The Liturgical Gangstas 9: Church Planting

UPDATE: Alan Creech has joined us.

Welcome to IM’s popular feature, “The Liturgical Gangstas,” a panel discussion among different liturgical traditions represented in the Internet Monk audience.

Who are the Gangstas?

Father Ernesto Obregon is an Eastern Orthodox priest.
Rev. Peter Vance Matthews is an Anglican priest and founding pastor of an AMIA congregation.
Dr. Wyman Richardson is a pastor of a First Baptist Church (SBC) and director of Walking Together Ministries, a resource on church discipline.
Alan Creech is a Roman Catholic with background in the Emerging church and spiritual direction. (Alan’s not a priest. If he is, his wife and kids need to know.)
Rev. Matthew Johnson is a United Methodist pastor.
Rev. William Cwirla is a Lutheran pastor (LCMS) and one of the hosts of The God Whisperers, which is a podcast nearly as good as Internet Monk Radio.

Here’s this week’s question: What is the status of church planting in your tradition/denomination? What’s your view of the place of church planting in Christianity as a whole and the future of your own tradition/denomination?

Father Ernesto/Orthodox: Church planting is alive and well within the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, as well as within other Orthodox jurisdictions. Since 1988, we have grown significantly. We have more than doubled in size.

Having said that, I cite 1988 because that was a year of change among the Antiochians. Frankly, before that the Antiochians were all too focused within themselves and their ethnicity. This despite the fact that Orthodox missions began in North America in 1794 in Alaska when the first Orthodox missionaries arrived. But, that early missionary spirit was lost into ethnicity by the mid-1950’s. At that point, it could have safely been said that the Antiochians were Orthodox Christians from the Levant area of the Middle East.

The change came from outside. In the 1980’s, a group of evangelical churches came to Metropolitan Philip and asked to become part of Orthodoxy. The process of discernment became the crucible of the Holy Spirit to call Orthodoxy back to its missionary history. That group was accepted in, and the Antiochians became mission minded Orthodox again. Right now, if you were to ask any of us, we would answer that the Church has no choice but to plant churches. But, we would also emphasize that mere evangelism is insufficient. Unless the evangelism is aimed at the planting of parishes or aimed at bringing people into the Church, we would be in danger of leaving orphaned believers around. That is, we do not believe in evangelism as separate from church planting. We cannot even imagine the possibility of teaching someone adequately about Christ without, at the same time, teaching them about the Body of Christ.

I would argue that this is one of the biggest mental changes that needs to take place within American Christianity. The emphasis on purely individual conversion, the lack of a catechetical process, and the failure to give importance to the “wineskin” within which a new believer is to be placed have led to a Christianity that has behavior patterns that are little different from society at large. It is little wonder that Christianity is seen as a “sweet by and by” religion by American critics, and they have a point.

So, to answer iMonk’s question, I have mixed feelings about the place of church planting in Christianity. If by church planting one means a continuation of the modern methodology, then I see little place for that. It would simply be a continuation of what has not produced lasting change and what has led us to be labeled a “sweet by and by” religion. Church planting that does not lead to any discernible change in behavior is the warehousing of individuals who are simply participating in a cultural exercise. If by church planting one means evangelizing people, catechizing them (we take a year before someone is admitted as a member) so that they have a sound doctrinal and practical basis for their Christianity, and making sure that they are placed into a wineskin that will provide a sound structure to their relationship with Christ and a connection to the Holy Spirit, then I would say that, yes, America desperately needs that type of church planting. Let us remember that those who wrote against Christianity in the Roman Empire were nevertheless impressed by the changed behavior that they witnessed, not simply a result of an “encounter” with Christ but also a result of the catechetical process through which all Christians had to pass and of being placed into a wineskin that provided the structure and support that a Christian needed in order for change to take place. We need more of that in America.

Matthew Johnson/United Methodist:I can’t talk with much authority on a denominational level but I can tell you that several years ago our Conference made a commitment to plant churches in the state of Arkansas. I am fully behind this because I think we need to plant new churches. We’ve probably seen more failures than successes at this point but I’m glad that we are trying. Could we do it better? Sure, and I hope we’ll look at other denominations or movements to help us see church plants grow and thrive.

I am a United Methodist and I’ll confess, I’m smitten with the Acts 29 church planting network. I’ve read their material, listened to their podcasts, and tried to pay attention to what they are doing which seems to be a lot. In the scope of catholic Christianity, these guys are doing what I wish we would/could do because it is in our DNA. There was a time in our history when circuit riding preachers were establishing churches in communities up and down the frontier of the nascent United States. That’s a piece of our history that is badly missing today. I’m not that aware of what other traditions or movements are doing in my area right now, but I encourage and pray for church plants. I pastor in a town of 4,000. I’d guess that we’ve got 1,000 people in church on any given Sunday within the city limits. That means we have around 3,000 not going anywhere. I’d love for them to come worship with us and maybe some of them will but if a church plant came in here and reached some people that the other churches weren’t I would celebrate that.

As far as my view of the place of church planting in my denomination, I’d like to see more priority given to church plants but we’re going to have to get over our sense of territorial entitlement. There are times when a good church plant might encroach on the territory of another UM church. Established churches see it as a threat which makes no sense to me. If the existing church had made evangelism and church planting a priority no one would be having a conversation about territorial boundaries. This from a denomination whose founder snubbed the religious authorities of the Church of England and said “The world is my parish.” As you can see from the Wesley Report, we don’t always play nicely when it comes to church plants. (http://www.wesleyreport.com/2009/03/gracepoint-what-really-happened.html). I accept that I don’t know all the details and I might be unfairly characterizing those involved, but it cannot be denied that it was a mess and that territory had a place in the conflict no matter whose side you were on. That kind of stuff is not going to expand the Kingdom of God into the hearts of unbelievers.

Peter Vance Matthews/Anglican: I am a member of the Anglican Mission in the Americas which is an outreach to North America from the Anglican Church of Rwanda. The reason our denomination exists is to plant churches. I am a church planter. The church I pastor now is the third church plant I have worked with. Part of my role in the AMiAs is to recruit, resource and place new church planters. I believe in church planting.

Anglicanism is a parochial tradition. When the Church of England separated from Rome, the nation was thoroughly churched. Reformation did not involve church planting; it involved reforming the existing life of the church – its structures, its doctrine, its clergy and its liturgy. However, in the 19th century, as Anglicanism spread around the globe, the missionary impulse entered the Anglican fold. To some degree in the United States (there is a robust history of church planting by the Episcopal Church in the 19th century) but mostly in Africa and Asia, Anglicanism has taken on a missionary DNA that has led to church planting and church planting movements. One of the classic texts on church planting was penned by Anglican cleric and missionary Roland Allen entitled The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church: And the Causes Which Hinder It. In the 20th century the church planting impulse has become part of global Anglicanism. In Rwanda, the Anglican Church has all the classic structures – diocese, bishop, parish – one finds in the Church of England, but the aim of these structures is to facilitate evangelism, discipleship and church planting.

I believe the church is a missionary movement. I believe this missionary reality touches all aspects of life, but I believe church planting is at the heart of its purpose. While I do not believe church planting is a sufficient means to foster a renewal of classical Christianity in North America, I do believe it is a necessary and central part of this work.

Sometimes people argue that there are already enough churches in North America. This can seem right if one drives down the streets of a city and sees what looks like a lot of churches. But looks can be deceiving. I live in Lexington, Kentucky. There are roughly 300 churches in the city. The population of the city is roughly 300,000. If one is generous and assumes the average attendance of all the churches combined is 200 per church, then 60,000 people attend church in Lexington. That means 80% of the city is unchurched – and Lexington is Bible belt country! Again, one might argue that these churches need to grow. But that won’t happen. Most churches are under 100 in attendance. This is not because they are all dead. It is because natural human groupings are small. The mega-church model is a large exception to the rule. Thus, I suggest, the best way to evangelize a city is to plant more and more churches.

I am looking for church planters. If you are Anglican, or have an interest in being Anglican, and sense a call to plant a church, let me know. I want to talk to you! Heck, I don’t even care if you aren’t Anglican, I still want to talk!

Alan Creech/Roman Catholic: Church planting in the Catholic Church – hmmm. To begin with, I’ll say that I can only answer this question based upon my own personal knowledge and experience. I am not any sort of official representative of the Roman Catholic Church. Yeah, I tried to get hold of the office in charge of all this in Rome, but alas, no return. 😐

As I was saying, hmmhmm, church planting in the Catholic Church (and I can also only speak for America) – uuhmm, say what? church what?? Planting? Are you talking about a garden or something? Sorry. Honestly – very honestly, the most I’ve heard about anything close to this concept is the effort to close as many churches as possible in recent years. Not that we want to close them, but that’s just how it’s shaking down. It’s about viable numbers and paying bills and facilities and yes, a lack of Priests. Parishes are being consolidated all over – you know, shut down two and move both their numbers into another one nearby. It’s a painful situation.

Now, there have certainly been some church plantin’ missionary wild folk in the Catholic Tradition. The Franciscans, Dominicans and Jesuits (among many others) have set the world on fire with missionary zeal in their day. Have you seen the movie “The Mission”? That’s Jesuit hard-core stuff right there. And the Blackrobes were martyred a many in the early Native American and Canadian wilderness. They went among the native peoples, taught them the Gospel, baptized them, and started churches. I was amazed at the number of Franciscan enclaves there are in Ireland when I was there, and the age of some of them – not long after Francis kicked the earthly bucket – those boys were travlin’.

There are “missions” today too, in outlying areas. In Eastern Kentucky there are very tiny Catholic “missions” set up in trailers or rooms here and there, run by more established churches in towns not far away. That’s a kind of church planting. There are small groups of Ordered Religious Priests, Brothers and Sisters who live in areas you just don’t move to, ministering to the people there, many times in the inner-city where no one sees them except those who live there. Is that “church planting”? Not per se, but it is “the presence of the Church” among the people of the world. These things are coming to mind as I think about this.

These things are great. What I don’t see, though, is an attempt to do what my good friend Peter up there mentioned – trying to reach people in a city the size of Lexington through planting multiple churches instead of trying to grow the ones we have bigger. Bigger, as I see it, is not always better. Could there possibly be some kind of effort to develop new ways of establishing Catholic faith communities in a place like this, or any place for that matter, which might possibly tap into the missionary Christ living inside the great masses of the un-ordained? Maybe? One huge disadvantage I see (my perspective is perhaps a bit unique due to my mixed background) is the lack of simplicity where it comes to what constitutes “a church.”

There is also an, as I see it, unfortunate idea that when we build church buildings, somehow we need to spend waaay too much money on a facility that is “worthy” enough to house the real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist — as if God is overly concerned with the grandeur of houses built by the hands of men. His Sacramental Presence in the Eucharist is indeed beautiful and deeply nourishes us, helping to transform us into His Own Image, but God is not a man that he needs a 9 million dollar edifice to live in. I would imagine that if His earthly tabernacle had to be a hollowed out space in a tree in the forest in order for His Life to enter a softened human heart, then so be it and He would be glorified.

How about a ton of small, quasi-monastic, base ecclesial communities scattered around a city or a rural area for that matter, who build relationships with one another, pray together on a regular, systematic basis, have some sort of leadership to help with spiritual direction, and who are connected to a larger local parish church. That’s a thought that I could flesh out a lot more, but for such a thing, there wouldn’t be need for highly educated clergy, not at that level. I’m not saying anything like “do away with clergy” so don’t even try it. I’m talking about new ways of being church together in a Catholic context without having to build a bunch of buildings or have a bunch of Priests that we don’t have. There’s a lot that could be done and no real need to dismantle anything in the process. OK, that’s all I’ve got. Peace to all in this house.

Wyman Richardson/Southern Baptist: The planting of new churches is a huge emphasis in the Southern Baptist Convention. The statement on the SBC North American Mission Board website provides a pretty accurate reflection of the rationale for this emphasis: “Believing that anything healthy reproduces, the Church Planting Group works with our partners to plant healthy, reproducing churches with evangelistic passion as part of the New Testament church planting movement among all people groups in the United States, U.S. territories, and Canada.” To this end, the “Church Planting Village” was created for the purpose of providing (caution: cringe alert!) “Your One Stop Shop For Church Planting” (http://www.churchplantingvillage.net).

This is but one example of what is, again, a massive push for the creation of new churches in the SBC, an push that is at least verbally present in virtually every area of SBC life.

There are quibbles: I’ve heard many pastors complain about what they perceive to be the non-strategic planting of churches in saturated areas without appropriate communication with the existing churches. This comes across to these pastors as pompous, myopic, divisive, and harmful. Furthermore, some question the motives and the rationale of the emphasis.

That being said, I am in general agreement with the NAMB assumption “that anything healthy reproduces.” Perhaps I would phrase it a bit differently, given that there have been many a “healthy” disciple or ministry that has faithfully tried to see the gospel spread and “reproduce” but has met with very little or no signs of outward “success,” for lack of a better word. In other words, is the faithful believer who is genuinely seeking to be salt and light but who has not seen the conversion of people to Christ “unhealthy”? I think not.

But, with that caveat, I agree. The planting of new churches is, in my opinion, biblical, right, and good. It is also logically necessary as the gospel even now continues to spread into unreached groups and locales. I have some questions, again, about the planting of new churches in so-called “saturated” areas, and yet the state of many of our churches as well as an absurd and ever-encroaching tribalism that keeps too many churches from genuinely trying to reach their community renders the creation of new churches unfortunately necessary even in these areas.

I agree with Michael’s assessments in his “Collapse of Evangelicalism” article and think that new church starts will become increasingly important (crucial, even) in the ruins of this collapse. But the creation of these new churches will need to mean much more than the creation of new gathering places, and the motivation will have to be much more than denominational expansion, the replenishing of dwindling denominational coffers, the sustaining of denominational church-growth bureaucracies, etc. The motivation will have to be a renewed commitment to the gospel, a renewed understanding of its power to transform human hearts, and a renewed conviction that the stewards and propagators of this gospel are the people of God. As such, the creation of new churches will likely come less from denominational entities and more from conviction-driven local congregations. This would be, I think, a welcome development.

William Cwirla/Lutheran: he language of “church planting” is not native to my Lutheran confessional tradition. The Lutheran Reformation was a reformation of existing, established churches in regions where Christianity was the dominant, if not exclusive, religion. Since the Peace of Westphalia (1648) that ended the Thirty Years’ War, Lutherans have operated quite comfortably with a regional or state church institutional model.

On the other hand, my own denomination, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS), has church planting at its foundation. The LCMS grew by gathering scattered German immigrants living on the western frontier of 19th c. America. Language barriers limited much of these efforts (a fact often misunderstood or ridiculed by others). CFW Walther, the first president of the LCMS and pastor of the “mother church” in St. Louis, intentionally divided his large congregation into four distinct but related congregations and seeded these new church plants with members from the mother church. Many LCMS congregations followed the same pattern. The LCMS sent seminary trained traveling preachers (Reisepredigern) all over the western frontier to gather new congregations. Congregations also freed their pastors to travel during the week to plant new congregations.

This church planting activity continued through the mid-20th century during the post-war boom years of the LCMS. Often a church plant resulted inadvertently out of a congregation division, for wherever two or three Lutherans are gathered there will be a split. Sometimes congregations relocated when they had lost touch with their surrounding community. I grew up in such a church plant on the southwest side of Chicago; I was baptized in the local elementary school’s gymnasium, since our congregation did not yet have a building.

Things seemed to have changed in the 1960’s and 70’s as urban congregations declined and suburban congregations were smitten with the “church growth” bug and the temptation to become a “mega-church.” I believe that our synodical fascination with the church growth movement did more to hurt the formation of new congregations than any other single factor. Instead of looking outward to generate daughter congregations, congregations looked inward to grow ever larger in numbers, property, and programs.

Church planting seems to be on the front burner once again in the LCMS. Our synodical missions department has set a goal of 2000 new church plants by the year 2017 and currently reports 498 new church plants since 2002. My own district, which encompasses southern CA, Arizona, and southern Nevada planted 7 new congregations last year and 20 in the last five years serving a wide variety of languages in an ethnically complex region.

Certain aspects of Lutheranism are challenged by recent trends in church planting. As a sacramental confession, we hold to a sacramental view of the pastoral office as a unique, divinely established office that functions within the Church with the authority of Christ. No one is to preach and preside in our churches apart from call and ordination (Augsburg Confession XIV). No one can set himself up to be a pastor or church planter simply because he has the itch. In our circles, church planting tends to be pastor-driven and top-down in our circles. I will be curious how this compares with my Roman Catholic and Easter Orthodox gangstas.

Lutherans in general, and the LCMS in particular, place a high value on the local congregation, respecting existing congregational boundaries and treating each congregation as though it were a little regional church, much like a diocese or geographic parish. Church planting activity within the vicinity of an established congregation tends to be frowned upon if not discouraged. This is especially problematic when the local congregation is weak or dying or has lost meaningful contact with its community. The increased mobility of people and their willingness to travel to find a church that suits their needs, makes geographic boundaries largely irrelevant.

Lutheran congregations tend to institutionalize rapidly, turning them inward and closing them off to newcomers, who are seen as threats to the status quo and the power structure. I recall my field work days when I served in a church plant in semi-rural Missouri. The character of the congregation completely changed when they built their first building and rapidly began to take on institutional concerns. Ironically, they were a much more vibrant, outreach-oriented congregation when they gathered in a borrowed music room at the local middle school.

Another factor that is potentially limits our church planting today, in my estimation, is our increasing diversity in doctrine and practice. Whereas LCMS church plants of the 1950’s resembled congregational “franchises” with everyone more or less on the same doctrinal and liturgical page, today’s church plants reflect a broad diversity that makes many Lutherans uncomfortable. Today, an “LCMS” branded church may look and sound Evangelical, Emergent, semi-Baptist, quasi-Orthodox, or darn near-Catholic depending on who’s paying the bills. I suspect that our concept of unity in doctrine and practice is going to be seriously tested by those 2000 church plants by 2017. It already is.

60 thoughts on “The Liturgical Gangstas 9: Church Planting

  1. We cannot even imagine the possibility of teaching someone adequately about Christ without, at the same time, teaching them about the Body of Christ.

    A hearty “Amen!” from this corner (Lutheran at that 😉 ).

    I also agree with what Radagast said above re. “poaching.” Maybe it’s all semantics, but for me a “missional” approach differs from the kinds of “church planting” strategies that seem to be so popular in evangelical circles today.

    Thanks muchly for hosting this discussion, iMonk!

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  2. I hope it did not come as an attack Alan if I did I apologize.

    One must remembered that those beautiful Churches took several life times to build. Not only that but each generation added to them.

    I guess to a certain extent we do disagree I don’t think you can add enough to a Church to make it look worthy of his presence.

    I do understand the point of bad taste though and that is why one must be guided by what the Church has done in the past and build upon it, rather than re-invent the wheel.

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  3. “+” Alan (I’m taunting you 😛 )

    (Sorry for this getting off-topic. I’ll refrain from further postings, but alas…)

    Understanding where you come from, I can certainly see why you may see things the way you do. One of my old Battalion Commanders went on after retirement to teach JROTC in Harlan. I agree wholeheartedly that at some point, things do go a little “over-the-top” but look what that left us with: Notre Dame Cathedral and Sacre Couer in Paris, Speyer and Cologne Cathedrals in Germany, among others. Our “simple, ancient roots” are a result of having to stay underground and not draw attention to the Church. Once that was no longer necessary, the Church naturally gravitated toward more grand facilities to honor the “King of Kings.” It’s leaders also tended toward the wear of clothing that identified them as holding high office. The bishops could not meet with the nobles and royals in common clothing, hence mitres, croziers, and other ceremonial garb. Likewise the facilities had to speak rather loudly “God is here!” and reminds not just the people, but also, and more importantly so, it reminds the temporal authority that ultimately, God is in charge.

    One a purely philosophical level, I would disagree that God doesn’t have a high concern about such things. I would agree that He does expect us to keep all things in perspective, and is more concerned with the temple of the heart, but on a certain level, the temples we build are an indirect reflection of the temple of the heart. Everything in the world is part of God’s creation. Man is made in the image and likeness of God. Man sees beauty in certain colors, gems, metals, artforms. God must have written that in man’s heart for a reason. We are to glorify God in all things. The way I look at it, how we adorn His houses is one of the important things.

    End of Hijacking

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  4. Well, I re-read my answer up there and, as I suspected, I didn’t really say anything about men’s egos or monuments to them. I know I wasn’t thinking that when I wrote it. We all may disagree – alrighty – but we may as well disagree about what I actually said, which was about whether God was overly concerned with the kind of buildings we worship in, or even in which His Sacramental Presence is kept. And my studied consideration is that He doesn’t have a high concern about such things, that He is beyond that.

    We, on the other hand, do. That is not to say that our concerns and efforts in such things are done with bad motives or to make monuments to ourselves. I don’t think that’s often true. I do believe, though, that over the years, in our common brokenness, we have gotten a little mixed up about what does and does not honor God. Don’t get me wrong, I am no iconoclast or anti sacred space guy. I love beautiful sacred space. Now, I’m not drawn to a heavenly mindset by gold-covered gaudiness. Things get to be over the top after a certain point. It can become a little ironic when we are using that which the world views as valuable to separate ourselves from the world. I’m just saying we may need to rethink some of those things and move back to some of our more simple, ancient roots.

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  5. I’m just a Catholic country boy, what do I know, but you guys are confusing me with all this planting stuff.

    I mean, sure, corn or apple trees or even evil stuff like tobacco needs to be planted but that’s just the start. It’s the howing, fencing around and keeping bugs off that take most of the work.

    Shucks, even the planting part mostly depends on preparing the soil beforehand, that’s just natural law.

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  6. I tend to disagree with Alan’s if I may call minimalistic ideas as far as Chuch buildings. Obviesly when a mission is set out one must be humble and use the resources available to make it at least attempt to make a worthy house of God.

    However once there is a community set up it is rather “proper” to build a Church that represents the best that community has to offer in both architecture, art and liturgy. Call it a way of building a church with a “first fruits” theme.

    I think in some ways you misunderstand the idea of the a beautiful building. These are not monuments to the ego of men but rather buildings that set them selves apart from the world in order to convey that which is most loved that being God.

    The building as a rule must set it self apart from the rest of world because what is celebrated there is not of this world. It can not be simply a continuation of fallen world but must be set apart as God’s house.

    The church building is part of the liturgy they are the organic construct of history of Christianity not only there to admire but to teach of the word of God.

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  7. Bingo, Sarah. I think you’re right on. And there are statistics to back up that 150 number too, as relate to relationships in a group of people, leadership’s ability to deal with them properly, etc. Generally speaking, beyond that number, things change – it becomes a different kind of animal. I love that “subdivision”-“village” comparison – if only.

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  8. To throw in a comment – in my opinion the “sweet” spot for parish size is 150, with 100/200 being acceptable outliers. This size is A) Enough to support one full time priest, B) Has enough people to give diverse fellowship (i.e. everyone is guaranteed to find someone else whom they have enough in common with to talk with at coffee hour) and C) is small enough for everyone to pretty much know everyone else’s name. In the Orthodox church size gets limited by two practical factors, 1) A priest can only give communion to so many people because either he gets tired or people revolt because the long communion line makes the service too long (or both) and 2) A priest can only celebrate one liturgy a day. Of course, this is supposing that the majority of the people commune every week, if they don’t, the parish can get bigger, but then they usually also spiritually contract (is it because the parish is too big? or because they don’t commune? or underlying factors which cause both problems?) So, from my point of view, a parish should plan to house/minster to about 150, but once they go over 200 they should decide “you people driving in from Distant City X, you’re getting a parish in your town, we’ll help you build it” and just keep on doing this over and over again until, literally, kingdom come. I believe that if there were multiple small churches not only would our witness be stronger (in the “old world” each village had it’s own little church, what if today each subdivision had its own little church?) but discipleship and community would also be stronger.

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  9. I think due to historical factors, “Church Planting” in the Roman Catholic Church meant either an already expanding membership mostly from natural growth due to family growth or people already Catholic moving into an area. My home parish was literally a home church with a priest riding circuit out of St. Meinrad (IN) monastery until the late 1800s when permission from the Bishop of Vincennes (a now-defunct diocese) was gained to start a new parish. Prior to the erecting of the Diocese of Evansville, IN, and Owensboro, KY, most of the churches along that part of the IN/KY border were mission churches of St. Meinrad.

    The erecting of new parish churches in certain diocese is most likely a result of influx of existing Catholics from other dioceses. I don’t see a significant change in that unless we a. start to seek more new members whether it’s from unchurched sources or people looking for something they’re not getting wherever they currently are; and b. we get more good vocations to the priesthood. As a decidely NON-cafeteria Catholic, I don’t believe changing the rules is going to affect those numbers. In fact, the evidence seems to show that in RC dioceses with (small o) orthodox bishops that teach faithfully the doctrines of the Roman Church, vocations to the Priesthood, Diaconate, and religious orders are on a decidedly positive trend.

    With respect to church architecture, artwork, etc. I believe that, at least with respect to Roman and Eastern Churches, a certain level of grandeur, though not “needed” by God, is firstly DESERVED by God from us, and secondly needed by us as a sign that this is HIS house, and not just a barn. Churches SHOULD be PERMANENT EDIFICES, regardless of denomination. The Italian POWs at Camp Atterbury, IN, where I work, built a small chapel that stands to this day. http://www.campatterbury.in.ng.mil/pow_chapel.htm It is quite ornate given the lack of materials they were able to acquire to work with in the 1940s, but it stands as testimony that for GOD, only the best will do. To do otherwise is to make the offering of Cain. Put it this way: would you house great masterpieces of art (i.e. the Mona Lisa) in a barn and call that building a museum of fine art? Of course you wouldn’t. You would build something like the L’ouvre that was befitting of such works.

    Now, with respect to Roman Catholicism, you are building the house for God where you not only celebrate the sacred mysteries, the rites of worship, but you also are going to house the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our beloved Lord, and you propose to do it in a mere building? Even the most austere monastics such as the Carthusians (watch “Into Great Silence”) built a grand edifice (the chapel) to honor God, even though it wasn’t particularly ornate within. This is not to say we need to spend extravagant sums of money on a small to medium sized parish.

    In the past, Catholic churches were built one of at least two ways. In the country, they often started with a small temporary wooden frame church, and when sufficient funds were available, they started the permanent brick church from brick that was fired on-site. In the cities, due to lack of space, they often built a “crypt church” (the basement of the main church) and used it for liturgy until the main church above it was finished.

    As far as parish size, I would agree that there has been a move toward “mega-parishes” which I agree is a negative thing, but I think it’s been driven mostly by the lack of new priests. I think the solution to that problem is for Catholics to trust God and therefore be better Catholics. We are going to be hard pressed to plant new churches before we are able to take care of the ones we already have.

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  10. I have been a member of what some refer to as a “classical pentecostal” church for the last 34 years (Church of God (Cleveland, TN)). Recently our congregation took communion by intinction for the first time, although several smaller groups within the congregation (choir retreat, home prayer meetings) have been taking it that way for some time.

    We don’t have vestments and liturgy yet, but give us time….we even said the Apostle’s Creed a few months back (one time only), and spontaneous applause broke out afterward. We never said it again….

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  11. “My point is that the focus isn’t on the unchurched, or unbelieving secularists, its just stealing members from another bucket of Christianity.”

    I tend to concur with this. There seems to be a lot of reshuffling of the Christian deck going on. Church plants appear to attract nominal Christians with the vitality of “something new.”

    Another related observation is that many church plants seem to market themselves as being “something different than that church across the street” or “this isn’t your grandfather’s church.”

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  12. Rev Matthews,
    You mentioned to contact you regarding any interest in AMIA church planting, how do we get in touch with you?

    Like

  13. Let’s see – church planting in my area; an observation.

    First we have so many churches around here from every denomination (or non-denomination). Lots of mainline protestant, Baptist, Western and Eastern Rite Catholic, a number of culteral strands of Eastern Orthodoxy. So what happens when a new church is planted? Lots of coverage on Christian Radio followed by flyers on all the cars of the nearby churches. First to go are those in the mainline Protestant denominations. Then there is an all out assault on the Catholic parishes because that is fertile ground. Eastern Orthodox are left alone because I’m not sure if the church planters know much about them.

    My point is that the focus isn’t on the unchurched, or unbelieving secularists, its just stealing members from another bucket of Christianity. Sorry, makes no sense to me.

    Like

  14. “I think something like that is going on in a lot of places. Lay people will “attach” themselves to a small religious order to assist them, learn from them, teach them and bring their increased faith and love to their communities and churches.”

    There’s one here in eastern Oklahoma like that. I don’t think we’re supposed to put links in these comments so I’ll just say, google “clear creek monks.” There’s an actual kind of settlement growing up around it as people move close to it to be near the monastery.

    Like

  15. Apparently , though, the intinction allowed in the Latin Rite, under whatever circumstances it is allowed, is not self-intinction, only where the Priest, Deacon or Extraordinary Minister intincts the “bread” (Body) and gives it to those receiving. So, whhheww, glad we got that all straightened out. ha! I’m sure everyone is being entertained by our Catholic do’s and don’ts.

    Good on you, though, Wyman, for doing the common cup – on the symbolic end of things, MUCH more deeply symbolic of our receiving the One Body and Blood of Christ AS One Body, not merely as individuals. And anybody who’s crankin’ out the John Michael Talbot is good in my book. 🙂

    Like

  16. Sure, Fr. I was just going by the instructions that we Extraordinary Ministers are taught.

    I will be honest, in a normal Mass, I have never seen intinction done. It is either the Host only or the Host and Precious Blood from a chalice.

    I knew about the tube also, because that is acceptable in hospital circumstances. (but a layman would probably not be the one sharing.)

    peace and friendship.

    Like

  17. HHHHEEEEYYYYYY AAAANNNNNAAAAA! Can I, uhm, “blow your mind up” a little?

    “The norms of the Roman Missal admit the principle that in cases where Communion is administered under both kinds, ‘the Blood of the Lord may be received either by drinking from the chalice directly, or by intinction, or by means of a tube or a spoon’ (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 245).”

    Like

  18. Wyman,

    It’s just against our rules, not anyone elses. GRIN. And I’m not even sure that I’d call it a sin.

    If you really want to blow some minds,try it the Eastern Orthodox way. Some of them use cubed leavened bread soaked in wine, and the priest spooning into the mouth.

    More power to you with more frequently communion. My stepmother went for at least 20 years without it, because we rarely went to church, only Sunday School.

    Like

  19. Anna,

    Excellent! Yes, that’s how we practice it. As far it being wrong, if I can honestly say that I have very little knowledge of what Latin Rite Catholics do or their rationale for doing so, can I just claim to be sinning in ignorance? If so, then DON’T tell me! 😉

    Rev. Cwirla,

    Don’t get your hopes up. My guess is there are very few of us, but, who knows! Sometimes that whole Baptist notion of the autonomy of the local church can be a real blessing, especially in trying to reform our communion practices. I was thrilled just to get it to monthly from quarterly to begin with!

    Blessings.
    Wyman

    Like

  20. For the Record:

    As I wrote in my original essay, church planting is not part of our Reformation tradition for all the reasons I cited. However, I noted that church planting has always been a part of the LCMS tradition since its founding days, and I cited a few examples of such.

    Sorry to belabor this point, but I was writing with minimum sleep yesterday after a very long and difficult day, and I want to be quoted accurately.

    What I meant to write in the above comment was the language of church planting” is lacking in the Reformation tradition for all the reasons cited. However, the activity of church planting has always been a part of the LCMS tradition from its beginning.

    Having thus clarified, I would also add that I find a sympathetic kinship in what my fellow RC and EO gangstas have written. We seem to share many of the same concerns. I especially appreciate this sentence:

    We cannot even imagine the possibility of teaching someone adequately about Christ without, at the same time, teaching them about the Body of Christ.

    Like

  21. Wyman,

    Good for you about the intinction. As far as this chemist sees it, there is NO possibility of contamination. I am making the logical assumption that the person picks up the bread, and dips the other side into the cup.

    But, as a trained Extraoridinary Eucharistic Minister, the idea of intinction just seems wrong. (because to us Latin Rite Catholics it is.)

    Like

  22. I don’t know where we came up with those little cups:

    The individual cups came with the substitution of grape juice for wine in the 19th c. and the consequent concerns about hygiene, which is always a matter of perceived risk. Lutherans have the little cups too, though we continue to use wine. I’m reading with rapt attention and amazement at Baptists reintroducing the common chalice. The wonders never cease on this blog.

    Like

  23. Charlie,

    I don’t know where we came up with those little cups: I’ll assume we got them at the same altar we worship at in a thousand other ways, the altar of pragmatism.

    The only objections I’ve received are, of course, the argument from hygiene. Though, in truth, I fail to see how intinction is less hygienic than, say, digging your finger tips into a plate of small wafers and then passing it to the next person who does the same. Or, for that matter, digging your fingers into a silver tray of small cups.

    And the most creative objection was from a woman who protested that having people come forward destroys anonymity and potentially embarrasses any who don’t want to come forward. I am, to put it mildly, completely unfazed by that argument for a lot of reasons.

    So it’s been good, and, truth be told, our folks tell me regularly that the Lord’s Supper has new meaning for them now.

    The greatest was when, last year, we passed the silver trays and one of our younger members who is used to intinction said, “This is weird. This isn’t how we do it! What’s with these little cups?” Ha!

    Wyman

    Like

  24. I know that this will and must cause a permanent split in the denomination. Where there are two visions there is division.

    A further reflection: Such a split might very well be the best thing for the LCMS and the other Lutheran bodies. We have gotten ourselves entrenched in institutional unity at all costs. Institutionalism, more than anything else including historic vestments, liturgy, and doctrine, is the bane of church planting. Perhaps the example of Paul and Barnabas might be the best – to go our separate ways and forge new partnerships that are more consistent with our respective “visions.”

    But this is more of an intramural Lutheran discussion rather than the ecumenical discussion of the IM.

    Like

  25. Pastor Wyman,

    Using an actual cup for communion? Intinction? John Michael Talbot’s music? In a Baptist church? Wow! How about planting some of those kind of Baptist churches down here in Texas. Where in the world did we come up with those silly plastic cups and crumbs of stale bread???

    Like

  26. Brother Cwila [sic] from the confessional Lutheran LCMS makes a statement that indicates that church planting is not part of the tradition as such.

    I believe this refers to me, though I recognize neither my name nor the statement attributed to me. As I wrote in my original essay, church planting is not part of our Reformation tradition for all the reasons I cited. However, I noted that church planting has always been a part of the LCMS tradition since its founding days, and I cited a few examples of such. I see no reason why historic vestments and liturgy cannot be a part of vibrant church plants today.

    One of the great challenges that we Lutherans face, and I believe it will be similar for the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and historic Anglicans, is how to do church plants while retaining the distinctives of our tradition.

    Gene Redlin’s comment above illustrates nicely the problems we face in the LCMS today. There are Lutherans among us who believe one cannot speak of Jesus Christ and His atoning work while wearing a robe or using anything resembling an historic liturgy. I’m not sure what he means about “not recovering from what is about to happen.” Perhaps there’s some prophetic thing going on. We’ll see.

    Like

  27. “There is also an, as I see it, unfortunate idea that when we build church buildings, somehow we need to spend waaay too much money on a facility that is “worthy” enough to house the real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist — as if God is overly concerned with the grandeur of houses built by the hands of men.”

    AMEN!

    People are struggling. When did simplicity become a sin?

    Like

  28. Thank you O PatrickW, my son. 🙂 And I hear you loud and clear Patrick Lynch. I definitely hear things lately letting us all know that “if you’re baptized, you’re a missionary” – good basic message, but it has a long way to go.

    Hey JoanieD – that’s funny, I mean, that I have possibly been known as “plus Alan” or something like that. I am fairly “plus sized” so, that could work I guess. On the communities thing, I think I’d just love to see it be more of a normal thing that “normal” Catholic Christian people who inhabit the parishes would be trying to live, well, more like monks – not leaving the “serious Christian life” up to them or Priests or “religious” – as if we can’t all give ourselves entirely to God even if we’re married, with children, regular jobs, etc.

    Like

  29. +Alan wrote, “How about a ton of small, quasi-monastic, base ecclesial communities scattered around a city or a rural area for that matter, who build relationships with one another, pray together on a regular, systematic basis, have some sort of leadership to help with spiritual direction, and who are connected to a larger local parish church.”

    I think something like that is going on in a lot of places. Lay people will “attach” themselves to a small religious order to assist them, learn from them, teach them and bring their increased faith and love to their communities and churches.

    Like

  30. Boy, I was dense, +Alan, not to realize that the + in your name was for the cross. I was thinking it was like an “add” mark and wondered about it. I thought perhaps you were making sure you didn’t get mixed up with someone who goes by the name of Alan without the + mark. Thanks for the explanation! I always enjoy your posts.

    I have been enjoying reading the magazine put out by the Portland diocese in Maine titled “Harvest.” You can read all the issues at:
    http://www.portlanddiocese.org/info.php?info_id=90
    The column called Dear Father Joe combines humor and good info to questions folks have. And there is always a bit of history on theologians. And just a lot of articles always focusing on the love of Jesus and our need to bring that love to the world.

    Like

  31. Me personally, I’ve always thought Catholic churches could do with being a whole lot smaller and more missional, and just generally more into the development of a spirited faith and real realtionships among the parishoners and between them and the surrounding community. Protestantism is way better at that; you’d be surprised at how inconsequential the missional aspect of Jesus seems to a lot of cradle-RC’s. Believing in Jesus “socially” is just not on our radar screen.

    I wish we had people afire for church planting. Many, many Catholics have absolutely no interest in missionary work at all – that’s for nuns or whatever. We don’t have a lay missionary culture with any kind of vitality, and I think it really does make the Gospel totally incoherent in the lives of many Catholics. We desperately need to fix that; I wish I cared more, personally. It’s too bad there aren’t any Bishops who’d tell me to get my act together and believe in my beliefs.

    Like

  32. Brother Cwila from the confessional Lutheran LCMS makes a statement that indicates that church planting is not part of the tradition as such.

    Yet, the “OTHER” branch of the LCMS is aggressively planting mission congregations all over the country. Of course they don’t look anything like the confessional Lutheran churches of the past.

    There is a wonderful alive wave of congregations springing up all over. I have been part of some of them. In fact in our area we have a half dozen that are blossoming. None of them have pastors with robes or liturgy.

    I know that this will and must cause a permanent split in the denomination. Where there are two visions there is division. We have that. So, I wish Pastor Cwila well, but his is part of a drift that will not recover from what is about to happen.

    The future is in church planting with churches that fit a culture who has no idea what we are talking about. Jesus, ok heard of him…..so what??

    Like

  33. I see the post is now updated with +Alan’s contribution. Well said, Your Excellency.

    I wouldn’t say church planting is non sequitor in the RCC. We just go about it differently – more methodically and slowly, and probably too slowly. The shrinkage in that +Alan mentions is happening mainly in the Northeastern US. Meanwhile in the South and West, many bishops can’t open new parishes fast enough.

    I find that the need to have smaller groups is partly filled by the many different masses offered each weekend. My medium-sized parish has 5 Sunday masses. People can go anytime they wish but most fall into a routine. As a result, each mass has its own character and demographic. There is the Saturday evening baby boomer guitar mass; the 7:30 am quiet contemplative mass; the 10:00 traditional mass with choir, organ, etc; the noon Spanish mass with mariachi trio; and the 5:00 pm youth mass with kickin’ band. Five churches in one! How our priest gets through all of them without his head exploding, I’m not sure. But when you have one building and one priest serving five unique audiences, there is less need or motivation to plant something new.

    Like

  34. “If so it should be able to be set forth in propositions that some [LCMS] would afirm and others [in LCMS] deny.

    “That would take a bit of time and thought to flesh out, but it would sure be worth it.”

    I’d love it if somebody would. The main one I see is the purpose of worship. I think orthodox Lutherans say worship is the place where Christians gather in a manner reverential to Christ’s real presence to receive the blessings Christ promised, through the means he promised to give them to us, ie, we receive God’s grace through Word and Sacrament. Some would say it has to be through Divine Service, but I don’t understand the argument. I think Divine Service is the best we have, though.

    Other Lutherans see worship as primarily a production to entertain, a self-improvement class, a place for outreach and revivalism, and/or an opportunity for emotional satisfaction/fulfillment. Word and Sacrament take a back seat to other concerns.

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  35. No, I am not a Bishop and wow, am I being called out for putting a cross in front of my name? Seriously? Technically and officially, there is a space between the cross and the first letter of my name, so I may squeek by any canon laws about such things – but I’m pretty sure there aren’t any. I’ve done that for many years as a personal statement about my connection with Christ – Christ first, Alan second.

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  36. +Alan is not a bishop. He has official permission to use the “+” sign.

    In order to taunt +Alan, I’ll start saying controversial things:

    I think church planting is a non-sequitor in the RCC.

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  37. First, +Alan (or somebody else) usually means Bishop. And, just an aside, we have priests in the Latin Rite Catholic Church aaaaas well as the Eastern Catholic Churches who are married with lots of kids.
    Can’t wait to see what the Authorities say about Church planting. Parishes are always encouraged to found and extend new parishes as needed.
    Patrick W is correct. The whole world is divided into dioceses with their own Bishops. AnneG in NC

    Like

  38. Imonk,

    Also, if they object I’ve go my eyes on a couple of in church almost deserted (no offense meant) methodist churches that I have been talking to about using their facilities. But the association chapel is very centrally located and very very cheap to use.

    Like

  39. Bro. Wyman,

    If I’m forced out and have to relocate in shame, I’ll end up in your pews:)

    If I can find a teaching job nearby.

    Austin

    Like

  40. Imonk,

    Oh I get ya. I thought about that, and techically, the group as listed as a church plant, I’m referring to it as a mission plant, not to disemble or hide anything just b/c I think it fits with what we are tryint to accomplish there.

    As far as open communion goes, I have given a thought, but it doesn’t seem to be that much of an issue around here. I’m pretty familiar with the arguments for closed communion, most folks around here practice close communion.

    I, being one raised in groups where I was taught there was a direct link b/w John the Baptist and the SBC have even at one point in my ealier days been an adherant to closed communion. My understanding is that it was a landmark position taken in a large part to combat against Campbellite accusations. I may be wrong there.

    I honestly think though that my DOM is so excited to have someone actually be doing some kind of plant that it will not come up. He has actually been very helpful and encouraging.

    Bro. Richardson,

    I really appreciate your words and thoughts.

    Austin

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  41. Austin,

    You might be interested to know that First Baptist Dawson (where I pastor) has been using one cup for about 5 years now. We practice intinction 8 times a year and the “traditional Baptist way” quarterly.

    It’s been met with very little opposition…but, of course, not with NO opposition! 🙂

    Also, I’ve introduced the music of John Michael Talbot into the service (normally) as well as a corporate confession of sin. Just recently, however, we began reciting our church covenant before partaking as well, so my Baptist forefathers would also be proud, though probably still somewhat aghast!

    Wyman

    Like

  42. Austin: I was actually referring to open communion in a non-church setting on property owned by the association. That would be an issue in most associations in Ky.

    peace

    ms

    Like

  43. “I am curious what Pastor Cwirla sees as the doctrinal divide in the LCMS.”

    I intentionally did not use the word “divide” or “division” but diversity. What I mean by that is that the Lutheran road is considerably wider than it was twenty or thirty years ago. That broadening of Lutheranism in general has also affected the LCMS. I think one may very well be able to articulate theses on soteriology, ecclesiology, sacramentology and the doctrine of the ministry, the nature of sanctification, etc. to which some would assent and others disagree within the LCMS. That would take a bit of time and thought to flesh out, but it would sure be worth it. The very fact that we are diverse in “style,” as I indicated, is symptomatic of the fact that we are also diverse in theological “substance,” though that diversity may still be implicit more than explicit.

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  44. Imonk,

    If so they haven’t said so. I’ve been very upfront. They have to approve our using the chapel. I figure if three years ago they let a hyper-calvinist extreme contemporary group use it they will let us:)

    Bob Brague

    I get the tongue in cheek, but to answer anyway, I’m looking to serve people who want liturgy but not infant baptism. That is a very simplified and not fully developed answer. No church of christ I know worth their salt would say the Creed. 🙂

    Austin

    Like

  45. austin sounds like he wants to be Methodist with a little Church of Christ thrown in for good measure.
    Why would he call the church Baptist except that it would meet in the association chapel?

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  46. Austin:

    Does your DOM or Association have any issues with the practice of the Lord’s Supper you are planning to use?

    peace

    ms

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  47. I am curious what Pastor Cwirla sees as the doctrinal divide in the LCMS. That we are divided in Liturgical practice is without a doubt. I know there are many who believe that at the heart of this lies a theological difference. If so it should be able to be set forth in propositions that some would afirm and others deny. I can think of one propoistion on which we are divided. Some in our Churches say that the Liturgy is not anadiaphoran and others say that it is an audiaphoran. I am curious if Pastor Cwirla thinks their are other propositions which some would afirm in our Synod and others would deny.

    Like

  48. This is a post very close to my heart and very relevant to my current situation.

    I currently pastor a rural small baptist church. I will not go into a lot of details for space time, but there are many engrained things that prevent this church from getting any bigger (I know that’s now always the goal). They do however, do a good job of ministering to each other and a small group of extended contacts. The church has a good reputation in the past 50 years of turning out a lot of local preachers. It is doctrinally sound.

    I am laying the ground work after much prayer of starting what I am calling a mission plant that will meet on Sunday afternoons at our local baptist association chapel. This plant will be unlike anything in our area but will, in my opinion and convictions, serve a growing group of people. I’m looking to start a mission plant that will feature a very liturgical service. This church will have the Lord’s supper each time it meets, have corporate prayer, corporate confession, the Apostle’s Creed, and multiple scripture readings.

    There is no conservative evangelical liturgical baptist work in our area. Conversations over the past 18 months have led me to believe that there is a growing interest in this area.

    Interestingly enough I’ve run into a little oppostition, from some pastors of much larger churches not even that close who are not very supportive.

    Austin

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  49. I love these posts. This issue particularly, ’cause I’m part of a church plant.

    It’s nice to hear the liturgical folks are into evangelism… though what Christian isn’t? It’s hard to argue that you follow Jesus but not His Great Commission.

    I strongly agree with P.V. Matthews’ statement, “Most churches are under 100 in attendance. This is not because they are all dead. It is because natural human groupings are small… The best way to evangelize a city is to plant more and more churches.”

    And, I would add, have them work together, and demonstrate by our actions and love for one another that we are all the Body of Christ, and can work together despite our diversity. (And work more effectively because of our diversity.) The individual parts of the Body aren’t just individuals, but churches too.

    Not to knock megachurches, but I used to go to a big church, and its big problem was what Fr. Ernesto discussed: Regardless of any God-honoring motives and intentions of the pastors in leadership, people go there to hide, within its large numbers, from the very relationships and accountability that Jesus created the Church to foster. As much as the leaders tried to fight this—with small-group programs and strong efforts to make contact with everyone—people fought back by refusing to commit, claiming they were “too busy,” and in some cases, leaving to go hide in another, less intrusive megachurch that was okay with just warehousing such folks.

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  50. Fr Ernesto said: If by church planting one means a continuation of the modern methodology, then I see little place for that. It would simply be a continuation of what has not produced lasting change and what has led us to be labeled a “sweet by and by” religion. Church planting that does not lead to any discernible change in behavior is the warehousing of individuals who are simply participating in a cultural exercise.

    Church planting can’t be just more and more of what we’ve already got.

    Peter Vance Matthews said: Most churches are under 100 in attendance. This is not because they are all dead. It is because natural human groupings are small.

    So true. But how many pastors set out to achieve this “organically natural” goal? How many are happy with a congregation of 100 and resist the urge to pursue more?

    Wyman Richardson said: the creation of these new churches will need to mean much more than the creation of new gathering places… The motivation will have to be a renewed commitment to the gospel, a renewed understanding of its power to transform human hearts, and a renewed conviction that the stewards and propagators of this gospel are the people of God. As such, the creation of new churches will likely come less from denominational entities and more from conviction-driven local congregations.

    Yes indeed. Churches (as an organic entity) have to spring from the desire and conviction of a localized body of believers compelled to become agents of renewal and reconciliation in their context. Of course there is a danger to this in that the convictions of the “local congregations” may or may not necessarially be informed by the Gospel. They might be about family values or holiness or social justice or education or serving the poor or .

    William Cwirla addressed when he wrote: As a sacramental confession, we hold to a sacramental view of the pastoral office as a unique, divinely established office that functions within the Church with the authority of Christ. No one is to preach and preside in our churches apart from call and ordination (Augsburg Confession XIV). No one can set himself up to be a pastor or church planter simply because he has the itch.

    This could be deemed a negative but there is sound and prudent reasoning behind the proper formation of the body of Christ. Not any ya-hoo should be able to nail his name to a shingle and self-anoint as an authority.

    Great post, though. Gotta love the Gangstas–looking forward to Alan’s entry.

    Like

  51. I’m not sure the concept of church planting fits into the Catholic scheme of things. No one can just appoint himself to start establishing new parishes. Every square inch of the planet already has a bishop whose job is to make sure all the souls in his diocese have access to the sacraments.

    That said, there are many missionary orders and lay groups that work to spread the faith in places that are unreached. They always operate in cooperation with the bishop, so typically you won’t see the territorial encroachment some of the gangstas mention.

    My own parish here in Texas sponsors a small chapel in a nearby rural area. The already-overworked priests in the vicinity somehow manage to offer one Sunday mass for the people out there. I guess in time it may grow into its own parish, which would mean we planted a church.

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  52. Any thoughts on planting churches in the shadow of a megachurch?

    In the area where I live, all the churches are long established, about as old as the community. I believe the newest one is a nondenominational church established about 20 years ago.

    All of these churches are centrally located near the megachurch. This megachurch treats worship like a theatrical production. I believe the surrounding churches, of various denominations, at least to some degree are influenced by the trends at the megachurch. I think the message has seeped into the thinking that to grow, one must imitate.

    I wish there were more churches of a size where the entire congregation could worship at one time in the sanctuary. This might be possible at the church I attend, but they choose to offer both contemporary and traditional services. In many respects this splits the church into three churches.

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  53. To paraphrase Hamlet, “To plant or not to plant, that is the question.” I like most of what I read here and agree that we need to plant churches to help reach the 75-80% who don’t worship on a typical Sunday. Tom Erich in his column today talked about churches finding ways to reach those in that 75-80% slice of the population. Earlier in the week, Dan Edelen at Cerulean Sanctum in “Why I Don’t Understand Church Planting” took an opposite position about planting churches that also has some worthy points.

    How do we plant a church that is “culturally relevant,” if that’s the right term and yet which also is connected to “historical Christianity,” again, if that’s the right term. Some plants seem to attempt to “start from scratch” so to speak, without any seeming awareness of the Church that has been around for 2,000 years, as if “out of thin air,” so to speak, people could just start/plant a church.

    Like

  54. I’m SO looking forward to Alan’s / the Official Catholic Party Line’s response to this question.

    Like

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