ALWAYS been the brethren and the sisteren.
Tears are spilt over which woman is in charge of the flower arrangement in front of the pulpit every Sunday, and malicious gossip is spread about the Adult Sunday School teacher when one person is selected but not another (who’s better “qualified”.) Getting up on a Sunday morning or back from work on a Wednesday night is often miserable as people groan under the expectations of others that — whatever you feel like or whatever other demands you carry — you must get to the meetings. Did you see how much Sister Margaret put in the offering? And I know her husband just received a raise. And how come my daughter wasn’t chosen to sing the solo part in the Easter cantata?
When “visiting ministry” preaches from the pulpit that refusing to pay taxes is rebellion against God, or that everyone is predestined to go to Heaven or Hell, or that water baptism is necessary for one’s salvation and that Jesus is coming soon — that within the next three and a half years because certain events have taken place on the Temple Mount which by an international conspiracy have been kept secret (“but I know the Truth”)… schism grows in nutrients of spiritual arrogance.
What kills fun? The religious expectations of others, phony demands in the Name of God, judging others according to merely human moral codes, traditional church forms and agendas shared by churchgoers that aren’t God’s — not to speak of the outright evil of “holy gossip”, malicious speakers, and condemning other through one self-righteous lists of What Pleases God.
Normal church life which is on track with the Spirit of God is fun. It’s fulfilling. It lifts people’s emotions, heals one’s weariness and restores the healing gift of a merry heart. Even if hanging around with other human beings is often challenging, a spiritual fellowship is filled with words and actions that are just right. There’s consistently a sense peace and joy in the Spirit. So, unless you’re living in a country that’s declared holy war on Christians bring direct, intense persecution, normal church life is fun.
Now, briefly, here are the other nineRules for a Church Plant.
2. All of us in the church plant, we’ll write up a list of goals and renounce every one.
Aren’t you supposed to have “clear goals” for a church plant? Not at all. When people have a list of goals to follow (even clever goals like “Let God have His way”), it gets in the way of following God. You follow goals — you’re back into legalism; you follow the Person of God (through the Spirit), Jesus’ Church might get built. Put the list of goals up on the wall of the place of meeting, with a great big, red X striking all of them out… and a line in the border saying, “Follow God in the Spirit”…
3. Together, we’ll list the abilities and resources we all have to offer, then repent of each one.
No one knows the resources God has and no one even knows the resources they themselves have. When you list your resources, talents, gifts and so on, you’re blindly limiting what God might unexpectedly do beyond those limits. Don’t offer to the Pastor or others in your church plant your support, your strength, your bank accounts… offer your living bodies to God which is your reasonable worship. Then see how far God takes you out of your comfort zone and into the realm of things which are “impossible for man/possible for God”.
4. We’ll gather together all our church planning books and guides and burn them.
What church planting books did the apostle Paul advocate using? None. What spiritual direction and “covering” did the apostle John advocate? The indwelling Spirit (“they have no need for any man to teach them…”)
Depending on books or guides, conferences, church planting seminars or even oversight committees is not the same as depending on the Presence and leading of the Spirit. There’s a choice involved: follow the One or follow the other.
5. We’ll get together often to pray, but instead have a potluck BBQ.
Prayer is not a substitute for action. Some will insist that “action” must “come out of prayer” but that treats prayer as magic. (Wave the Wand of a prayer to God and He’ll back up our desires and expectations. Oh — and fast. That always gets God to move on our behalf.)
Our ministries — all our Spirit-led, Spirit-empowered ministries — are actions of love, for love is an action. Prayers tend to be mere words much like James rejected when he warned his “children” never to look at the actual needs of a person and then just “pray” for them: “Be warmed! Be filled! And be gone!” When people gather together, what prayer takes place must be narrowly focused on actual need in another — and let the times of fellowship largely be times of joy, peace and loving on one another. (Would you pass me the mustard, please?)
6. After discussing and praying about selecting a pastor, we’ll reject every candidate.
The focus of the New Testament Scriptures is not choosing a person (generally a man) to be in spiritual authority and direction over each individual. The Bible teaches each Believer to hear and be mindful of the example in word and act of those who are truly spiritual — living visibly mature lives. These are they who will further the freedom from false religious performance, releasing every “planter” in the group into the gifts and ministries of their own calling.
7. We must decide on what are the Core Values which unite us, and strip them away.
If we are united by a particular, theological stance — we’ll eventually be disunited by our theologies. If we’re united by particular moral values — we’ll eventually be disunited by the confusion of one person’s mores against another’s. If we’re united by a common Ministry Goal — we’ll eventually be disunited when God places differing goals in our hearts… as when Paul and Barnabas split.
A church — whether newly planted or decades old — must not be united by anything other than the Spirit of God and each person’s willingness to humble themselves to the Spirit’s leading. One inescapable reality of church planing is that if those involved don’t have confidence in the ability of the Spirit to lead people individually and corporately, they’ll never be part of successfully planting a church..
8. We’ll identify a group of men willing to be a Board of Directors and excommunicate them.
Anyone who is willing to assume non-biblical forms of control and authority over a group of Believers is so tainted by the world that they are a danger to the leading of the Spirit in the midst of the “planters”. Some protest that without a Board of Directors, the State won’t recognize the group as a non-profit corporation — and praise God that it stays free of such financial entanglements. Others protest that without such a Board, projects will never be brought to completion — and praise God that the ministries the Spirit has apportioned variously amongst all of you will not be directed and ran in accordance to Robert’s Rules of Order but according to the indwelling Spirit in each Believer’s life.
9. When someone draws up by-laws for our church plant — we’ll burn them both.
The constitution and by-laws have nothing to do with releasing “church planters” into their unique and individual ministries — governing regulations are designed to erect boundaries within which people are required to function. As a Person, God tends to be very “out of the box”. When He tells you to spit into some dust to make mud and rub it into someone’s eyes without their permission, the by-laws will deny permission to even dream of doing it for fear of a law-suit being filed. When you feel led to go to Jerusalem when it’ll only stir up trouble, the Board of Elders will demand that you not go since they don’t hear in the Spirit what you have heard.
The truly mature “leading ministers” in a church plant won’t be hiding behind constitutions or by-laws but will be using their own Spirit-led, Spirit-empowered gifts to release everyone in a church plant into the freedom of doing just THAT which God has destined for each of them; leaders will be equippers but not controllers.
10. Last but not least, when the going gets tough — we’ll give up.
Like number 1 on this list, if the church plant stops being fun, quit and go do something else. Just so, when the process of working with human beings within the legal and societal structure of a community begins to wear you out, give up and let God handle it. Again let’s remember that Jesus teaches, “what is impossible for man is possible for God.”
EmDog, spiritual wag