Fallow Fields: 20 ways to waste time while not planting churches

Sorry for the long delay between posts. Url has been away in the only patch of North America without internet access. I recently listened to a speaker praise the state of the church in America. He lauded the efforts of politically active conservatives, affirmed the family-friendly movies being released, said the sale of pornographic magazines has taken a dive for 10 years, and was excited that churches are growing bigger than ever - all because Christians in America are living holy lives.

Apparently he hasn't read Ron Sider's book The Scandel of the Evangelical Conscience where surveys reveal American evangelicals aren't living any holier than their secular neighbors. Nor has he studied the report by Outreach Magazine, "The American Church in Crisis" that found church attendance in the U.S. isn't keeping up with the population growth. And does anyone really believe pornography use is declining because fewer magazines are being sold?

His positive, if ill-informed, message reminded me of something sent to us by Steve Addison, the Australian Director of Church Resource Ministries. Steve is passionate about church planting and has written a tongue-in-cheek list of suggestions for the church in America (or anywhere else the church is losing ground).

We've had some good input lately on why we're not seeing church planting movements in the developed world to the same degree we're seeing in the global south. If that's the case, we need to find something to do while nothing's happening. Here are 20 suggestions for what to do while we're not multiplying churches.

1. Call yourself an apostle. Have some business cards printed. Hand them around.

2. Throw lots of money at subsidizing unhealthy, declining churches.

3. Throw money at "experimental missional initiatives" and never evaluate their effectiveness.

4. Set goals for multiplying new churches but don't make it clear who is responsible to accomplish the goals.

5. Make someone responsible but don't give them any real authority, discretionary time, or funding. Change the appointment every two years. After ten years, save money by retiring the position and making everyone else responsible.

6. Appoint a committee to undertake a study and write a report. Wait three years then do it again.

7. Hire a consultant to undertake a study and write a report. Wait three years then do it again.

8. Appoint the wrong people to plant churches. When they fail conclude that church planting doesn't work.

9. When you see a healthy church plant say, "Yes it's growing but it's not really a (choose one) Reformed/Baptist/Assemblies of God/Presbyterian/Methodist/New Vine/etc. church."

August 10, 2006

Displaying 1–10 of 13 comments


September 02, 2006  11:24pm

Should it really matter if a church is big or small? I mean in Acts the church grew in "large numbers" virtually overnight. I don't think the answer is make the church smaller, or implement better programs to make it more commercial and appealing to a younger market. What matters is how much do we love our Bridegroom Christ Jesus? How are we showing his kingdom to the world around us? That is the purpose of the church. Our chief aim should be not to debate endlessly in circles about how to fix the structure of a imperfect man-made church structure. Our chief aim and goal in life should be to bring glory to God and His kingdom.

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August 29, 2006  11:14pm

So you're telling me that when I mourn over the thousands of churches that close every year, I should dry my tears and spend my time and effort (and money) recreating what's closing its doors down the street? In the last church (just before I left), I did suggest that if they were not willing to spend all the savings to reach the thousand homes (and multiple hundreds of children), they should close the doors and give away the 250-seat auditorium and 5 acres of debt-free property. God and I are having this conversation this week. Do I take early retirement from the well-paying job and take my materialistic kids into ministry? Do I take time for seminary or launch straight into saving a failing congregation? Or do I sit back in my pew and let someone else spread the Gospel?

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August 21, 2006  11:09pm

Very interesting comments. I am a church planter. I had no training for it when i did my theological degree. I never intended to be a church planter but that wasn't God's plans. We have broken the mould, we are doing church different, we run a cafe style. Three separate and distinct parts. Food and fellowship: Teaching adn Discussion: Praise and Prayer. yes we do get financial help from our National Church but we are not in North America. Down here in NZ we like to take the bit of fence wire we have, use whatever God has given and pray like crazy. This is God's idea not mine and i just trust He will bring fruit. And even if He doesn't is it not a failure to not have tried?

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Melinda Godwin

August 21, 2006  11:07pm

Wow! I almost fell out of my computer chair on that story! Im not a church-planter,but a disciple of Christ, and have been greived at the commercialization of Christianity. Seems like whoever has the biggest church, and the flashiest clothes is the "New Christian". So everyone should desire a church like that. But what about what Jesus said? "where 2 or more gather in my name,there shall I be." Isnt that a church? Food for thought,people. Praise God for the small churches. At least I know who they are. I feel lost in a mega-church.

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Cory Miller

August 15, 2006  8:46pm

Wow ... so true it's hilarious, but I also want to weep because it hits so close to home. Good post, but it hurts.

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Steve Addison

August 15, 2006  7:59am

Thanks for posting the article and for the encouraging comments. Steve Addison www.steveaddison.net

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August 14, 2006  6:04pm

This posting difinetly offers some things to mull over. What distresses me is the fact that we North Americans often put the proverbial cart before the horse. Back in the book of Acts Jesus, before ascending to Heaven, "commanded [His disciples] not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised." A few verses later He says, "but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; you shall be my witnesses. . . ." We do not like to wait on God – for anything, or for any period of time. I wonder if, like Saul in the Old Testament, we are so overly concerned about 'doing something for God' (in his case, offering sacrifices prior to battle without the presence of Samuel), that we fail to wait on God for what He would have us do. God is not bound to our corporate American models of doing church (selling our product). He is not glorified by our blind 'just do it' attitude. Neither is He pleased with our status quo half-heartedness. God will build his Church. We need to learn to listen, though, to how He would see this come about,and then faithfully and diligently act upon it. Unfortunately we tend to vascillate between one of the two extremes (i.e. we're more comfortable just doing nothing and call it waiting on God, or we invest quickly and greedily into the next alluring spiritual get-rich-quick scheme). Where is God in any of this?

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August 14, 2006  12:55pm

"20. ...smoke and mirrors" There exists in the church as a whole an unwillingness to express truth, to live truth, to even acknowledge truth's existence. The aforementioned list describes, sadly, what really is occuring in the American Church as a whole, and yet what gives me encouragement is when, with absolute clarity, a basic truth comes forth. "Smoke and mirrors" is what we've been doing for so long that we are no longer capable of feeling our way out of the wet paper bag, much less tearing a hole in the wall to get out. Now, to the larger question...how do we undo the mess we've created?

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roger ferrell

August 14, 2006  10:28am

Thanks for a great post. I work with Geoff Baggett who commented above with Mission M Possible, which raises up students in church planting. I also pastor a church. One of the concerns I have in mentoring church planters is that many of my guys who are just starting out already have plans for a worldwide ministry, are designing a church planting school, and are wanting to write articles and books on church planting their way. It feels to me that they are putting the cart before the horse and the horse may get dragged to death in the process. When we say "church planting" we need to reference the day to day forming of evangelistic relationships, the intentional making of disciples, and the establishment of biblical community. All else needs to be put to the side until we reach a stage when the culture of our church is a going culture, when there is a breadth of leadership, and when we are multiplying the local church into church plants elsewhere. Only then does a pastor/leader have freedom to write how-to books, give conferences and set up the world-wide church planting network. Church planting is hard work, and experts are very few and far between. Most of us would better serve the kingdom if we would stay in the trenches, getting up in the morning, taking our people to meet new people and telling them about Jesus.

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August 13, 2006  9:53am

My favorite is number: 14. In the 1960's change the word "missions" to "mission." To usher in the new millennium change "mission" to "missional." Around 2010 plan to change "missional" to "postmissional." Buzzwords make the movement! (I have a blog on Emerging Buzzwords and this is one of them) I'd like to add a few of my own. 1. Get a more prominent tatoo. 2. Tell people in big churches that God doesn't honor big. 3. Kneel in prayer and ask God for his guidance. (Oops, sorry, this is supposed to be 'tongue in cheek') 4. Practice preaching in riddles so at the end of a service, no one knows exactly what you said. Psalm 127:1 "Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain."

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