reload The Race by Maurice McCracken

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Local church - hope of the world

posted by Little Mo | Permalink |
Both my brother and Tim Chester have drawn my attention to this report on the role of the local church in sustainable development work.

It makes interesting reading, and is a wonderful commendation of God's Gospel community modelling his grace to the world.

Tim makes the suggestion that Tearfund's next logical step should be to start planting churches for the poor.

I admit to having several reservations about that. Church planting nearly always needs to be organic in my experience - resulting from believers being somewhere and meeting together. I'm not sure how a very corporate (in a good way) organisation like Tear Fund can faciitate that without being controlling. I may be wrong - it happens.

My other reservation may come from my professional status! But there does in many church circles at the moment seem to be an appeal to church planting as a panacea to all ills. I have come across a rather unappealing macho "how many churches have you planted?" approach to ministry.

My experience of local church is that even at its best it is not a brilliant driver to new and radical projects. Furthermore, I think the real risk of church planting for particular people is that church quickly becomes homogoneous - a church for the poor unchurched and a different one for he middle class churched.

I heard Tim Keller say recently that church is there to be broad (heterogeneously, not theologically) and para church is there to take us deep - to lend the church particular expertise in getting deep into a particular subculture, in the hope of drawing those people to being Christians who love others different than them.

I applaud Tear Fund highlighting the work of the local church which is, after all, God's expression of his wisdom. But I would, if they were to ask my advice (and they haven't!) counsel against churches being "set up" for particular groups of people.

7 Comments:

Blogger gethin said...

That distinction from Keller is interesting - I should probably think about it more but I'm pretty sure that's really helpful!

2:07 AM  
Blogger Andy said...

thanks Mo, good and helpful in all sorts of ways but I guess particularly in your reflections on church planting being organic: you've given words to a hunch I've

2:38 AM  
OpenID peteincyberspace said...

I understood Tim Chester to be saying what was needed was churches that will reach and have a vision for the poor, rather than homogeneous churches made up of the poor. And the church planting bit was for those places where there currently is no church. Makes perfect sense to me. In fact, it sort of sounds like the great commission.

I agree about the 'church planting as panacea for all ills' comments you make. And about how some strategies of church planting have an unhealthy focus on homogeneity. But that doesn't, I think, negate the observation that since the poor are best (materially) served where there is a gospel community, a part of any plan to relieve poverty must go hand in hand with gospel mission, which is always ecclesiocentric (and where there is no existing church, involves the formation of one).

2:44 AM  
Blogger Little Mo said...

Ok Pete, maybe I misunderstood.

However, I don't see how a para-church organisation that focusses on a particular demographic could plant churches that were anything other than homogenous. Its one of the reasons why I am not, for example, in favour of UCCF beginning to plant churches. Student churches? Just what we don't need.

The other thing I have noticed is that when church plants "belong to" any particular denomination or network they become convinced that they need a church of their type everywhere, not just places where there are no evangelical churches. My own church suffered this recently with someone blogging about the great church planting need in Liverpool because there wasn't a church linked to their network.

I fear this is what would happen if TF began church planting.

12:28 PM  
OpenID peteincyberspace said...

Yeah, I see yr point. I guess I'd assumed that TF being involved in church planing wouldn't mean them planting as much as them being in partnership with others in order to make planting happen. Just like their poor relief programmes now involve such partnerships (and therefore involve more than just the poor they are 'targeting'). Fair point though, and as re. UCCF and 'student' churches, I totally agree.

The other problem you mention is a real one too. The solution is surely not less planting, or no denominations, but better partnership between gospel churches, and a greater level of generosity towards those in a different denom.

12:13 AM  
Blogger Little Mo said...

Hi Pete. Maybe so on your first point.

In your second, I agree that's what's needed. But where large para church organisations take on responsibility for planting (as opposed to it happening organically locally through partnership) I think it inevitably happens.

8:13 AM  
Anonymous Dan Lee said...

I know the leader of Tear Fund and he was fully involved in Church planting before leading the organisation. It's good to know that there is a keen heart for the poor and the church influencing how things are done in that arena. I don't however think that tear fund should plant churches, the mold is wrong.

Obviously in the past, churches were the ones who started initiatives such as Tear Fund. Schools, hospitals and orphanages to name a few. Somewhere down the line mission now known as "parachurch" became separate to many churches even trying to win it's attention through appeals. It's not what God designed. The Church needs to be at the heart of all mission because as well as a responsibility for the poor it has a responsibility to worship God.

A church isn't a Church when it's been robbed of it's work, it's no wonder people think church isn't relevant in the UK. Thankfully we are seeing a restoration in this area. Thank God it's not just down to us but that He is involved and wont let his Bride die!

2:10 PM  

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