Continuing discussion of Chester and Timmis Total Church: a radical reshaping around gospel and community
Chapter 5 is on Church Planting
This is another good chapter.
The authors begin this chapter by arguing that church planting is where mission and community intersect and represents the core missionary activity of the church.
Since we are in a missionary situation all we do must be missionary – and engaging in church planting is the best way to keep in missionary mode. Mission is to be done by a community of believers in their local context.
They quote Lesslie Newbigin here on how the local authentic believing community is a powerful hermeneutic of the gospel. It is not through evangelistic campaigns, programmes or techniques that mission will advance, but through local communities of Christians in which ‘the reality of the new creation is present, known and experienced.’
NT models of church planting are described by the authors as pointing to the sorts of ideas that inform the missional practice in The Crowded House:
– Networks of reproducing communities
– Meeting in homes, not purpose built buildings or with big budgets
– Small communities facilitating discipleship and pastoral care, not one big group
– A simplicity that protects against a maintenance mentality
– A style that is participatory and inclusive
– A strategy of reproduction by regular division
– Keeping a ‘first generation’ freshness by ongoing low cost church planting
– Where church planting is part and parcel of normal church life
I like a lot of this. I’m part of a church plant and it does give a whole new dimension to church compared to being part of a well-established church. It does give a great sense of community and of shared mission. It does foster a high level of participation and involvement. It is enjoyable – it’s hard to get people to go home after our meetings on Sundays!
However, it also differs from Chester & Timmis’ model. We are part of a large denomination. It cost a lot to set up with a leader, evangelist, two homes and so is expensive, although we don’t have the cost of a church building since we meet in a secondary school.
In terms of reproducibility I think the model used with us is pretty high cost. This means few churches will be planted – so its not surprising that our church plant is one of the very few genuinely ‘fresh starts’ in the PCI in the last 100 years. IMHO what is needed is low cost, experimental and reproducable models of church planting something like what Chester and Timmis outline. These sorts of experiments need to be risked and not stifled in loads of bureaucracy.
What do you reckon, could such forms of new churches work within a bigger denomination?
What are the pros and cons of such networks of ‘low key’ house churches in an Irish context?
One things seems clear – as Christendom contracts and denominations decline, older models of institutional church are dying. The sorts of ideas Chester & Timmis are talking about will probably become more and more relevant.