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Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Church Planting - the art of letting go

Strawberry Plants  and churches
This summer, my son's strawberry plants have not produced many strawberries. The reason, we were told, is that the plants are a little on the old side, and what we need to do is to allow some of the “runners” to root into the ground thus producing new plants which next summer will produce a fresh crop of strawberries.

New churches produce crops, old churches often don't
There is a statistic out there which shows that the older a church is, the less good fruit it produces. There are a 1000 reasons for this. One is that churches rapidly turn in on themselves, become traditional, lose their edge, their zeal, their purpose. When older believers are involved in this process, the possibility of change - necessary in any rapidly changing culture – diminishes, and the church can so easily fossilize.

What is needed is for the mother church to encourage a "runner", a new plant and then when it is rooted itself, to cut the chord and let it go.

Letting go
It's this last point that sums up the wisdom of the New Testament, and it can be a hard thing to do. After Paul has planted a church, he lets it go and moves on to plant another church. He does not form a denomination, he does not form a rigid association, but lets the churches go - which means, of course, that he allows the Spirit of Christ to lead them, and the Chief Shepherd to guide them.

Paul trusts the Holy Spirit far more than we do. Of course should the infant get into trouble, he'll write them a letter, advise them and so on, but otherwise, they are "on their own.” Of course, they are not on their own - at all.

The dread of denominations
There are fewer more drastic errors in the history of the church than the formation of denominations which were formed for good and bad reasons. The good reasons were to facilitate fellowship and help across likeminded churches. The bad reason? The prideful desire to control and the desire for conformity. This last one, the desire for conformity, is strange, since Creation bears witness to the vast diversity of the Creator’s handiwork. The beauty of the true church of Jesus Christ is that every local church looks different from every other church. Visit false churches, such as those belonging to the Jehovah's Witnesses, and they all look the same - even the buildings are similar. But visit the churches of the New Testament and they are all different. The same essential components, yes, but done in different ways.

So there you have it. Plant a new church. Then let the church go, don't try to shape it and avoid the prideful instinct to control it.  Watch what the Spirit of God does. Just as fathers and mothers are often challenged by their kids,  mother churches often learn and are refreshed by their church plants.

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