Plant a church, but don’t do it alone. That would be dumb.

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?

5 thoughts on “Plant a church, but don’t do it alone. That would be dumb.”

  1. … and if you happen to live – or can come to live – in the area served by Mid-Kentucky presbytery (Louisville) then you CAN get spiritual and financial support by engaging with The Ecclesia Project, which is designed specifically to nurture the kinds of new communities Landon has been writing about. Furthermore I, personally, would bend over backwards to help you plant and grow a faith community, especially if it has something to do with using the creative arts to nourish and express our faith. In either case, if you want more info, contact me: harpingmickATgmail…etc. Love, Mick Bradley

  2. Why is all the talk about planting new churches? How about doing something with the ones we have? We need hefty revival in the faith and direction in prayer and study to align people again to Christian joy and direction Amen

    1. That’s gonna be a long conversation, Kathy.๐Ÿ™‚ But I appreciate you asking the question.

      The shorthand is that there is a lot of energy already put towards revitalizing churches. That’s not where creative thinking needs to be. There’s a glut already. Add to that that these “young(ish)” folks typically have understandings of how church works that do not align with established congregations. Very few congregations (or persons in them) want to switch their orientations.

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