Church plants need regular experiences of refreshing. It could take the form of ’48 hours of prayer’, a special Agape meal (perhaps a Saturday or Sunday brunch, including the Lord’s supper), a local church planting conference – to equip teams to multiply, a Bible conference – to explore a book or special theme, or a spiritual retreat. This last weekend CafeKirken and FaceOut – two churches in Denmark that have encouraged and inspired many since being planted 10 years ago – shared a retreat centre together. It was exceptionally well planned and coordinated with great music, worship times, food and fellowship – and a beautiful setting, with snow falling! Surprised by Jesus was our theme.
It was a great idea for the two to get together! It added extra dimensions to the fellowship – and inspiration. There was a lot of praying – and fun. And, I heard some exploring the possibilities of new plants!
Look for opportunities to be refreshed.
CHURCH PLANTING NEWS – 3 Dec 2012
Taking Church Home to Family: While visiting a small struggling Belgium church in May this year, it was suggested some might take church home to their families no longer connected to church. With about seven attending, and concerned for their families, they teamed up to invite friends and families to a regular Friday evening meal in a home – with a blessing, chat about the week, a Gospel reading and discussion. Numbers have already grown, with plans to now multiply to two Friday evening groups.
Inspiration: checkout www.newchurchlife.com for brief items including –
Surprised by Jesus Retreat in Denmark with CakeKirken and FaceOut.
Happy Hands – Reaching Hearts, an update on this boutique store opened specifically to connect with people for Jesus Christ.
A link to the latest edition of Mission Frontiers magazine on the movements of people – and mission opportunities.
Lessons from the Netherlands: Recently Rudy Dingjan (church planting coordinator in the Netherlands) shared lessons from their experience of cultivating many church plants –
1. Lay members in teams have planted the churches – pastors coached, the denominational headquarters supported.
2. There has been consistent proactive support by denominational leaders over the whole period (10-15 years).
3. Some coaches got too involved in the plants – weakening those plants.
4. Planters have been given lots of freedom – not being too controlled by coaches or the headquarters.
5. Many of the planters were on-the-edge of the church – looking for a challenge and new opportunities, but grew.
6. Low budget planting is critical and the most effective – for planting teams own their project.
7. Low structure or simple forms of church have proven to be the most effective and sustainable.
8. Regular support events (equipping weekends, Church Planting X-Changes, church plant case-study tours to nearby countries, etc) have envisioned and supported the planting teams.
9. Some cultures need the relational connections of small groups together with structured church order – others operate best around relational conversational systems.
Simple Forms of New Testament Church – and Today: We have been looking at simple first century Christian communities and their relevance for us. Here are more qualities –
1. They were ‘zero dollar’ – but ‘high cost’ church plants. Money was not spent on promotion, programs, or buildings. First century believers shared faith with friends and neighbors, inviting them to their homes; and today, simple missional communities avoid expensive programming and the purchase or rental of buildings with utilities costs, insurance, maintenance, parking, etc. The most effective church planting today is ‘zero dollar’ planting, but there is a cost! It is the sacrifice of time and energy to share faith in family and social networks – and ‘offerings’ help with the rent for someone who has lost their job, provide food for a struggling family, assist a single mum with school expenses, or support a justice mission project in their or another community!
2. Their structures were simple. Jesus cultivated his movement on four simple invitations – (1) come & see, (2) follow me, (3) come & be ‘fishermen’, (4) receive the Spirit; and his commission to ‘go and make disciples of all ethne’ – all relational streams. He did not institute a complex organizational plan or structure, rather it was experiential, relational, participatory, and Spirit anointed. He handed on a relationship with himself and the Father through the Holy Spirit. (John 14:12-13) We easily fall for the trap that the spread of the gospel needs our complex corporate-like systems for success. But neither Jesus nor Paul were enamored with such systems that elevate a few to positions of status and authority over others. They believed in the ‘priesthood of all believers’!
3. They were easily reproducible. Disciples made disciples and baptized them, and, in turn, they made disciples and baptized them! Jesus modeled a simple plan. When you find a receptive person (person of ‘peace’) – one of reputation and influence: (1) eat with that person, (2) as you eat, heal, and (3) as you heal, say, ‘The kingdom of God is near.’ (Luke 10:6, 8, 9) As the gospel is shared and takes hold in a new relational stream or social network – such as that of the Samaritan woman (John 4), or the family of Zacchaeus (Luke 19), Nympha (Col 4:15), Philemon (Phile 1, 2), or Phoebe (Rom 16:1, 2); and new disciples are fostered – a new church is gathered. Without complex systems or structures, people gather around food, the Word, prayer, service and worship.
4. There were supportive networks. Jesus chose from his ‘large crowd of disciples’ twelve that he designated apostles (Luke 6:12-19) – sent to multiply his movement. Paul, an apostle, selected and appointed ‘overseers’ in cities where numerous household (oikos) churches were being planted. The term elder was an appropriate term – for they were to be experienced Christians. Local churches were led by household leaders, but the overseer was to network – to keep the various home churches connected, to encourage them to multiply. They needed to be generous, mature encouragers. The story of Acts indicates Luke was left by Paul in Philippi, maybe to fulfill this role; and Paul wrote to Titus on Cyprus asking him to ‘appoint elders in every town’. (Titus 1:5)
5. There were no hierarchical systems. The house churches of the first century were radically counter-cultural. The hierarchies of Greco-Roman society were not reflected in the communities of believers. There was no place for a privileged upper-class kleros (clergy) of philosophers and politically powerful over an ignorant common laos (laity or idiotes) class. Jesus indicated the models of Rome and religion were not his, saying, ‘You know the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you.’ (Matt 20:25, 26) The model for the house churches of the first century was God – ‘just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many.’ (Matt 20:28)
For aspects already noted check www.newchurchlife.com and the left-hand tab, Simple Missional (or http://www.newchurchlife.com/index.php/simple-missional/). The next NEWS will explore more.
Resources (more resources & stories – www.newchurchlife.com)
Mission13 Catalyst Training with Alan Hirsch in Melbourne, Australia – 21 March 2013: for registration details, time and place go to www.buv.com.au.
Mission Frontiers magazine: The latest edition explores the mission opportunities presented by the current movements of people – and you will find a link to this at www.newchurchlife.com.
CHURCH PLANTING NEWS