Sunday, 25 September 2011

Church planting consultation .... dangerous thoughts.

Last week we held a consultation on church planting in the WEBA region, led by Stuart Murray Williams, who's part of us, I'm pleased to say. From my perspective, it was a fascinating day and I had the privilege of listening to some of things God is up to through some of the people God has gifted to us.

Bearing in mind the primary group we invited were Baptist Ministers, two things have stuck with me though, although I'm not yet 100% sure what I'm hearing on either issue:

No one from our larger churches came long. In our region 'larger' stands for churches with a formal membership of 150+. Now, you might not think this is especially significant, but for me it is ..... and worryingly so. Traditionally, as Baptists the majority of our new planting has arisen from larger, better resourced churches (ie. of 150+). I know Stuart has not always been popular by reminding us we have over relied on the mother-daughter type model. However, he is only reflecting on the facts of our recent past. What I'm left wondering in our region, where we are looking at multiplying intentional planting, is where the future planting is likely to come from. Not the traditional sources is what I'm suspecting. If anyone can tell me why there appears to be little vision for planting out from our larger churches, then on a postcard please!

Secondly, I was particularly fascinated by the make-up of the group who gathered. It could have been almost assumed everyone who might come along to this particular consultation would be Baptist Ministers. Most were, but when I noted down who had attended a Baptist College AND was leading a Baptist Church I came up with 35%. This was a group who were invited on the basis they are leading, or thinking of possibly initiating a plant.

So, I have more questions:
What have we done to produce so few APE's?
Are we looking to narrowly at existing capital 'M' Ministers?
How do we release and channel the planting energy, which is clearly among a group of people.
Are capital 'M' Ministers in any way getting int he way of what God is up to?
How can we help more people see the need?

What was absolutely great, however, is not everyone had a card saying 'Baptist' on it. Of course, I handed out application forms ....

Oh boy, more work!


sue said...

What is an APE?

Nigel Coles said...

I always thought they were animals! Gibbons, Orang Utans, etc. However, I'm thinking here of Apostles, Prophets and Evangelists, but you're right, probably should have said!

Peter Dominey said...

Here's my postcard, on a few of the reasons why bigger churches chose not to be there...
In recent years they have in the main looked to get larger rather than plant. But why?
May be unhelpfully influenced by US mega church trends they have redefined that slippery word 'success'. May be the array of programmes such as Alpha, Messy Church, Cafe Church, Seeker Church, Purpose Driven Church, multi-site church, mid-week services, and so has pulled their focus on to internal growth.
So the intention has become to get larger and they've moved the focus off reproducing with all the advantages and sacrificial costs of giving birth and in to self-sufficiency thinking.
Or to mix up the metaphors, may be they've been hood-winked in to thinking the fruit of an apple seed is a tree rather than an orchard.
But... But... But... There are glimmers of hopes - here's a shout for Leigh Road Baptist Church, a large church led by Steven Hembery in Essex that is working sacrificially at their role in church planting and looking to learn from the new churches as well. Good for them!
As for the colleges? They seem very slow in waking up to training A.P.E.'s and mission being core to everything as it is to Jesus. Bristol Baptist College needs a shout as the one that is leading the way with bi-vocational 6 year training tracks where you get to church plant at the same time. Good for them!

Nigel Coles said...

Many thanks for taking the trouble to write something down - good one.