the weblog of Alan Knox

The skinny on NOT planting churches

Posted by on Jan 6, 2012 in blog links | 27 comments

The skinny on NOT planting churches

A few days ago, I linked to a post about starting churches among prisoners… yes, while they are still in prison.

Today, I am linking to a post that (from the title) seems to present the opposite point of view. In reality, I think the two perspectives are much closer than it may appear.

Andrew Jones, the “Tall Skinny Kiwi,” wrote the post called “9 reasons NOT to plant a church in 2012.” Now, I know what you’re thinking: how can a post about NOT planting churches be remotely related to a post about planting churches in a prison.

Well, you have to read Andrew’s post. But, for the moment, consider this snippet:

But now it’s 2012 and while some young, enthusiastic people are out there planting churches like its 1997, others are focusing on launching more sustainable, more holistic, more measurably transformational Kingdom solutions.

One of the biggest trends in church planting that I observed in my recent 30+ country trek is the SHIFT AWAY FROM planting churches towards NOT planting a church at all but focusing on a wider range of transforming Kingdom activities. Some church planters are delaying the worship service piece of the pioneer missional ministry for as long as possible and sometimes indefinitely.

You see, Andrew and Jim (the other author) are talking about very similar things. In other words, don’t “plant churches” in terms of creating some time of organizational structure attached to a denominational system. Instead, plant yourself and the gospel and a kingdom-mindset among a group of people.

Yeah, the “church” might look amazingly different from what you expect. But, so what?


27 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 1-6-2012

    As the admin of the Making DIsciples facebook page, we deal with this issue time and again. Invariably losing members each time we do. A few days ago I tweeted, “Saying you’re going to plant a church is like saying you’re going to plant a Volkswagon. It has not biblical significance.” There was, of course, mixed reactions to the phrase.

    I think though, that these trends may be accurate and certainly something for anyone with a desire to grow the church should consider.

  2. 1-6-2012

    Miguel,

    I wonder why people recoil against this kind of warning?

    -Alan

  3. 1-7-2012

    Alan,
    I sort of get your point, but find it a bit confusing. Andrew said,
    `Some church planters are delaying the worship service piece of the pioneer missional ministry for as long as possible and sometimes indefinitely.`

    The you said,
    `plant yourself and the gospel and a kingdom-mindset among a group of people.`

    Is not the obvious Scriptural outworking of planting ourselves and the gospel and kingdom-mindset amoung a group of people the gathering together of worship? How can one focus `on a wider range of transforming Kingdom activities` and still hold off worship gatherings `sometimes indefinitely`?

    While I understand the frustrations to some methods of church planting, I find the post a bit extreme on the other side and a bit weird (unless I am not getting the main idea – which is very possible).

    What are the biblical principles that are being followed from the ideas in the post?

  4. 1-7-2012

    Thanks for the post. This is confirming some stuff for me. I’ve been thinking for awhile that building church according to scripture seems to be God’s doing, and that we should be focused more on the kingdom.

    I believe church is simply believers and whenever they get together. But I don’t want to call it church whenever I get together with other believers. For one, I think that may cause alarm for some – they may think I’m trying to split away from another ‘church’. And secondly, I don’t feel called to be in charge of a church, or even to say I’ve started a church. But I do feel called to take God’s love to the world, and build up others to become more like Christ.

    Thanks for sharing.

  5. 1-7-2012

    Ron,

    I don’t think “gathering together for worship” (especially as we see that described and practiced today) is the outworking of the gospel and a kingdom mindset in Scripture.

    Jon,

    You said, “But I do feel called to take God’s love to the world, and build up others to become more like Christ.” Exactly. And, the second part of that is “church” in Scripture. But, like you said, if you use that term, many people will misunderstand.

    -Alan

  6. 1-8-2012

    Alan,
    why not? Did not the first century church gather together for worship?

  7. 1-8-2012

    Ron,

    Perhaps it would be easier if you explained what you mean by “gather together for worship.” Yes, I believe that first century believers gathered together at many times and in many locations, but I don’t think they saw gathering as the outworking of the gospel and their kingdom-mindset. Often, it probably worked the other way around. Also, many times today phrases like “gather together for worship” indicate things that are not found in Scripture at all.

    -Alan

  8. 1-9-2012

    Alan,

    Why does the outworking have to have an order? Would it not be true that having a kingdom-mindset lead someone to congregate with other believers for worship? Would it not also be true that because of worship many would be led to live with a kingdom-mindset? Can not both be the outworking of the other? When your church gathers together, what caused that? What does it cause? See the circle? Why bring up an argument for the beginning of a circle?

    On another note, you said, “Also, many times today phrases like “gather together for worship” indicate things that are not found in Scripture at all.” Did the churches not come together on a regular basis? Several times the NT says they did on the first day of the week? Does not your church gather together for worship? If so, why do something you say is not in Scripture “at all”? What “things” indicated today are you talking about? If the “things” you are talking about are 45 minutes sermons, then you are correct, cause Paul once went all night which resulted in someone dying.

  9. 1-9-2012

    Ron,

    Thanks for continuing this discussion, because I think it is an important one. I’m glad that you brought up Paul and those traveling with him and their stop in Troas. That is the only place in Scripture that specifically says believers gathered “on the first day of the week.” Do you know why (the purpose) they met together on that occasion, according to Scripture?

    -Alan

  10. 1-9-2012

    What about 1 Corinthians 16:2?

  11. 1-9-2012

    And Revelation 1:10? Would not the “Lord’s day” equate to a day in the week for regular gathering.

    Also, in Troas, they did not meet on the first day of the week only because Paul was getting ready to leave. That is not the way the text says it. To say that is to stretch the text in ways it was never meant to be stretched. That would be an assumption on the text and not a teaching from it.

  12. 1-9-2012

    Ron,

    Thanks again. Does 1 Corinthians 16:1 or Revelation 1:10 mention the church gathering together? In fact, I think 1 Corinthians 16:1 issues a singular command – you (individually) put aside something. Was John with the church in Revelation 1?

    By the way, I was not suggesting that the church in Troas met to hear Paul because he was leaving. I agree that would be an assumption that is not found in the text. What does the text say was the reason for their gathering together? Do you know of a text that specifically says the church gathers together for worship? (Like you asked, where that – “gathering for worship” – is in the text…)

    -Alan

  13. 1-9-2012

    With 1 Corinthians 16, Paul told each one to lay aside an offering for the Jerusalem church. But, he said that because he did not want to have to gather an offering when he came. So, it does not make sense that his command was to individuals to lay aside and keep it in their home, for that would make Paul have to gather it when he came which is exactly what he did not want to do. So, it seems they were to lay it aside when they were together, which Paul probably already knew was the first day of the week, since he had spent 18 months there starting that church and by looking at early church history was probably when most all the churches gathered together as a whole.

    With John, (BTW – I feel like you are trying to bait me to say something so you can discredit all of what I say) he was in exile. My point was that he mentioned that his vision was on the “Lord’s day.” calling it that placed a greater emphasis on a certain day of the week, which easily is understood to be when the church most often gathered together as a whole.

  14. 1-9-2012

    Ron,

    Earlier, when you thought I was headed a certain direction concerning Acts 20:5-12, you said, “That is not the way the text says it. To say that is to stretch the text in ways it was never meant to be stretched. That would be an assumption on the text and not a teaching from it.” Are your explanations of 1 Corinthians 16 and Revelation 1 an assumption on the text?

    (By the way, I’m not saying your assumptions are wrong. I agree that believers often gathered on the first day of the week. I think they gathered at other times also, though, and that any of those gatherings were just as important as the others. Sometimes they even gathered daily. You’ll find more exhortations and examples about gathering daily than weekly on Sunday.)

    You haven’t answered my question about Acts 20 and Paul meeting with the church in Troas. Why did they gather together, according to Scripture?

    I think my second question (in the previous comment) is important also, given the importance that we’re both placing on finding our examples from the text of Scripture and not assumptions on the text: Do you know of a text that specifically says the church gathers together for worship?

    -Alan

  15. 1-9-2012

    To answer your first question. No. I used the text to explain the 1 Corinthians passage, so there is no stretching going on. The Revelation text explains itself. The seven churches knew what John meant when he said “Lord’s day” and the greatest possible meaning would be on the same day Jesus rose from the dead, which was the first day of the week. With Acts and 1 Corinthians, it seems very plausible that this is when the church gathered as a whole. Can you give a better explanation of 1 Corinthians 16 & Revelation 1?

    Now, this does not mean the church did not gather other days of the week, and that those times were less important. I have never argued that. But, the given time when the whole church gathered was mostly done on the first day of the week.

    As far as worship, above I cited Ephesians and Colossians as 2 texts. One can look at 1 Corinthians 14 as a structure to church gatherings, which indicates that there was a time for worship. They also probably had a meal as well (Ch. 11), but worshiping together was surely a major part of it.

    As far as Acts 20, I am not sure what you are fishing for. Unless you are meaning that that was when they gathered together to break bread, which follows suit with my 1 Corinthians 14 & 11 comment. If you are saying the gathering was to break bread together, and that was its purpose, then fine. I agree. But, that still does not take away from the fact that they did not just eat together. They heard an all night sermon. That is surely not all your church does when it gathers, is it? If you wanted to follow it as a prescription, then all church gatherings without food is unscriptural, or incomplete.

  16. 1-9-2012

    Ron,

    Thanks for continuing this discussion. I know it’s difficult to understand one another when we’re not face to face, so I appreciate the patience and grace.

    I wasn’t really fishing for anything with my questions about Acts 20. Like you said, Luke tells us that the church gathered together to break bread, that is, to eat a meal together. During that time, Paul spoke with (dialegomai) them.

    The real point of all my questions though is where we find in Scripture that the church “gathers for worship.” I’ve looked through your comments, and I can’t find a reference or citation to Colossians or Ephesians. Can you tell me again where in those letters Paul talks about the church gathering for worship.

    I certainly agree that Paul talks about the church gathering together in 1 Corinthians 11 and 14. But, I don’t see a reference to gathering together for the purpose of worship. In Paul’s hypothetical case in 1 Corinthians 14:23-25, the unbeliever begins worshiping. But throughout that chapter it seems that Paul focuses on the church coming together for a different purpose.

    What am I missing from your explanation of the scriptural evidence of the church “gathering for worship”?

    -Alan

  17. 1-9-2012

    I did not mean the phrase is in the text, but the what they were doing was worship. Now, I am using the term in this context as meaning singing, sharing the word together, etc. You see that in Eph. 5 & Col. 3. The term “worship” is not in the text, but it certainly describes what we would call today as worship.

    Now, I know the term “worship” is much broader than that. But, for the discussion at hand, that is how I am using it.

    Is this kind of worship one of the purposes of your church gatherings?

  18. 1-9-2012

    Ron,

    When people say “gathering for worship” they typically mean participate in certain activities (such as singing, presenting a sermon, listening to a sermon, giving money, discussing Scripture, eating a meal/Lord’s Supper). However, Scripture makes it clear that these activities may or may not be worship. At the same time, Paul even says that exercising a valid gift of the Holy Spirit when the church gathers may not be worship. So, the idea that we should “gather for worship” is problematic (and perhaps this is why we do not see this kind of description/purpose in Scripture).

    Instead, like you said, worship is a much broader term in Scripture than we typically see it used today. For example, it is just as valid to say that it is our purpose to worship when we are NOT gathered together. Everything that we do in life (as disciples of Jesus Christ) should be in submission to God and in service to God and others (the two aspects of worship that we find in Scripture). The question then is this: What is our purpose in gathering together with other believers so that we are worshiping?

    Of course, since we are always supposed to be worshiping, that last clause is redundant. Thus, we can reduce the question to this: What is our purpose in gathering together with other believers?

    -Alan

  19. 1-10-2012

    Alan,

    I think we think the same thing. I just have no problem with saying that one of the purposes for gathering is to worship God together (in singing, hearing and discussing the word, prayer, etc.). The reason I do not have a problem with it is because from OT Israel to even pagan Greek religions in the first century, that is what they understood worship to be (from rituals, sacrifices, psalms, to the reading of the law). Contextually, I think those were the kinds of activities that were expected when the early church gathered together. Did they call it worship? Not sure. But since so much of the Bible is calling believers to worship the Lord, then that would be the primary activity when believers gather together. Not to say all the other things are not worship. But using the word in the context of a specific gathering day and time, worship is what they did.

  20. 1-10-2012

    Ron,

    I’m assuming that you will agree that participating in certain activities when they are together does not indicate that a group is worshiping God. In other words, there can be singing, eating, teaching, praying, etc, but the group can still not be worshiping. If this is true, then what is required for a group to be worshiping when they are meeting together? Is it possible that a person can worship God in a certain way when alone, but that the person should not do that same then when with others because it would not be worship? If so, what determines that?

    -Alan

  21. 4-6-2012

    Alan, I updated my blog to report back on how that church is doing in the jail. When we do it the way Jesus taught us to do it, it works!

    http://crossroadjunction.com/2012/01/03/planting-churches/

  22. 4-6-2012

    Alan and Ron,
    Great dialogue, I have really been blessed and challenged by the interaction. WOW

  23. 4-6-2012

    Allan, interesting posts.

    Most churches stand empty – why build another? How about one central church building? What’s in a church?

    It seems to me that the present ‘system of churches’ does little for cohesion, little if anything about worship, and are built as an altar to someone’s alter ego extremism. Churches are hence exclusive which is seems to be against the very principles of God’s inclusivity.

    Hence, worship becomes yet another form of exclusion and therefore idolatrous.

    We need to get away from tribal mindsets – which I acknowledge is difficult in a world that is increasingly going down that particular path.

    John

  24. 4-6-2012

    I have been thinking through this discussion and have one thing to add. Alan, while you are correct in your statements regarding the purpose of the church meeting is not worship, I have one thing to add. I believe that you are correct and in fact we should not promote the church gathering for the purpose of worship.

    Here is what I am saying. I believe the church gathers BECAUSE we are worshippers. The fact that we worship God will inevitably lead us into community and fellowship with one another. Is this a fair statement to make?

    If we send the message, weather it is subtle or not, that we gather to worship, what we do is promote the dangerous model of consumer christianity. It is similar to many pastors statements that sunday is the “Super Bowl” for christians. In making that statement, the nuance is this. “all other days are not as important than the service.” We, as christians, must rise above this simplistic mindset that sundays are the culmination of our faith. Anyways, bla bla

    CL

  25. 4-8-2012

    Jim,

    Thanks for the update! Awesome story!

    John,

    That “tribal mindset” is definitely a problem!

    CL,

    Yes! We are worshipers wherever we are and whatever we are doing.

    -Alan

  26. 10-30-2012

    Reflections on the Lord’s Supper (shared as a full meal) as the Christ-Centered practice around which all else is organized and enlarged when the church gathers: http://lambblood.com/lord-s-supper-logic.html

    Thoughts on gathering to worship (as a lifestyle of submission and service to God in the larger sense, Rom. 12:1ff) PRIMARILY VIA MUTUAL MINISTRY, versus conducting the traditional ‘worship service’ with a predominately passive ‘audience': http://www.ntrf.org/articles/article_detail.php?PRKey=4

  27. 10-30-2012

    Rick,

    Thanks for sharing the links with us.

    -Alan