June 04, 2009

Church Planters Beware: What Prometheus Would Tell Pastors Three conversations made me think of church planters this past week. This first was an unexpected encounter with an old friend who has been leading worship for a church-plant. He was, at once, exhilarated and exhausted by the work of setting up a mobile church service every week and watching it grow to well over a thousand people in a little over a year. The second was a lunch I had with a worship leader in town that same day who told me that he had considered planting a church in the future but was intimidated by the enormous pressure and work that comes with planting. I listened to both wondering if church planting was doomed to be a herculean task. The third conversation came a few days later, though it was not truly a conversation for I was only the listener. I heard a speaker introduced as the pastor of the "fastest growing church in America", a man whose church has increased on average by more than a thousand people a year over the past eight years. It is a remarkable accomplishment and a tribute to his leadership. He is a rare breed. Then the three conversations on church planting wove together: Maybe some church planters are exhausted because they're trying to be the next mega-church. Here, I must confess my ignorance. It very well could be that church planting is inevitably as exhausting as any start-up business. But then again, why should a church plant be like a business? Why is there this torrid current of busyness and business that pushes pastors along, convincing them to do more and grow more quickly? It may be because we've forgotten the myth of Prometheus Bound. Prometheus is well remembered in our day simply as the god who stole fire from...
In Defense of the "Institutional Church" Before we begin, it's important that we get our terms right. When some people say "institutional church", what they really mean is the "corporation church"-- the church-as-a-business that operates for profit and self-preservation. I would offer no defense for such a church. But I would suggest a caution to you: while there may be pastors who have become more like shopkeepers than shepherds, I want you to understand the seriousness of the allegation you are making when you denounce a church as being nothing more than a corporation. You are making a claim that cuts to the heart and motives of pastors and people you may not know, suggesting that they are mercenaries who care nothing for God and His work. There may be cases where that is true, but you cannot know for sure. Which leads me to another point of clarification: it is impossible to deal honestly in generalities. I could not possibly defend every church, nor could you condemn every church that fits a particular bill (too large, too small, too stagnant, etc.). That being said, let's begin. Here are four reasons to defend the so-called "institutional church": 1. Place Matters There is this saying that the church is not a building. Of course, we understand the point-- that WE, the redeemed, the "called out ones", are the Church. But this over-emphasized distinction can seem a little foolish. It's like lecturing your kids about how your family is not a home. Certainly a family can survive without a home and a family is still a family even when children go away to college or are displaced by trouble and hardship. But a home is part of the fabric of a family. It is where the family gathers after work and school; it is where they cook and...

Glenn Packiam

Lead Pastor, new life DOWNTOWN, New Life Church, Colorado Springs, CO. Author and songwriter.

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