BONFIRES VS FOREST FIRES: SPARKING CHURCH MOVEMENTS

Church Planting, Urban Ministry

Source: BONFIRES VS FOREST FIRES: SPARKING CHURCH MOVEMENTS

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Proven Qualities of Successful Church Planters

Church Planting

Characteristics for Successful Church Planters

Researcher Charles Ridley has identified a list of essential characteristics for successful church planters. While these characteristics can be developed or even shared with relative strength among members on a church planting team, a lead pastor who possess and/or values the majority of these traits enters the new role with a significant advantage.

1. Visioning capacity

  • being a person who projects into the future beyond the present
  • developing a theme which highlights the vision and philosophy of ministry
  • persuasively selling the vision to the people
  • approaching challenges as opportunities rather than obstacles
  • coping effectively with non-visioning elements
  • not erecting artificial walls or limits either overtly or subconsciously
  • establishing a clear church identity related to the theme and vision
  • believing in God’s capacity to do great things

2. Intrinsically motivated

  • having a desire to do well and a commitment to excellence
  • stick-to-itiveness and persistence
  • having initiative and aggressiveness without the negative connotations
  • having a willingness to work long and hard
  • being a self-starter with a willingness to build from nothing
  • having a high energy and vitality level; physical stamina

3. Creates ownership of ministry

  • helping people to “buy in” and feel responsible for growth/success of the church
  • gaining commitment of the people to the vision
  • establishing a congregational identity
  • avoiding stereotyping of congregation by imposing unrealistic goals

4. Spousal cooperation

  • having an explicit agreement regarding each partner’s respective role and involvement in ministry
  • having explicit rules regarding the use of home as an office
  • evaluating the consequences of ministry demands upon the children
  • functioning as a team through individual and collective action
  • having a strategy for dealing with strangers
  • modeling wholesome family life before church and community
  • agreeing upon and sharing the ministry vision
  • deliberately planning and protecting private family life

5. Relates to the unchurched

  • communicating in style that is understood by the unchurched
  • understanding the “psychology” or mentality of the unchurched
  • functioning in the “personal space” of the unchurched without fear
  • quickly getting to know the unchurched on a personal level
  • breaking through the barriers erected by the unchurched
  • handling crises faced by the unchurched

6. Effectively builds relationships

  • responding with urgency to expressed needs and concerns of people
  • displaying Godly love and compassion to people
  • getting to know people on a personal basis
  • making others feel secure and comfortable in one’s presence
  • not responding judgmentally or prejudicially to new people
  • appreciating and accepting a variety of persons
  • spending quality time with present parishioners without neglecting them for new people

7. Committed to church growth

  • believing in church growth as a theological principle
  • appreciating steady and consistent growth without preoccupation with the quick success factor
  • committing to numerical growth within the context of spiritual and relational growth (more and better disciples)
  • recognizing that non-growth is threatening and self-defeating
  • establishing the goal of becoming a financially self-supporting church within a specific period of time
  • not prematurely falling into a ministry of maintenance
  • seeing the church project within the larger context of God’s kingdom

8. Responsive to community

  • understanding the culture of the community
  • identifying and assessing community needs
  • responding to community needs on a priority basis such that resources are most efficiently used
  • determining successes and failures of other organized religious attempts to respond to community needs
  • not confusing what the community needs with what the church wants to offer
  • acquiring and understanding of the character and “pulse” of the community
  • adapting the philosophy of ministry to the character of the community

9. Utilizes giftedness of others

  • releasing and equipping people to do the task of ministry
  • discerning of spiritual gifts in others
  • matching the gifts of people with ministry needs and opportunities
  • delegating effectively in areas of personal limitation
  • avoiding personal overload by delegating effectively
  • not prematurely assigning ministry assignments before people are adequately equipped
  • not placing unwarranted restrictions on other’s spiritual giftedness

10. Flexible and adaptable

  • coping effectively with ambiguity
  • coping effectively with constant and abrupt change
  • adapting oneself and one’s methods to the uniqueness of the particular church planting project
  • shifting priorities and emphasis during various stages of church growth
  • doing “whatever” is necessary “whenever” necessary

11. Builds group cohesiveness

  • developing a nucleus group or groups as a foundation
  • quickly incorporating newcomers into a network of relationships
  • engaging others in meaningful church activity
  • monitoring the morale of people
  • utilizing groups effectively
  • dealing with conflict assertively, constructively and tactfully

12. Resilience

  • experiencing setbacks without defeat
  • riding the ups and downs (i.e. attendance)
  • expecting the unexpected
  • rebounding from loss, disappointments and failure

13. Exercises faith

  • possessing a conviction regarding one’s call to church planting ministry
  • believing in God’s action
  • having expectation and hope
  • having a willingness to wait for answers to specific prayer requests

Charles Ridley

Chuck Ridley is professor of counseling psychology at Texas A & M University. Previously, he has taught at Indiana University and the Graduate School of Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary. A licensed psychologist and Fellow of the American Psychological Association, he earned his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. He has consulted with a variety of organizations conducting jobs analyses, managerial and executive assessments, assessment centers, outplacement counseling, executive coaching and counseling, and training and development.

Dr. Ridley is an avowed scientist-practitioner, one who applies sound social science principles to individual and organizational functioning. He also is deeply committed to the integration of psychology and theology. As a faculty member at Fuller Seminary, he developed the Church Planter Profile. As a researcher, he has published many articles, chapters, monographs, and books. His book, Overcoming Unintentional Racism in Counseling and Therapy (Sage), was the recipient of the Gus Meyers Center Award for Human Rights.

Chuck lives in College Station, Texas with his wife, Mary, who also is a professor at Texas A & M University.

3 Reasons Why Social Justice Will Not Change the World

Church Planting, cities, Discipleship, Jesus, Other Authors, Social Justice, Transformation, Urban Ministry, Urban Poverty

You simply cannot separate the Gospel and social justice. Is the modern Church too “social justice” focused? This blogger challenges us to examine our practices or lack thereof.

The Asian Rough Rider

For those of us who followed the news in 2014 it was a depressing year. Images of violence, racism, government coups, injustice and world-wide evil have wracked our brains and broken our hearts. As we look at our lost nations, communities and target people groups we have to ask ourselves an important question. What is it really going to take to bring lasting transformation in our world?

The answer is incredibly simple. Jesus. All the social evils of our world are a direct result of sin. The remedy for sin is not social justice, it is Jesus.

So why then do we fight evil, poverty, hunger, human trafficking and sanitation with social justice? It’s because it’s easy to be a social justice activist. Tell your Facebook friends that you are building wells in Africa and they’ll praise you. Ask your school to join your campaign to end human trafficking and…

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Engaging Members Through Transformational Innovation

Church Planting, Discipleship, Equipping, Innovation, Transformation

In a world in which the balance of power in the marketplace has shifted from seller to the customer, it is becoming increasingly more difficult for church leadership to move a Customer-centric culture at home into a more Mission-centric culture in the church. This contemporary shift in the marketplace is making the role of governing leadership in the church all the more critical.

In many churches, especially those with elder oversite, the only explicit feedback mechanisms alluded to in their constitutions are vertical. There are no explicit feedback mechanisms from the member/attendee, i.e. the people for whom the work is being done. This is not to say that members are formally excluded from sensing a “Tension” from failure to meet member needs of which they happen to become aware and then take action to resolve that “Tension”. But, it is also true that the explicit focus of many church constitutions is entirely internal to the leadership team. The ‘non-leadership team’ member or attendee is simply not in the picture.

When so much time and effort of the leadership team is spent on the micro-details of the internal decision-making mechanisms of a church and little discernible attention given to any external feedback mechanisms, one could easily get the idea that the internal mechanisms are supremely important while the member is irrelevant. Unless and until this “gap” is rectified, leadership in the local church risks being a distraction from the central organizational challenge of our times, namely, how to help the church to be more able to add value to its members.

In this highly customer-centric culture ‘transformational innovation’ becomes the current big challenge for church leadership.

Transformational innovation is difficult because it continually changes the way we live and ‘do’ church. Most churches are loath to pursue ideas that will make them change. Unfortunately, this is one of the reasons that they die. The computer and entertainment electronics industries have been prime examples of this. How many of us have audio 8-track machines, cassette players, videotape cameras, recorders and players, bag phones, clunker desktop computers, etc. sitting in our basements?

I am not writing about church growth. This article is about church health and the ability of the local church to effectively equip and add value to its members so that they will accomplish the mission of the church now and in the future. Church leaders today, more than ever, must realize the need to innovate in order to to maintain and accelerate their missional efforts. They cannot rely solely on past momentum to achieve their ambitions.

Soliciting innovative ideas from various sources is a must. Discovering the best of these ideas is critical. Here are four good practices for improving idea quality for transformational innovation:

Define the problem before brainstorming solutions – Guide leaders to collectively agree on the problem first, in order to generate the most effective solutions.

Enable members to self-assess ideas to improve idea quality – Teach members to self-assess the quality of their own ideas by using simple yet objective criteria to improve the quality of the idea pool, while freeing up leadership time for prioritization decisions.

Actively manage social media to refine ideas – Use social-media platforms to allow members, attendees and other interested parties to virtually share, assess, and refine ideas.

Motivate well-connected network partners to provide their ideas for your church – ask closely partnered neighborhood churches, fellow denominational churches, partnered social-concern agencies who share vested interests, etc. to bring high-quality ideas.

These practices identify and find solutions; and, they provide a clearly defined mechanism for member involvement through a targeted inquiry system that identifies the problem and ensures participant feedback.

Leaders who are thinking innovation will provide an ongoing, time-saving feedback mechanism that allows for rapid and interim changes to ideas based on valued perspectives from members, attendees and partners. Obviously, there will be idea prioritization filters that combine internal feedback with strategic considerations such as mission statement, alignment to strategy, etc.; but, by tapping the collective wisdom of church members, attendees and partners, churches can source better ideas for transformational innovation.

Once Implemented, these innovative ideas can result in member appreciation; greater member equipment and involvement; and, raving excitement that spills out into the neighborhood in the form of contagious missional living and conversion growth.

Wouldn’t it great to see the day when all churches realize they can have a successfully missional church where their members love coming to church, are happy and engaged, who are growing in their faith, are active in their outreach and whose neighbors and communities are thankful they are there!

MetroGrace – church planting in philadelphia

Church Planting, Philadelphia, Urban Ministry

MetroGrace is an urban church development ministry. Our purpose is to gather, train, send and coach teams to develop gospel-centered, community-based churches in neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia.

Gathering: We gather urban workers by sharing our vision and hosting short-term mission teams. We share our vison in a monthly newsletter that details God’s work in Philadelphia. This allows us to share with supportive friends from all over the world. (Contact us if you’d like to receive our newsletter.) We send speakers to churches, schools and conferences. They help others to see the needs of the city and invite friends to serve. We also recruit workers by hosting short-term mission teams. These teams help cultivate the soil for new church plants and strengthen existing churches. This exposure to urban ministry enables informed response to God’s call.

Training: MetroGrace trains urban missionaries through internships. Summer interns serve for 8-12 weeks. They receive hands-on training in urban ministry while receiving credit from their college or seminary. Church planting interns serve for 18-24 months as they prepare to lead a team to establish a new church.

Sending: We send teams to establish new urban churches. We assist the team in its own development. We connect the group with a network of urban churches. We help them formulate a plan. We guide the team in discovering financial support. And, we assist with the launch of the church plant.

Coaching: MetroGrace coaches teams to establish new urban churches. For at least two years, the team leader meets regularly with a coach. Encouragement, advice and assistance are provided during these formative years of the new church.

Our Goal: When we’ve accomplished our purpose, at least ten biblically relevant, reproducing churches will glorify God by transforming lives in neighborhoods throughout the city. These believers will renew their city by acting to influence their culture. And Philadelphia will truly become the City of Brotherly Love.

If interested in joining MetroGrace on a small group, summer internship or a church-planting team contact Kurt Miller / kurt@metrograce.org / @kurtmiller01

Training Trainers: A New Paradigm for Discipleship

Church Planting, Discipleship, Equipping, Other Authors, Scripture, Uncategorized

I could not have said it any better. A must read for anyone interested in advancing the Church as Jesus directed us.

The Asian Rough Rider

No one likes to be told they are doing something wrong, especially leaders, pastors and church planters. We’ve devoted our lives to growing the Church but have we been doing it all wrong? I hate it when I’m wrong. My pride always says that I am right. But my pride can’t argue with results.

The results say that more churches have been started in the last 50 years than in all 2,000 years of church history combined. The results say that in the last decade, God used a humble Asian-American missionary couple to launch a discipleship movement of more than 140,000 new churches and more than 2 million baptisms in one Chinese city. There are dozens more examples from all around the developing world.

For us outsiders in the West who are looking in we’re saying, “That ain’t right! How can this be? Let’s analyze this until we are blue…

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Eternal Life

Church Planting, Discipleship, Scripture, Uncategorized

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Eternal life is a free gift, based on God’s grace.

  • “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
  • This might surprise you, but Heaven cannot be earned or deserved.
  • “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
  • Grace is what God wants to give you, but which you do not deserve.
  • It is amazing, but true; God wants you to go to heaven. Eternal life is a free gift!

People in themselves do not deserve the gift of heaven. Why?

  • We are sinners by nature and by choice.
  • “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
  • We are incapable of doing good according to God’s standards.
  • “…There is no one who does good, not even one” (Romans 3:12).
  • “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10).
  • People cannot save themselves.
  • “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:5).

There is a penalty for sin.

  • God is love – He doesn’t want to judge you.
  • “The Lord…is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
  • But, God is also just – He must judge sin.
  • “Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished” (Exodus 34:7).
  • “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), i.e. physical death and also spiritual death (separation from God).
  • Our basic needs are: forgiveness, eternal life and peace with God.
  • So, people try religion, good deeds, materialism, self-acclaim, etc, to satisfy their needs, but these do not solve the problem of sin.
  • But remember, God is love. He has the solution!

Jesus Christ is your only way to Heaven.

  • Who He is – the infinite God-man.
  • “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:1,14).
  • What He did – He paid the penalty for our sins, and purchased a place in heaven for us!
  • “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
  • “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).
  • “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Personal faith in Jesus Christ is the answer.

  • Faith is not – merely believing a fact.
  • “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder” (James 2:19).
  • Many people agree that Jesus Christ lived and died, and they even believe in His resurrection! But, they have not turned from sin and trusted Him.
  • Faith is – turning from your sin and trusting in Jesus Christ alone for your eternal salvation.
  • “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
  • “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).
  • “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).
  • The Bible says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).

Can you think of any reason why you wouldn’t want to invite Jesus Christ into your life right now? Might I suggest a simple prayer?

Dear Lord,

Thank you for the gift of eternal life. I know I am a sinner and that I cannot save myself. I believe Jesus is the Son of God and that He died for my sins and rose again from the dead to give me eternal life. I now put my complete trust in You alone for eternal life. Thank you for saving me. In Jesus name, Amen!

 

This post reflects my heart passion and was inspired by a booklet entitled, “Life’s Most Important Question” published by BMH, P.O. Box 544, Winona Lake, IN 46590, http://www.bmhbooks.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have We Got ‘Equipping’ Right?

Church Planting, Discipleship, Equipping, Philadelphia, Urban Ministry, Urban Poverty

 

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Within my denominational affiliation I serve on a team called E-Net. The purpose of the team is to shine a light on the need for pastors and churches to better understand and implement the biblical mandate to ‘equip the saints.’  A recent summary communication from our E-Net team says, “Equipping grows directly out of Ephesians 4:11-16, one of the most significant passages of the New Testament, yet one of the most neglected. Why is it neglected? One reason is that too many people do not realize that in this passage the terms “apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, and teacher” refer to functions in the church, and not positions.

“Another reason is that adopting an equipping culture represents a huge paradigm shift. Our [pastoral] training emphasizes preparing us for doing ministry, rather than for equipping others in ministry. We can do ministry better and faster than having to equip others to do it, and much of our identity comes from doing it ourselves. Too many think that equipping and training are synonyms. However, the root meaning of katartismon (equipping) is to bind or to join. Though you cannot equip without training, you can train without equipping. Equipping incorporates joining believers to ministry opportunities. Equipping transforms ministry consumers into ministry participants.”

E-Net’s position is this:

  1. Every church is to fulfill each of the five ministry functions of Ephesians 4:11.
  2. The Lord sends gifted people to every church to serve as “joints and ligaments,” the mid-level leaders committed to helping join the members to ministries.
  3. To equip is to identify both the ministry needs and the available people, seeking to bring them together, usually through involvement in ministry teams.
  4. Through equipping the entire church grows up into Christ, the Head, from whom the whole body is joined and held together by every supporting ligament.
  5. As a result, the church grows and is built up in love, as each part does its work.

I serve in Philadelphia with MetroGrace. We believe God has called us together to raise-up followers of Jesus who help release neighborhoods from Satan’s strongholds by starting gospel-centered and community-based churches. Last year Anecia (my wife) and I had this sense that we could be part of God’s answer to the cries of the the city, and especially those of the urban poor. We relocated our lives to focus our best attention on loving God and neighbors in need in Philadelphia.

While it is easy for our MetroGrace team to be overwhelmed by what is in front of us each day, we sense a call to multiply ourselves and to see more light shine in dark places. We have no desire to help build a mega institution as a vehicle for our own benefit. Rather, we seek to raise-up teams of Christian workers able to go and pioneer, reproduce and multiply strategic neighborhood mission churches throughout the city, and especially among the urban poor. This means that we must get equipping right!

One of my core convictions is ‘organic growth’ which for me means using reproducible models of nurturing, equipping and raising-up of new teams and leaders as the means of growing workers and local Jesus-centered (gospel-centered) movements from within our communities. Responding to urban poverty, helping spark Christian movements in neighborhoods, seeing real transformation requires us “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”  (Ephesians 4:12 NIV). We cannot depend solely or primarily on outside help. We must equip the saints!

We are committed to assisting MetroGrace to become a gospel-centered, community-based church planting movement. This will have the greatest opportunity for success as we follow the five-point recommendations of E-Net. We must train our folks, and future church-planting team members, to grow new believers into Jesus-centered workers, serving together in teams, to impact their neighborhoods for real community transformation.

Your thoughts?

Unique Challenges Facing Urban Church Planters

Church Planting, cities, Discipleship, Equipping, Notable Blogs, Other Authors, Philadelphia, Urban Ministry

Unique Challenges Facing Urban Church Planters
by J. Allen Thompson

Paul G. Hiebert, a keen observer of the mission of the church worldwide, pinpoints the unique opportunities for witness in the urban sphere. He notes that in the age of globalism, in contrast with other periods in history, we face both secularism and postmodernism. Secularism, a view that denies the existence of God, marginalizes those who continue to hold religious convictions, because it relegates religion to the private sphere of personal opinions and feelings. Postmodernism, in contrast, affirms spiritual experience but views it as pragmatic and relative.

The basic religious debate in city culture, therefore, centers on the uniqueness of Christ and his claim to be the only way to salvation. In dialoguing with non-Christians to help them discover and appropriate truth, church planters need to examine their approach carefully. For non-Christians the usual form of gospel communication may be totally unfamiliar, like learning a foreign language. Also, postmodern people may require a different approach because of their method of making personal decisions.

Tim Keller has extensively studied ways to address postmodern non-Christians in both one-on-one and worship contexts. He believes the best context for worship is a mix of Christians and non-Christians together. In a mixed group, when the preacher speaks somewhat more to non-Christians, the Christians present learn how to share the faith; on the other hand, when the preacher speaks more to Christians, the non-Christians present come to see how Christianity “works.” Keller adds that more deeply secular postmodern non-Christians tend to decide about the faith on pragmatic grounds; they do not examine it in a detached, intellectual way.

Also, they are more likely to make their commitment through a long process of mini-decisions. They will want to try Christianity on to see how it fits their problems and how it fleshes out in real life. The process may fol- low a pattern such as this:

+ Awareness: “This is it.” Clearing the ground of stereotypes. Distinguishing the gospel from legalism or liberalism, and distinguishing core truths from peripheral issues.

+ Relevance: “I need it.” Showing the slavery of both religion and irreligion. Showing the transforming power of the gospel and how the gospel “works.”

+ Credibility: “I need it because it’s true. ”Reversing the modern view, which says, “It is true if I need it.” Seekers must see the gospel’s reasonableness, or there will be no endurance to their faith decision.

+ Trial: “I see what it would be like.” In group life and in service ministries, they try Christianity on, often talking like Christians or defending the faith.

+ Commitment: “I take it.” Sometimes this is the point of real conversion. This may have already happened in the past; or it may happen later on.

+ Reinforcement: “Now I get it.” Typically, a period of follow-up is the time when the penny drops and the gospel becomes clear. We will now examine some of the more specific challenges using New York City as a case study.

SOCIAL CLIMATE: ETHNIC DIVERSITY REQUIRES “PEOPLE SENSITIVITY”

Primarily through attracting new immigrants, New York City is the only U.S. northern industrial city with a sustained net population gain in the last one hundred years. While the population grows, the city also experiences a large turnover in population, which creates change in the social and demographic makeup. Tony Carnes, president of the Values Research Institute, articulates the following concerns.

+ Migration is a catastrophe for newcomers to the city. It disrupts marriages, children, and families. Newcomers will either accept new customs and habits or reject, synthesize, fall apart, or go another path. During the first two years as they are seeking assimilation, immigrants tend to be open to the gospel.

+ Newcomers struggle with income and education: 35% have incomes below $22,000; 52% are ages eighteen to thirty-four, but only 17% have college degrees; 46% are single, and 33% are single mothers; and 39% attend religious services regularly.

+ New immigrants include 30% Caribbean, 26% Asian, 25% European, 5% African, 4% South American, 2% Central American, and 1% Canadian individuals. These new immigrants represent dozens of languages and cultures.

+ The Hispanic population is 27% of New York City’s residents, which is larger than the African American population. Most are from Puerto Rico (38%) and the Dominican Republic (27%).

To plant churches in this city, we must develop great sensitivity to the ethnic groupings mentioned above, as well as to their social networks. Communities in the city are a patchwork quilt of neighborhoods, representing a large mix of people from various nations. Odd as it may seem, since identities are unknown there is a great deal of intimacy among strangers; however, they relate in distinctive ways, depending on their education, occupation, wealth (or lack thereof), and language preference. For example, Hispanics and Asians possess the commonality of entering into a white world; yet individuals’ social standing will make them comfortable in some groupings and uncomfortable in others.

To design the model of church that will reach these communities effectively, church planters therefore need to do extensive demographic and ethnographic studies. Assumptions should be avoided and conclusions must not be drawn too quickly, especially not until people profiles of particular neighborhoods are completed.

CULTURAL LEARNING: A PREREQUISITE FOR CHURCH PLANTERS

Missionaries entering a new culture abroad often realize the necessity of learning the language, customs, and lifestyles of the people with whom they will live. Because New York City is in North America and the major language is English, church planters from within the United States sometimes fail to realize the importance of “putting on the missionary hat” and learning new ways of thinking, acting, and relating. This is a significant mistake.

Paul Hiebert describes the “bicultural bridge” as the quality of interpersonal relationships between human beings—between missionaries (church planters) and the people they serve. The biculture is a new culture that arises in the interaction of people from two different cultural backgrounds. Church planters coming to New York City from other parts of North America bring with them their own cultural maps: they have ideas of how to dress, what to eat, who should raise their children, how to worship properly, and many other things. No matter how hard they try, they cannot “go native” in New York City. They cannot fully erase their child- hood culture, even if they attempt it, and they are also influenced by the new culture they enter—the culture of New York City.

New Yorkers who interact with the church planter also become part of the biculture, adding their own ideas about child rearing, family values, worship preferences, etc. In relationship with the church planter, however, they are also exposed to new ideas and beliefs. To relate to one another productively, the church planter and the New Yorkers must create new patterns of working, playing, and worshiping—a new culture, or biculture.

Consequently, the first months of the church planter’s life on the new project must be spent in learning the ways of those he seeks to serve and in developing a bicultural community. Questions he may seek to answer will range from personal habits to ministry values:

+ What type of apartment should I live in?
+ What types of clothes should be worn?
+ Where should the children go to school?
+ What values should the new church demonstrate?
+ What should be the philosophy of ministry for the new church?

This process of learning culture—and the incarnation that results—is called “identification” in cross-cultural lingo, but the process does not deny who we are originally. It is a bipersonal state we choose in order to be- come one with the people we seek to serve. The months of learning the local culture will be rewarding and will yield benefits for the future church-planting project. Don’t skip this process or attempt to downgrade it; it is not minority people engagement but urban culture engagement.

FINANCIAL COST OF MINISTRY IN THE CITY

Based on an understanding of Christ’s incarnation (he “made his dwelling among us,” John 1:14), church planters should live in their ministry’s target area. In all global cities, the cost of living is high. For example, a small (800 square feet) two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan rents for more than $3,000 a month. Purchasing facilities for worship is unthinkable; renting adequate places for worship (schools, churches, synagogues, theaters, community centers, etc.) is always challenging and costly. This means a church planter and his family may need upwards of $100,000 to $250,000 a year for living and ministry expenses.

Churches and individuals helping to support a church plant in the city need to understand and accept these budgetary challenges. As they begin the support-raising process, church planters should develop a well-prepared Church Plant Proposal document that includes the following components.

+ an executive summary of the vision
+ a brief demographic profile of the target area
+ a biographical sketch of the church planter
+ a summary of the proposed budget

Donors will respond to a compelling vision of a ministry that meets the needs of people, versus a bland financial presentation.

LIMITATIONS OF WORSHIP VENUES IN THE CITY

The church planter’s action plan may envision a start-up congregation of seventy-five to one hundred, with ample room for growth. Finding a corresponding meeting place in the city at the right hour on Sunday be- comes a difficult chore. Often goals and projections will require modifications because of venue constraints. Flexibility and creativity on the part of the church planter (CP) to enhance a poorly designed meeting place is often required. For example, renting a theater on Sunday morning may be feasible but also tricky, as a dark and windowless site will require additional lighting. Clever use of the large screen, however, could result in a well-lit space.

USE OF INAPPROPRIATE MODELS

Church planters are often impressed by what they have seen other planters do in a new situation. The self-talk goes like this: “That’s impressive; it would not be too difficult to duplicate; I can do that.” The rush to borrow methodologies and neglect the learning stage may result in tragic contextual misjudgments.

To develop the appropriate model, the CP should move to the target area as soon as possible, do a walking tour of the area, begin networking in the community, gain information in the context of relationships, and then summarize and analyze the data providing implications for the right type of model.

PREMATURE TIMING OF PUBLIC LAUNCH

By “going public,” I mean moving from the informal meetings of small-group Bible studies to the full-blown meetings of a Sunday worship service. The timing of the public launch is critical for any church plant, but for church planters in the city, the importance of right timing is heightened by greater financial constraints and sponsor expectations. This pressure can be intense, as missteps at this critical juncture will have serious con- sequences for the church plant.

In addition to gathering enough people to create momentum, the CP must prepare for the many activities and logistics necessary for setting up a site and welcoming people. This takes time and careful planning, with the added pressure of having only one shot to get it right. People visiting for the first time will make up their minds quickly whether or not to return. Thus, the CP needs to make sure he is ready both physically and spiritually for the public launch.

During this time, the CP will benefit greatly from having a coach. Together the CP and the coach must develop a well-crafted plan for the first twelve months of the project, identifying how people will be reached, how often they will meet as a emerging core group, and so on. Before the public launch takes place, the CP must have a solid core of leaders to assimilate, new believers to disciple, and several small groups operating with their own leaders.

Whatever is planned for the life of the church must be in place from the beginning. With the first fifty or seventy-five people, attention is focused on gathering as a congregation, developing an infrastructure, and building a sense of momentum. With emerging momentum and a clear vision for the project, the CP is ready to strike with the public launch!

THE CHALLENGE OF DEVELOPING LEADERS IN HIGH TURNOVER URBAN CONTEXTS

Church planters in the urban context face the added challenge of working in a highly fluid environment. The rapid turnover and high attrition rate of city dwellers poses a major challenge to the CP seeking to develop committed leaders in his nascent congregation. Often the core leaders assume the burden of the many tasks required in a new church, and some burn out. New people are not helping out yet, but the work needs to be delegated to others. The following are some ways to involve others.

+ Take more risks. When you need something done, give it to somebody new instead of relying on old standbys.

+ Learn to recruit. Start compiling a list of workers—bookkeepers, greeters, ushers, social organizers, a setup crew. Among those who take on these types of jobs you will find those who want to go deeper in their responsibilities.

+ Establish apprenticeships. In all areas of leadership training, instill in followers the concept of every leader having an apprentice. In this way, leadership is multiplying and replacements are being trained.

+Develop a leadership training plan for the long term.

What are some of the unexpected challenges that you’ve faced planting a church in a city?
How have you prepared for the unexpected in church planting?

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in The Gospel and Life conferences of 2004 and 2005 and is posted here from Redeemer City to City with permission. The image used was taken by Ecstaticist.

Ministry Update and Prayer Requests

Church Planting, cities, Philadelphia, Rambling Thoughts, Uncategorized, Urban Ministry

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Yesterday I drove to York, PA, about a 2 hour drive west of Philadelphia. Through the years Pastor Dan White and the church family have supported the ministry of church planting in Philadelphia through their prayers and finances. It was a nice time of reacquainting with the church. When I was with North American Missions I consulted with the church, helping them to plant a new church in their area. It was enjoyable to reconnect with several of the men and women who served on the church-planting steering committee; it was wonderful to hear of their continued interest and concern for our church-planting efforts, now in Philly. Will you join me in prayer for the York Grace Brethren Church?

I drove home in time to attend church at Wissinoming at 6:00 PM. I was hoping to find Kareem out on the street and to invite him into the service. I had met Kareem, a young African-American man, last Sunday night after church sitting on the steps of the Laundromat next to the church. We had a nice conversation. I invited him to come to church next week. I knew it was a long shot, especially because it was raining and cold. I didn’t find him, but I will continue looking for him again. Will you pray for Kareem?

Last Friday evening I had a chance to speak with and pray for a nurse assistant. He is separated from his girlfriend and three-year old daughter. He was very open to talk to me, especially after he found out that I am a pastor. He had several questions about his relationship with his girlfriend and his concern for his daughter. I prayed with him and told him that I’d be back to the hospital this week, seeing a patient, and will look for him so that we can talk further. He lives in North Philly. Will you pray for him? His name is Thomas.

This coming Sunday, March 9, we will be presenting a ministry update at Lehigh Valley Grace Brethren Church in Bethlehem, PA, about an hour north of Philadelphia. Pastor Larry Humberd and the church family have been another prayer and financial supporter of MetroGrace for many years. The church added Anecia and me to their 2014 missionary budget for which we are so thankful! Will you pray for us as we present the ministry in Bethlehem this coming Sunday, March 9? Will you also pray for Lehigh Valley Grace Brethren Church? Thank you!

Both Pastor Dan and Pastor Larry have been dear friends of mine for many years. It is so nice to reconnect and visit with longtime friends, isn’t it? It is equally nice to meet new people, especially those who need the Lord. I have enjoyed meeting several of our neighbors and people that God brings across my path through His sovereign design. I have distributed several dozen Gospel tracts through casual contact, and have been able to impress upon folks that God loves them. I didn’t find Kareem, but I did meet a lady on the same Laundromat steps last night after church, sitting there in the rain. Her name is Marie. She said that she believes in Jesus Christ as her personal Savior, but that she does not attend church right now. She is about my age and seemed lonely. Will you pray for Marie? I welcomed her to attend our church on Sunday morning or evening. I’d like to introduce her to Anecia.

Two weeks ago I met with two staff leaders with CCO (Coalition for Christian Outreach), a university outreach ministry. They are quite interested in further dialogue about a partnership with us on the many campuses in this great city! On another note, on March 27 I will be meeting with students at Lancaster Bible College. Will you please pray about a potential relationship with CCO, and for my visit at Lancaster Bible College?

Well, as you can see, there is a lot to do – so many people who need the Lord and many opportunities that God is bringing across our paths. Thank you for your prayer support. As you are able, thank you also for your financial support. We are here only because of God and His provision through your financial support for our ministry and this city. Thank you so much!

Blessings,

Kurt and Anecia Miller

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