Dear Young(ish) Mainline Pastor Type People: Please Plant a Church

I am about to write something that I’m sure is almost completely at odds with what I hear a lot of youngish (particularly progressive) types that I know saying. So, here’s the disclaimer: If you believe yourself to be the exception to what follows, then you’re the exception. I’m not interested in fighting you about this.

UPDATE: Further thoughts here.

I know a lot of people who are damn smart and gifted in all things church. They have obviously been called by God to be a minister of some sort. Many of them are pastors and teachers in the classic sense, in that their gifts are the leading and instructing of communities. Given the circles I run in, most of these folks are mid 20’s to late 30’s. They are hip and smart. They love the church that birthed them in faith, but they aren’t necessarily content with it. They see themselves as “agents of change working to preserve tradition.”

Yet among these folks, I notice an odd tension being held. In some places and with some people it is an extremely strong tension, and, I admit, I would like to break it like a rubber band that’s been pulled too far.

The tension I see is the result of what I consider to be two contradictory desires regarding the church.

  1. There are people want to do something crazy and radical, to imagine church in a new way, to sometimes buck the system or jack with the status quo,
  2. and they want the system/status quo to pay for it.

Am I the only one who sees a problem here? Not only do we want to “screw up the church,” but we also want the little old ladies pay for it? And then we have the audacity to be aggrieved when it doesn’t pan out? Come on. I thought we were smarter than this.

Certainly, I acknowledge that there might be an argument to be made (and many do make it) that the church has promised us something. Many people believe that they were encouraged to pursue ordained ministry and told that there would be a “job waiting for them” when they came out of the other side. I must be honest that I’m never sure what to do with that claim, for I only know a couple of people who were kinda sorta told that, but not really. This is mostly something that I think we throw around as an emotional ploy.  More accurately, I think that rather than promising people something we, instead, do an awful job of reminding them that ministry is a tough racket, not for the faint of heart, and that “No, Landon, you’re not really cut out for this.”

(Again, if you’re the exception then you’re the exception. But not everyone gets to be the exception, and I hope we can be honest about this.)

But getting stuck here is not ultimately helpful. Spending our energies trying to convince the church to love us and let us do what we believe in our heart of hearts that we’ve been called to is, I think, a waste of time. Sure, get out your frustration and anger, but then get over it and move on to something productive. Trust me, I’ve been the guy at the Jr. High dance begging a girl to like me. It ain’t fun, and you don’t want to be wrapped up in that.

So here’s Landon’s First Law of Church Work: The system does not pay you to buck it.

That’s a fact. No amount of bitching is going to change it. We need to stop spending our time trying to play like the new church while expecting to get paid like the old.

So. What’s a young(ish) mainline pastor type to do with themselves? Plant a church. Now. Today. Go do it.

“How?” you ask. I suggest taking a look at the experience of our non-denominational brother and sisters.

My uncle used to coach non-denom church planters, and here’s what he would help them do: Find a job in a “ripe” area (define that as you will) that would pay them just enough to pay the bills, but not enough to sap the hunger of needing to do something worthwhile. Then, start gathering a community.

That’s it.

Sure there were conversations about logistical things, but mostly it was my uncle kicking some planter’s butt to do what they said they believed God was calling them to do. Listening to my uncle talk about it, I noticed a difference between what he was helping folks do and what we seem to think it should be like. The pastors my uncle worked with understood that they needed to be responsible for gathering a community. It seems that most of us expect someone to hand us one, even though we’ve never done a day’s worth of evangelism in our lives.

I believe a lot of us have what it takes to start a new worshiping community. But I also believe that we’re scared and lazy. I know I am. I’m petrified and I’m an Introvert to boot.

But one of these days, I’m finally gonna put my money where my mouth is. One of these days, I’m gonna stop foisting my idea of what a church “should be” on a congregation that doesn’t want to be that and go gather folks that see it the way I do.

One of these days, I’m gonna be as faithful as Abraham and simply go East when God says that there’s something cool for me over there.

43 thoughts on “Dear Young(ish) Mainline Pastor Type People: Please Plant a Church”

  1. “The system does not pay you to buck it.”


    But the system, and churches in the system, have said over and over again that they want young people and new churches. I think it’s OK to remind them of their words and ask that they back up those words with some action and some $$.

    Aren’t we the system that has said we want 1000 new faith communities in 10 years? I don’t think it’s fair to say “We want young people in the church we just aren’t going to empower them or financially support new church models that work for them.”

    1. Thanks. I can hear that, but I ultimately think its a waste of our breath. I’d rather us use that energy for something productive and generative.

      As Seth Godin says, “Stop waiting for someone to pick you. Pick yourself.”

      1. I find it interesting that this post is published on the same day that you are promoting the video about hope in the PC(USA).

        The message I’m getting from this post is that for a lot of us who want to do something different in this denomination there is no hope unless we strike out on our own and possibly leave the denomination behind.

        You can’t in one breath say, “There is hope for a broad range of people in our denomination,” and in another breath say, “There is no hope for you to do what you want to do and have the denomination support you.”

        In some ways it reminds me of our stance towards homosexuality. You are somewhat welcome here, but only if you want to be tolerated and not if you want to be really embraced and supported for who you are.

        Landon, a lot of these comments are not meant to be aimed at you. They are more expressing my frustration with a denomination that I love, feel at home in, and want and plan to be a part of for the foreseeable future. One of the reasons I want to see new and different churches succeed is because I think it would be good for our denomination and the established churches in it.

        So it’s hard for me to hear: “Forget doing what you want to do, what you feel a call to do, in cooperation with the PC(USA). The majority of the talk about supporting new church is meaningless and won’t happen.”

        I think we can do better and I think young pastors should be agitating within the system.

      2. My thing is if we pick us and move out in to this new thing what can the denominations offer us? I agree the paradigm has shifted and “we” need to respond. It will take those dirty underwear wearing, bug eating prophets to pave the way. Who can do this? Are we willing to bring our families out in to the wilderness? Where is the parity between the haves and have-nots in the denominations? Do we not support financially those that will bring the denominations out of the 50’s and in to the 21st century? It is a waste of time to beg the powers that be that creative “non-ministries” need to be funded. We need something to give and the risk to be shared. The shared risk fashions to community we seek. Without that shared risk the vine withers away.

    2. Shawn,

      There are a lot of ways of empowering folks that doesn’t involve writing a check. Empower can mean praying for those church planters. It can mean listening to them as they share struggles. And it can also mean kicking them in the butt to get off said posterior and do what God is calling them to do.

      I grew up in the evangelical/non-denom world that Landon talks about. A lot churches were started by folks who were encouraged to plant a church, but they had to make their own living.

      I think at the end of the day it comes down to this: are empowered by the Spirit enough to trust what God is saying and do it? Or are we just waiting until the “conditions are right?” If mainline Christians are going to grow and plant churches, we need to stop waiting for Louisville or Chicago or Indianapolis to do it for us. We have to do it ourselves in faith that God is with us all the way.

      1. Dennis, Then why stay in a denomination? Where is the accountability, the relationship? If the mainline is to reach a new people then the mainline needs to walk with those that wander the desert looking for the promised land.
        If there were not so many of us struggling with student loan debt to acquire the credentials necessary to strike out in the name of our denominations than the idea of working to pay the bills as one ministers would not be so bad.
        Also what do the denominations say to those of us that are reaching out in to a new land and sharing the good news when we work a full time job, serve in full time ministry, and many have families full time to care for? It is not enough to simply leave these adventurous spirits on their own to forge new ways so that the denominations might live. You are either in or out. There is no room for lukewarm postures here, least we be spit out of the mouth of God.

  2. I have a deal. If the church wants to support me, how about they make the payments on my student loans and pay my pension. I will raise, scratch,and beg for the rest.

    I push back on a church that I love and I know can do better. I am done wasting my energy trying to convince those sweet, amazing little ladies that church has changed. It saddens me a bit to think that they will never see the beauty of their wisdom and faith they invested in me as it blooms in another generation of faithful, loving, creative Christians that bear that same wisdom and and faith they possess.

  3. I suggest we look at the fresh new model that Westiminster – Minneapolis is trying out: a large, historic congregation is hiring a pastor to help plant a new, young church community in another area in Minneapolis known as Uptown. This to me seems like a more faithful way to plant and build new congregations. Thia new pastor will be assisted and supervised by the head of staff of Westminster. This is a promising model where the wisdom of the elders can give order to the passionate new ideas of a younger generation, and where the passion of a young generation will in turn help to reignite ardor in the hearts and minds the elders of our church.

  4. ok, admittedly it’s late and i seem to have a headache, but i simply don’t seem able to give up the thought/dream/delusion that there are some churches out there who believe they have nothing left to lose and go for broke and try stuff. and i mean radical stuff. like, baking cookies and giving them to people they don’t know. it could happen. i’ve heard stories. urban legends if you will.

    the thought of starting something from scratch immobilizes me. and not just about church things. tell me to make a dinner? please give me a kitchen with pre-existing ingredients. put me in a library? oh good grief i can’t handle it and don’t know where to start. put me in a room of people without responsibilities? i don’t talk to anyone and pull out my knitting.

    where am i going? i don’t know. but how about this thought: what if some new-church-planter-types go into interim ministry and plant ideas of what could happen in the future and plant seeds of You Are Important into the young people around and show a glimpse of the future and then move on so that hopefully they would make small adjustments into the future? i know it’s different in concept not really well fleshed out here, but what do you think? it’s the one expected part of the life of every church that is the most likely opening for adjustment and change. also knowing me i’m starting to suspect that i might be really good at it even if i will have to get rids of a lot of cool things i own thanks to moving all the time. ugh.

  5. Muvh truth here, especially for those seeking calls in regions with too many ministers to fill all the established calls. If there is anything we should learn from this depression, it’s that we cant wait around to fill a decreasing number of established pulpits.

    Besides, if you want to help create the church
    of the future, it rarely occurs that quickly in the old wineskins of the established church. Some of us keep on with that work, finding ourselves in thy calling. But I you are seeking the new wineskins of postmodern, emerging protestanism you may have to be will into risk it.

    I would also warn our presbyteries and established congregations that they need to be ready to support such NCDs toward viability, or risk seeing much good work die on the vine.

  6. Heh. Funny thing to read after I’ve tossed and turned all night about feeling called, and applying to seminaries, and applying to candidacy, and feeling rooted to where I’m located (but Indianapolis is a big city that surely needs hope and care). I’m ELCA, by the way – hi!

    I’ll carry some of these thoughts in the back of my mind. Because it’s more bearable to not obsess over what I’ll do 5-10 years from now, and just focus on what I’m going to do today – one day at a time.

    I think my own denomination is just as forced as yours, to articulate and accept the need to see beyond the boundaries of our own established congregations here. Or die on the vine. I do my best to remember that I’m called to fall in love with a group of people and to care for them under the Word, not just because I have no confidence that there’s a job waiting (since I already have one and all!).

    Here’s to hopefully making connections with others and sharing a vision, so that I won’t have to do it all myself.

  7. I do sometimes wonder why nice mainline folks are happy to help plant churches in other countries, but less willing to provide that funding at home. Maybe it’s because they think everyone in town should attend THEIR church, and don’t see the need for growth and diversity?

  8. From an old guy.
    – It is true the mothers, fathers, and grandparents who populate, in decreasing numbers, the pews of our congregations are not going to enthusiastically shell out the dollars, nor relinquish control so the young(ish) minister types can do church in new ways. They have too much invested in having built the church as they know it.
    Until recently, there was an implicit promise of a congregation(s) to serve upon graduation from seminary.
    – For years I have been saying, “Full time employment in the church from graduation to retirement is a thing of the past.” I have advocated saying to those who feel called to serve the church “make sure you have a second set of salable skills by which you can earn a living.”
    – I look at second career folks, who may already have a position through which to keep a roof over their heads, and wonder why they would quit their job, mortgage the house, and burn through their savings in the hope of being ordained and being called by a congregation which, at best, might be able to pay minimum compensation. Why not begin by pulling together a worshiping community first? Keep the job, take classes online or part time and grow a congregation. Another route would be to become a CLP/CRE.
    – Doing NCDs the way we have costs too much and the failure rate is too high. House or store front start ups may be the way to go, if we are open to a different demo- graphic. Upwardly mobile suburbanites may not be the demographic by which we grow worshiping communities or NCDs. Unless we can tap into their need for meaningful relationships in their otherwise insular lives.

    Landon, thanks for the provocative thoughts.

    1. My wife is a second career minister and I am doing supply for 2 35 member rural churches and we will be 85 before she pays out her student loans.There are hundreds of rural churches that would be more than happy to have a “plant” pastor. I know us in the tent-maker field would welcome the help. As a former student of Dr. Yost I took the, must be like 8th career change, for me to do tent making. I think the best sermon I ever heard on this subject was the 2010 PTS baccalaureate by Dr. Barnes on the Ministry which I think is a must hear for anybody in the Ministry in any form. Based on Joshia and the walls of Jericho he says that do not think that you are called to do great things but that you are called to do ordinary things exceptional well (like holding that small little hand of the little old lady who is paying the bills) and the sooner you get over yourself and get down to the real work of what God has called you to do the better you will feel about your ministry.

  9. So here’s Landon’s First Law of Church Work: The system does not pay you to buck it.

    Yes, Landon, I believe this is the heart of the issue! It took me nearly ten years developing a non-traditional ministry/church, living on the margins, before I really got that my presbytery owed me nothing. And that was just fine, in fact, such sacrifice and struggle was inherently part of my call.

    Though I was never Installed, or funded by my denomination, I was generously supported in other ways (colleagues helped, gave me money, COM validated what I was up to, got around $500 in mission money, received money for continuing ed) but mostly, blessedly, I was ignored and left to myself and to God to figure how to earn a living and follow this call. I would have had it no other way. (Though I still smart a little when I read my colleagues’ terms of call. )

    I just do not know how to whole-heartedly follow Christ without sacrifice and death to one’s ego and pride. In my case it has meant giving up status, income, and power for Jesus and his redeeming love, which bursts the seams of any human definition of church.

    I recall the first time I invited people to come have church in my living room. I asked a friend, ‘Am I being crazy doing this?’ “No, Loretta,” she said, “You are just being obedient.”

  10. Ryan and Shawn,

    So, is a denomination nothing more than a funding resource to fulfill all our wants and needs?

    I happen to be on a reconstituted New Church team in the Upper Midwest Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). We don’t have a lot of money for new church starts and when I mean we don’t have a lot of money, I mean that. So, the new way of doing this that I’m coming up with is a way where we are calling folks who are bivocational to plant churches. We would be in covenant with them, support them in and share their stories with others. What we can’t do as much any more is the traditional church plant that we in the Disciples have done, because at least in this Region, we are broke. We want to do support new churches, but we have to do it in a different way.

    Now things are different in the Presbytery where I happen to work as their Communications Specialist. We have enough money to fund a church start in the Northern Twin Cities suburbs, which funds a pastor and office space and later land. But all of that takes a lot of money; probably just south $750K when all is done. I know the Presbyterians have a bit more money than Disciples, but that’s still a ton of money when we are dealing with shrinking resources. Churches and Presbyteries and Regions just don’t have the money they used to have to do things like they once did. The doesn’t mean can’t fund ministries and people at all, but I think we can’t expect they are going to fund every church planter let alone parish pastor a $40K salary when the number of people who give to churches is declining. We all have to learn how to be flexible, from denominational leaders to pastors.

    1. “Where your treasure is, there your heart is also.”

      No, the denomination isn’t only a venture capitalist to me, but I know that your checkbook is one of the most accurate indicators of your values and commitments. And if the PC(USA), individual churches and individual member are writing all sorts of checks to established practices but not willing to write them to new and different ways of being, then that reveals values and commitments.

      I guess in a roundabout way I agree with Landon. It’s probably an unwinnable battle that isn’t worth fighting. I just was/am hoping (there’s that word again) for more from the denomination I love, and I would hate for anyone to have to leave it behind to pursue something new that God is calling them to.

      It’s almost like a bizarro Fellowship. Except it wouldn’t be leaving over theology, just over a different kind of traditionalism and conservatism.

  11. I’m the Organizing Pastor for the church Dennis mentioned. And Dennis is a wonderful supporter of our work.

    I’ve been doing this for almost three years.

    I love your passion, Landon for kicking young people to start a new church. I think the bivocational way can work, but it’s a tough go. A much better way is for churches to plant churches. So instead of asking a young person to start a church, how about getting a young person to find 20 other families at their own church to go off and start a church. Assuming–and granted a big assumption–the church would do this, this method is much better. Churches who start churches often can overcome the lost of people who leave them over time. Starting a new church brings energy to the church who starts the new congregation.

    Or get a group of churches to start churches. Or start a housechurch to get a church going.

    Direct the passion towards an existing church and the families who go there.

    Passion is great, but it’s not enough to start a church. Our non-denom friends have started churches this way, but the failure rate is very high.

    1. Paul,

      Thanks for the kind words, and I will share that I think you’ve been a awesome church planter.

      And you are correct. Being bivocational is hard work and I’m doing it at an established church. I think churches planting churches in the way you said is a great idea as well. I think there is more than one way to plant a church and we should explore all the options in this changed climate.

  12. No one is really talking about the congregations that refuse to try new things. I am 27. I didn’t know Christ until I left church and found true community through a christian fellowship in college. I went to church for 18 years and never knew that the Church is the only institution that exists for non-members. That is sick. 18 years of fluffy, icing faith that challenged me in nothing. THE SAME THING IS HAPPENING TODAY. That a church is unwilling to do what is necessary within the bounds of scripture so that more might know God….. well then, why exist? If we only have church for one another, then why the great commission? I think that traditions have so consumed churches today that almost no laity-based decisions come out of prayer and scripture. Yes, that is bold and probably too strong of a generalization, but that is the reality that I experienced. What if I hadn’t stumbled upon God’s love in college? It sickens me that the people in my church literally chose tradition over guiding me to a relationship with God. Where is the real discipleship today? People in our churches are not willing to prayerfully seek what God would have them do. And I don’t see pastors encouraging them to either. At least, not in any church I have experienced.

    It’s sad that this blog can be true. It is. I think that the battle against tradition is too uphill for young people to be successful. Eventually ( already happening!) the traditions will go down with the ship, and the young will be left to reconstruct the PCUSA into something new….. if they even care to! What can they take from their experiences in the denomination? That I come before you. The first will control the last. The older PCUSA members are not only unwelcoming, they are driving young people away….. probably never to return.

  13. I’ll speak up as one of the many recent seminary grad types feeling called to NCD work.

    First off, it’s no secret that the system is super-backed up these days. I’ve been eligible for ordination for almost a year now and still no job lined up. The only thing keeping me going is that i’ve had several in-person interviews, just none that have worked out fully yet.

    I have recently been in conversation with several churches/presbyteries/peers/mentors/etc. about NCD opportunities – planting a new church in a new location. However, the major thing I have discovered is that the difficulty is compounded when you have no “ordained experience.” You are taken much less seriously, even if you’ve had extensive internship or post-grad work in church settings. Further, seminary education (at least not mine), doesn’t prepare us at all for the type of work needed for new church planting.

    So all that to say, I’m very much in support of your post Landon, but for those of us who have spent so much time gearing up for new church work within this denomination, it’s a largely impossible task to start out in new church planting work. I know you didn’t address that in your post – you seem mostly to be speaking to those who are already pastors. But I would like to hear more conversation about what can be done for those of us leaving seminary with incredible passion and skills for ministry struggling to find the right outlet. Perhaps part of the answer is with more young pastors doing church planting, more starting positions will open for first call types. Just some thoughts.

    I love the idea of churches and agencies working together to help create room for such positions. I believe this time we are in calls us ALL to be much more creative about ministry. So perhaps not only should you call out those types who complain about the church and refuse to take the risk to try new ministry, but also those with the resources, connections, and capacity to create room and space, even for those coming right out of seminary?

  14. I wish I had a “Like” button on this blog. Thanks to all for the comments so far. I always appreciate the depth of reflection from those who care deeply about this issue.

    Except for Shawn, that is.🙂 KIDDING!

    1. It is my goal to be that person that makes you wince reflexively when you see my name pop up in the comments.🙂

      Although I am still curious to hear your response to the message that I’m hearing: “There is hope for the PC(USA), but only if you are willing to do “Old Church.”

      1. Sorry. Didn’t mean to let that go.

        I’m not sure how that message is coming across because my reasons for having hope lie in the fact that PC(USA) is reforming itself and folks aren’t being as rigid about structure, etc. One reason I am hopeful is that New Church is an increasingly possibility and reality.

  15. As a recent seminary grad who’s now planting a church and bi-vocating, I want to give a hearty AMEN to this. We need more of young clergy willing to make the sacrifices necessary to tent-make and multiply the church by planting new congregations.

    That said, I still think that there are some things that need to change “in the system.” I’m blessed to be planting a church in Pittsburgh Presbytery, where there’s a lot of energy and support for young, fresh-out-of-seminary pastors planting churches. However, I’ve met a lot of seminary grads running into the problem of presbyteries being unwilling to make church planting a first ordained call, or worse, presbyteries with no interest in church planting regardless of the experience of the planter.

    Planting a church without any financial support from one’s Presbytery is one thing. Planting a church with no emotional support (or – in the worst cases – opposition from the presbytery) is quite another. Regardless of whether or not financially investing in new church development is a possibility, every Presbytery in the denomination needs to learn how to support young church planters by walking alongside them, surrounding them with prayer, friendship and emotional support, and giving them permission to experiment and even fail. That kind of support is even more valuable than money.

    If we can’t do that, then the young pastors who heed Landon’s call will seek that support elsewhere, and they won’t be PC(USA) pastors for long.

  16. oh-oh A little ageism in the “little old ladies” comment
    I might be one at almost 72 But I am still working as a parish nurse in both my home church–Presbyterian and Lutheran church. Thoroughly enjoy the contemporary service at the Lutheran church and welcome new and different ways to worship and follow Christ.

  17. Fascinating discussion for one of the little old Presbyterian ladies with a son in an “emerging church.” Does the contention about worship almost always center around music for other families like ours? I loved the time I visited the church he attends, with the pastors preaching in t-shirts and jeans and sneakers, and the music a combination of good ole music played now on guitars plus the new “praise music”, and little children running all over the place. So let’s just praise the Lord!

  18. So I am all in! I will deeply attempt to really move! One question, any insight on getting a job? I have never had to get a job outside of church, other than babysitting…and that was most likely through church too. To be the renegade pastor, being open to “dual” employment would already be out of the box for me. Just me probably. But how more honest can a pastor be, getting back to pastoring, old school style.

    I do appreciate calling me out on my vision of new church ministry and desiring the churches to back the vision up. I am curious that my bigger fear might be to have to work on the relationship with a body. And yet I have been dere and done dat! What I know is that I do relish in the tradition I have been raised in: a tradition of faith, community, and risks!

    What if, once we each start out on our own, we come to support! NCD does scare me but just relevant church with movable chairs, and a few occupiers leading worship through bible study on economic justice…oh and it is in the park, not so scarey. That is my hope for new church.

  19. I have said before that I suspect I will not be able to finish my career in full-time ministry. I just don’t think enough of those positions will exist. So, for several years, I’ve been wondering what my next career will be. What can I begin doing as I move into bivocationality? G-d hasn’t given me the inkling of a clue yet…(listening…) nope, nothing.

    However, I do have a thought. We have SO many small churches (100 members or fewer) who need or want pastoral leadership, but cannot afford full-time ministry. What if we were to engage in some explicit conversations about how those small churches could think of themselves as part of the bivocational setting in which church planter-types could serve, find income to pay bills and seminary debt, and from which they could begin work on planting seeds from new ministries?

    This will not work if church folk and pastors agree to part-time compensation, but expect full-time work. No! Full-time ministry is not 50 hours/week! Presbyteries, please do not approve Terms of Call for 2/3rds pay for 36 hours/week. That’s just wrong.

  20. As I have been following the conversation stream today I have noticed that there is at lead one important voice missing from the conversation. Perhaps it is recognition of our need for “realism” – that we should not expect our “Builders” and “Boomers” to support the new forms of Christianity emerging among us.

    In past personal conversations, Landon and I have more than expected such a response, but perhaps this blog posting is my own wake up call that such expectations are unrealistic, even though this is exactly what I am asking of my own community of faith. The best practices offered to leaders of transformation communities is to help them connect with their communities (ascertain the needs of their changing neighborhoods), discern your mission (claim the new vision), and then live it out.

    Every redevelopment church – or as we now call them, “community in transition” – knows what I’m talking about. This is the most difficult part of transition – putting the new vision into action. If the new vision means substantive change, it can mean it will be difficult for the church to make the changes necessary to connect with their changing neighborhood. If the older church members aren’t on board with the change, they can sabotage living into the new vision.

    Now, I can understand Landon’s insistence that we should not expect older Presbyterians to fund the new thing (even if it’s a God thing), but for a church that has gone through such a process of discernment we should expect them to be big kids about the change necessary to see their churches survive. Rather than not asking all of our churches to change with the new era we find ourselves within, we should be discussing how to help congregations make this shift, and how to help mature Christians be open to the changes necessary to make Christ available to the generations who have not found the church relevant to their lives. If older Christians view this as a part of their mission, the church will be able to be reformed and reforming.

  21. As I, an almost 35 year old single career second call pastor, sat in a room with elders of both strains, taking about the mission and purpose of our synod (Lakes and Prairies) I threw out the idea that maybe this is a time (when synods are up in the air) that our creative, passionate, mission-focused body of one or two young and mostly oldER folks could try to prove you wrong. It was an exciting conversation about throwing out tasks we’ve inherited in favor of joining work God is already starting in places like supporting church planters, campus ministry, NCD. Even if this group EP/GPs and synod steering committee isn’t the perfect place to have that conversation in the long run, I was encourages by the folks across the age spectrum who expressed an interest in giving it a try – proving you wrong that is – seeing if there are people in the establishment who are willing to risk for a creative future. Again, maybe not the most effective body to really do this, but it gives me hope that there may be others who will take p the challenge.

    My own opinion upon a little thinking about this is that in the end it probably isn’t an either/or situation but a both/and. There’s something, I imagine, about the nature of church planting that maybe really should be bi-vocational, particularly if the goal is to have it be community driven and attracting to a group of people/generation who are skeptical of entitlement. On the other side of the coin there are folks with money and resources in hand who say they want to see the kingdom grow. Isn’t to some extent part of stewardship putting your gifts where your mouth is? I think that’s what I like about the model of “parent” churches spinning of new ministries.

  22. I disagree with a fundamental premise of your post. Church planting in and of itself isn’t bucking the system. It should be what we’re all about. Sure, maybe there are some people who want to create a new church because they are dissatisfied with the options out there. But church planting is integral to who we are, not a rebellious action.

    I love the way the Vineyard churches have their system. They have a “parent” congregation (my word, not theirs) who raises up a group of leaders (pastors and not pastors) and sends them out to plant a church. The parent church helps them raise money and supports them for a long time until they are sustainable. The pastor doesn’t build something they like or want that is centered on their personality. They plant in teams, firmly grounded in a larger community.

    Yes, a lot of vineyard church planters have to work part time at another job for several years while church planting. But that’s not because they’re angry and rebellious, it’s because they’re faithful and supported by a large community both inside and outside the church plant.

    As a young pastor, I know that the current form of the PC(USA) is not sustainable. But I do not like your suggestion that the answer is to just do your thing on your own without any support (monetary or otherwise) from other Christians. Church planting is long arduous work that takes years of commitment. Just “getting a job” in a “ripe” area isn’t the answer (not to mention the fact that jobs are a little hard to come by these days, especially those outside your field).

    I think we have a lot to learn from our brothers and sisters in the vineyard and elsewhere who have a supporting congregation and a group that church plants. They aren’t rebels but they’re doing a new thing every time they plant a new church. If someone is angry and can’t find ANYONE who supports what they want to do, maybe that should be a sign.

    If you can’t get other people on board with you to at least pray for a new worshiping community, how are you going to gather worshipers around you? And if you DO have people praying for you and working alongside you, then the Spirit is doing something in your midst that you can follow.

    1. Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Frances. The uncle I wrote about in the post worked with Vineyard church planters, so I like a lot of what you’re saying here.

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