One of the perils in communication is that you will neither communicate everything you intended, nor will everyone receive what you did communicate accurately. One of those two things happened last week when I encouraged “Young(ish) Mainline Pastor Type People” to plant a church.
I got two basic responses. From old(er-ish), more established pastors the response generally was, “Yeah! Right on!”, while the future pastors in the crowd generally said “No way! We’re not taking the responsibility for this on our own.” (I was talking to a friend today and we both noted that, really, no pastors in their late 20’s/early 30’s who have had a call for 4-5 years said anything. Hmmm….) I would like to address a fraction of that second response.
Firstly, on behalf of the First Mainline Church of Everywhere I’m sorry that you are the folks caught in the middle of the biggest shift in Christian culture and structure in hundreds of years. Truly, I am. It is not fair, and I’m sure its stressing you out. I know that some of you are incurring debt (which we should really talk about sometime), and all you want to do is graduate, go serve a church, and start your life (which includes paying off your debt). But, the reality is: the odds are not in your favor of finding a job. Either you and a church don”t fit, you’re not willing to go some place, or the church can’t pay you enough even if you were willing. Each of these has a technical solution, to be sure, but the sum of these solutions is not even going to come close to addressing the massive shift facing the church. This bubble is about to burst and we all know it.
Don’t think I didn’t hear the core of your retort. I did. “Why should I take all the risk and bust out to do this by myself?” Financially, the truth is that even if you find that one church, the chances of them paying you enough is slim. Your chances of paying off educational debt is probably the same if you go get a job working at Starbucks (or Initech or Dunder Mifflin), and help plant a church during non-work hours.
But philosophically? Have you asked for support? I mean, have you done the hard work of putting together any kind of game plan and asked for support? The NCD I served as a seminary student did. They went to their presbytery and said, “We’re not asking for money, but we want prayer and support.” They got it. And some money. A good number of the private responses I got to the blog post was “We’d love to support folks, but where are they?”
So do this: put together an idea for a community. You know as well as I that there are dozens of ways to think about a church. Pick one and go with it, but….
Do Not Do It By Yourself.
This is where I assumed something in my last post that you did not. We are not built to do this by ourselves, but with others. The myth of the “lone gunman who pulls himself up by his own bootstraps” is precisely that. A myth. On this we can agree. In seminary I learned the powerful idea that nobody “owns” their whole call. I only have a piece of what I am called to do. Someone else has the other piece. Maybe there is a third (or fourth or fifth…) person who own another piece. But I don’t have it all.
We can talk about “call” some other time, but the point is this: You should go plant a church, but you should not do it by yourself. Yes, your original idea might change when you begin working with someone else, but, hey, more heads are better than one, right?