When Does Church Planting Become Kingdom Subversion?

21 09 2008

This post may feel like it’s coming out of left field but hear me out.  Anyone who studies church planting is very familiar with stats about how it’s the best method for reaching non-believers, how it allows you to create a form more effective in reaching emerging cultures and how there are not enough churches for the growing population.  However, I must seriously ask the question, “if Paul were to arrive in my city today would he plant a new church?”  My answer is that he probably would not.  He would most likely see this activity as an anti-Kingdom move and here is why.

Paul never planted a church in a city with existing Christians, and, even though he preferred to go to unreached cities, he spent a lot of time in cities with preexisting churches (Rome, Ephesus and Jerusalem to name three).  When Paul went into a city with an existing church he seemed to always –

  1. Recognize and honor the city church that already existed there (Acts 19, Romans 15-16)
  2. Build on the already existing foundation (as he did in Ephesus with the church Apollos already planted).
  3. Focused on imparting some gift or teaching they were lacking (Romans 1:11, Acts 19:6)

The thought that Paul would disregard the work that existed in that city and start a separate group that exclusively followed him would have seemed to Paul to be terribly divisive and self-aggrandizing (1 Cor. 3:4-5).

Paul would think it most strange that a church planter would move to a city and not even consider the possibility of working with the hundreds of churches that already existed there.  But here is where modern day church gets us all twisted up.

Paul only knew of 3 types of churches –

  1. The Universal Church (all believers)
  2. The City Church (all believers in a city)
  3. The Body Church (a small interdependent group of disciples usually gathering in a home)

Paul always wanted to build up the city church and today that doesn’t exist.  So I have come to this simple conclusion.  If Paul were alive today he would go into a city and attempt to create a city-wide church.  That city-wide church would disciple all the believers in that city and its natural fruit would be various body (or house) churches.

I’m sure that brings up a thousand more questions about how to organize it, would any existing churches join it and how do you agree on doctrinal questions.  All of these I’m working through (and the Bible answers each) but it starts with a very simple conviction – today there is still only one city church in your city (although it is mostly ignored) and it’s the only hope your city has of experiencing a city-wide sweeping move of God.





Mark Driscoll’s Thorough Evaluation of the Emerging Church

13 09 2008

Wow, if you had only 1 hour to hear a contemporary critique of the emerging church I would highly recommend downloading the link below –

Mark Driscoll at Xenos on the Emerging Church

Mark identifies 4 streams of Emerging (I can’t remember Mark’s exact titles):

  1. Hipper Church (Dan Kimball)
  2. House Church (Alan Hirsch)
  3. Emerging Reformers (Mark Driscoll)
  4. Emergent Liberals (Brian McLaren)

Not sure where Mark would put me (City Church to Body Church to Apostolic Teams)?  I wouldn’t personally identify with any of the streams he’s listed.  Hopefully that means we’re not emerging. 🙂 (I much prefer to be Restoring).

Mark gives an especially detailed critique of the theology of both Brian McLaren and Rob Bell.

Mark’s serious and far more careful tone is very refreshing and his call at the end against reactions I thought was also important.

If you get a chance to listen let me know your thoughts.





Restoring the Mission as City-Wide Discipleship Podcast (Seattle, August 2008)

9 09 2008
  • What did Paul actually do when he spent a year in a new city?
  • Why is the Christian faith not having a deep impact on most Christians or the culture in general?
  • Do we have a central mission around which everything else is formed?

These are questions I’ve wrestled with for a long time and in this conversation I lay out what I believe to be the biblical mission that must be restored to the church – city-wide discipleship.

In this podcast we discuss –

  • Why restoration is needed without falling into restorationism
  • I share my journey in rediscovering the centrality of discipleship as the mission
  • We midrash 3 passages as a group (Mt. 28, Jn 17, Acts 19-20)
  • We discuss how church structures interact with the need to disciple a city
  • We talk about the need for the re-emergence of the city-church
  • We share how we use the Story-Formed Life to begin a training center

Listen to the podcast by clicking the link below (to download right click and “save target/link as”)

Restoring the Mission as City-Wide Discipleship Podcast
To see the slides click here




Exploring Explosive Growth in Church History

8 09 2008

Alan Hirsch asks an excellent question in a talk he gave at the Missio Conference at Fuller (download the conference talks HERE).

  • How many Christians were there at the end of the 1st Century? – 25,000
  • How many Christians were there at the end of the 3rd Century? – 25,000,000
  • Here’s the question – What happened?

or in China

  • How many Christians were there in 1940’s when all the church buildings were taken away, missionaries kicked out and pastors killed or jailed? – 2,000,000
  • How many Christians are there in China today? About 120,000,000
  • Again, what happened?

One thing is 100% certain – the kind of strategies that are taught at church growth conferences were not what causes exponential, viral expansion.  Do you know what happened?  Do you want to know?

I honestly think most of couldn’t care less.  If it doesn’t fit into our life, our model, our comfort zone, what we were taught in seminary, what will give us a steady pay check, we don’t really care.  Am I right?

We should ALL be totally obsessed with this question and we should ALL be willing to lay down our plans and models to move the church in our city and country into alignment with those things that allow for exponential growth.  I know a lot of people who pray for revival while defending the tools that will make revival impossible.  I know a lot of people who talk about being Kingdom centered who build structures that build their Kingdom at the expense of God’s Kingdom.

Alan throws these factors out during his talk (I’m grossly paraphrasing and simplifying) –

  • An absolute commitment to the Lordship of Christ
  • A peasant led church (not professionally led)
  • A simple, viral message centered on the person of Jesus
  • A decentralized non-institutional structure

You can ask yourself an incredibly simple question to know if you are a part of the solution or the problem.  Here it is – If 25% of the people in your city were to come to Christ in 1 year, are you today, part of building a structure that will –

  • Train them into disciples
  • Allow them to form a interdependent common life
  • Release their gifts for the city and the world

…or are you a part of building a structure that cannot handle exponential growth because it relies on –

  • Paid professionals
  • Church buildings
  • A weekly worship service as the church identity

So are you a part of the solution: building the city church, creating discipleship processes that are lay led, centering church life on the body (interdependent community) that is lay led, or a part of the problem?





Restoring Families as Multi-Generational Teams Podcast (Seattle, August 2008)

7 09 2008

It’s difficult and confusing being a Christian dad in America.  I felt that both our American culture and contemporary Christian teaching did very little to prepare me with a proper philosophy and theology of family.  This podcast describes my journey to discover a truly biblical philosophy of family and the great discussion we had in Seattle (Kirkland, WA) about the development of a family team.

Listen to our conversation here (right click “Save Link As” to download)-

Restoring Families as Multi-Generational Teams Podcast
To view the slides click here




Observing the difference between an apostolic and evangelistic mega-church

6 09 2008

You all know I’m not excited about the mega-church model but, since we’re all familiar with mega-churches like Saddleback and Willow Creek, I wanted to illustrate, within the mega-church model, the difference between an apostolic ecclesiology (Rick Warren) and an evangelistic ecclesiology (Bill Hybles).

And this is it –  An apostle is obsessed with developing a discipleship process that works and an evangelist will almost always sacrifice discipleship for evangelism or “mission”.  Evangelists are essential but they should NOT develop church models!  Evangelists must equip multiple churches on how to move out missionally but today almost all evangelists are church planters (developing unique missional church models) who create evangelistic movements in a city and call them the local church.  30 years later we can see what happens.

In this video Rick Warren (who is clearly apostolic) critiques Willow Creek’s (a church model designed by 5-fold evangelist, Bill Hybles) approach and what the Reveal Study demonstrates about what happens when a church does not have a clear discipleship process as the foundational of their ecclesiology.  Missional friends please take note.

So here it is, a video demonstration of the continuous clash in our day between apostolic and evangelistic church strategies.





God’s Growing Anger with my Generation

4 09 2008

I had a very unusual experience last week that I wanted to describe to you.

Every morning I ask the Lord to teach me and he usually gives me a passage of Scripture that we converse about.  On this morning I immediately heard “Numbers 14” so I read about how Moses interceded for the house of Israel when they refused to go into the Promised Land.  God promised that none of that generation would enter in.  He initially wanted to destroy them and make a nation out of Moses but Moses knew the heart of God and made an argument with God that, for His glory and His reputation, He should find another way.

Then I felt God turn to me and tell me to intercede for my generation.  And as I prayed I began to feel the growing anger.  I’ve never felt this before (except for a specific person) so I asked the Lord why he was angry.  This is the Word I felt He gave me –

“Fruitless has been my careful cultivation of this generation”

Now I’m not a prophet so I rarely get specific words from the Lord especially for others so this is new for me.  I took it to the Gathering of our Body and it was immediately confirmed as I submitted it to them.  I’m sure many of you are sceptical of this kind of thing (as am I) so lets just explore the possibility that our generation (I’m thinking of us Xers) have not born the fruit God intended us to bear.

Just think of the resources poured out on our generation in the 70s and 80s

  • Multiple Youth Pastors in every city and town
  • Flourishing para-church ministries like Young Life and Youth for Christ
  • Bible Colleges in every corner of the country
  • International Stability (none of us were drafted into any wars)
  • Financial Stability like no other time in history
  • Societal Stability where most of America was safe and justice visited upon criminals

So these were God’s astounding gifts to our generation and where’s the fruit?  We seem so caught up in our self-focussed conversations about what we want church to be that we can easily forget that God is an investor expecting a FULL return, many-fold, for all he has poured into us.  Where is the fruit?  Do we even care if we’re fruitful?  Have we forgotten that God demands a return?  Do we really think all of these blessings are simply for our enjoyment?

I get the picture that we are like a Judges Generation.  When God grants peace we run to our idols until God shakes things up (removes the hedge of protection and abundant blessing).

During the next 20-30 years many of us will be leaders of American Christianity.  Here are three things I think we should do –

  • Pray and stand in the gap (like Moses did) for our generation.
  • Stop ignoring or recasting the question about our fruitfulness so that we can be self-focussed.
  • Band together to see a world-wide movement of God bearing fruit for many generations to come

What do you think we should do?