Church Planting Models and Ideas
Here are some models and ideas for planting a church. Please add your own to the list.
Pain et Vin
Experiments in Simple Church I want to share a little experiment I have been working on over the last months. For a long time I have been asking myself the question "what does a really relevant church look like to the people around me here?" In my context the people here are in Brussels. Some are Belgian but many are international. I am primarily thinking of people who speak French or have French as second language. I am also thinking of people who would not class themselves as regularly practicing Christians or agnostics, atheists and seekers. Perhaps post-Christians too; those for many reasons who have become dis-enchanted with the way modern church is run or have become hurt or disillusioned in life.
I have been asking this question as I don't hear it being asked in church. Instead questions like "who could make some weekly service sheets for us?" or "how do we get more people on our crèche rota?" have much higher priority.
The question "What does the church look like to this people and in this culture?" and "How will this culture best understand and identify with Jesus?" are the key questions that every missionary and every Christian should be asking. I am grateful that the Anglican church is asking this in it's Fresh Expression movement as I have learnt a lot from it. They are promoting new and radically different expressions of the ancient Church of England. They are urging a dialogue with culture and a dialogue with the existing church too.
So I have spent months praying and talking. I have talked to Belgians about how they understand God. I have talked to friends who are on the fringe of church about how they relate and about their spirituality. I have looked at some of the very few innovative church planting projects here in Belgium and sought to understand the reasons they are attractive (and thriving!)
I realised there were several important things needed. Firstly a little team! It was not something I could do on my own! Actually it is deeper than that. I realised that it was about creating an authentic community. A community where people can be real. Where they are living out discipleship in their emotional lives and social lives, not just in a deep personal piety. To create a community requires hospitality, lots of it. Time, and a core group of people to form it; like the seed from which crystal grows.
Secondly I realised that people were rejecting, not so much Christ, as the institution that surrounded Christ. The Church was getting in the way of Christ as the human sinfulness of the leaders had become so repellant. The pedophilia and cover-ups and lack of integrity in dealing with the issues has deeply damaged the credibility of the institution of the church. The degree to which Christianity is embedded in culture can weaken its impact. Baptism and First communion become only rites of passage – not life defining acts of faith.
Yet, that said, there was an orthodoxy that was important not to lose and a desire to be radical and relevant but not alien or disconnected. What all these thoughts led too we called Pain et Vin, an experiment in Simple Church.
So, a trio of us took advantage of the Belgian Summer (a wonderful day) and had a picnic in a park. During the picnic we broke bread and drank wine, sharing the Lord's supper. We talked about the broken bread, our own sense of brokenness and Jesus' body broken for us. We prayed quietly. There was an incredible sense of God's presence.
Louise, one of the three, told us afterwards that she had not taken communion for twenty years, and would not go to the church to do it! But she felt at ease and able to do so in the park with us. I was stunned and thrilled. She wrote to me a few weeks later:
"After I had started taking the communion again with you I joined in the communion again also in the Swedish church. It was a big step for me – which was made not so big thanks to what we started with pain et vin. I can still not say in fully clear thoughts what the ritual really means to me, but simply put I would like to think that I let God and Christ come closer to me. Jesus has for such a long time been someone I didn't really believe in – you helped me see him as someone who do walk beside me. He has said it himself – the ones who believe in my father will come to me. I find it so true. Faith always comes with doubt, without doubt it wouldn't be faith. Then it's science."
The pattern has repeated in subsequent Pain et Vins, with Belgian people too. One dear lady just re-engaged with God after an absence of nineteen years…
Moving on from here is rather scary. I know simplicity is what is wanted and I know that for things to sustain and then grow they need some foundations to support them. How it will grow I am not sure. I am certain it is pushing me to my knees in prayer to find some answers.
I'd appreciate hearing from others who are experimenting in similar ways. I am finding there are lots of small groups here and there, under the radar who are doing interesting things with culturally relevant church. I am eager to learn! And ever so glad that I got started!
Then he took bread, and after giving thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." And in the same way he took the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood." — Luke 22:19-20
The wikipedia article describes it as follows. "A simple church may meet anywhere; with or without trained leaders, formal liturgy, programmes or structures. To facilitate relationship, discipleship (spiritual formation), multiplication, mobility, and member ownership, a simple church is usually a small group of no more than 20-25 persons. Church "programs" are virtually nonexistent and small group participation is essential. The process of moving from worship to small group, small group to mission work, and mission work to worship is a primary focus. Authors Tony and Felicity Dale, founders of House2House Ministries, have promoted the term "simple church" in their book "Simply Church". The term is often used interchangeably with other terms like organic church, essential church, primitive church, bodylife, relational church, and micro-church. Some groups use other names for their groups, although they would consider themselves part of or related to the simple church phenomenon."
Planting a Church in a Tower Block Apartment Building
Invite everyone in the building to a barbecue or social event and then watch them. Look for a natural networker among the people that come. Focus on that person, befriend them and lead them to the Lord. They will then bring everyone else along to whatever fellowship you may set up. If you don't find a networker, move on to the next high rise and repeat. This is from a talk by Rev Dr Michael Moynagh from Fresh Expressions.
What sort of church should I plant?
It is worth saying that churches aren't usually started accidentally or casually. They take a bit of thought and perhaps training to know where to start and what to do. It is worth considering starting a church of the same denomination as the team leader. A church should be planted with the expectation that it will last a thousand years. In order to last it needs to have deep convictions about essential things like baptism, communion and church organisation. It is difficult trying to establish these things in a new church without having a real conviction about how these are to be done.
For more information check out the following books: There's a sheep in my bathtub by Brian Hogan