Wednesday, 8 February 2017

The power of simply sticking at it

Will you still be here in 6 months?  A year?  2 years?  5 years?  10 years?  That is a question churches need to ask leaders and congregation as they plant and are planted, especially in less affluent areas.  In many working class and deprived areas people have been let down again and again by those who have promised commitment but then upped sticks and left when things got hard.  Social workers, GP's, teachers, other support and caring professionals are no longer rooted in a community and often move on (fairly frequently in the case of social workers) meaning that support changes, new relationships need to be built and often previous progress and shared history is lost.

The same has been happening with help offered to families from children's centres and the like.  The initial promise looked good but then the funding was cut, the case load piled up, promises were made and broken simply because there was so much to do.  And now many of these centres have shut with nothing realistically in their place within the locality.  Another promise of support that was no more than a promising castle quickly washed away by the tide.

The church must be different.  It must both launch, learn, and relaunch but also anchor itself within such communities and commit for the long term.  It must both change and adapt and yet stay and remain.  We must expect suspicion about how long we will last, we must be careful to promise no more than we can deliver, and we must commit to loving no matter the initial rejection (which so often is just a fear of being let down again when you move on).

Gospel ministry, especially in hard to reach or Yorkshire places, needs stability and that stability starts with the leadership.  Pastors are you called to ministry within that area or just to the ministry?  Will you still be here in 15 years or be off when a bigger church comes calling?  That's a question I would ask all pastors, not just planters.  Elders, are you committed to the area and the people?  Will you move here and commit your family to living in and among this community?  Will you turn down a promotion if it means a move across country away from the church or are you only here until something else comes along (if so I'm not sure how that fits with biblical eldership)?

I wonder if there is also something else we need to think through in terms of planting off the back of this.  If neighbourhood based communities need long term stickability I wonder if they need churches that are planted into permanent buildings rather than rented accommodation.  Rented accommodation does not say commitment and stability it says short term and changeable even if that is not what our plan is.  I wonder if, in those communities, having a building would go some way towards making a statement about commitment and perseverance?  Almost saying I'm all in.

So what does this mean for church planting?  It means we need to plant where we can into buildings. That raises the bar in terms of resourcing church plants if we need to buy a building or it means we ought to look for where existing gospel resources are.  Either revitalising an existing but dying church or entering into a coalition with us that gives us use of the building.  Both of those have their struggles and complexities but they also come with the bricks and mortar that offer opportunities and permanence.


Dave K said...

I have lots of thoughts, but one is whether (a) is this quite a paternalistic view of Church planting? and (b) is this what the apostles did?

The apostles expected to be welcomed into the spaces of people who already lived in places there, not to bring with them all they needed. Similarly they expected to preach and move on, leaving the locals to it.

Have you read Ronald allan's "pauls missionary methods or ours?"

Al Gooderham said...

Hi Dave.

Thanks for comments and your thoughts. I wasn't meaning to suggest that we take a paternalistic view. I think that comes across as arrogant and unloving. Just musing on some current trends and struggles. I haven't read Ronald Allan's book but I'll hunt it out and have a read.