THE IMPACT OF CHURCH PLANTING ON THE LOCAL COMMUNITY (with particular reference to recent trends in the Church of England)
Submitted by Alan Charles Bing to the University of Exeter as a dissertation towards the degree of Master of Arts by advanced study in Theology, September 1996.
â€œI certify that all material in this dissertation which is not my own work has been identified and that no material is included for which a degree has previously been conferred on me.â€?
Summary This dissertation investigates whether churches ‘planted’ in England in recent years, and by the Church of England in particular, are true to the nature of the Church and its mission, and have a positive impact upon their communities. The method employed has been to review the essential signs of the Church and to assess different models of mission, and then to move to a consideration of church planting in theory and in practice, with reference to case studies. The introduction sets out the objectives and the ground to be covered. The chapter on ‘the nature of the Church’ gives a systematic rather than an historical investigation of what it means to be part of the ‘one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church’, seeking to discover a consensus view with reference to the Protestant, Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions. The chapter on ‘Models of mission’ investigates how mission relates to evangelism, followed by an historical review of different models of mission, and a detailed examination of the Church Growth movement, in order to see where church planting fits into the mission of the Church. The chapter on ‘Church planting in the U.K.’ gives an overview of the influence of the DAWN movement upon church planting internationally and in the U.K., followed by a comparison of the different models of church planting within the Church of England. The chapter on ‘The impact of church planting in the U.K.’ examines case studies representing different models of Anglican church plants in order to establish which of these show the healthiest patterns of mission, with particular reference to their impact upon their local community. The conclusion proposes, with some reservations, that recent Anglican church plants have been true to the nature and mission of the Church, whilst raising questions about the current ecclesiology and mission of the Church of England.
List of contents
List of contents ............................................................................................ 3
Introduction ................................................................................................. 5
1. The Nature of the Church Signs of the Church ..................................................................................... 6 The unity of the Church............................................................................... 6 The holiness of the Church.......................................................................... 9 The catholicity of the Church ...................................................................... 11 The apostolicity of the Church .................................................................... 12 Summary...................................................................................................... 14
2. Models of Mission What is mission, and how does it differ from evangelism? ........................ 17 What models are there for mission? ............................................................ 18 The Church Growth movement: an historical perspective .......................... 22 Wagnerâ€™s seven signs of a growing church ................................................. 24 An assessment of the Church Growth movement ....................................... 27 Where does church planting fit into mission? ............................................. 28
3. Church planting in the U.K. DAWN and the international perspective.................................................... 31 Recent church planting in the Church of England....................................... 33 Types of church plant .................................................................................. 34 How church plants relate to the wider Church ............................................ 36 Does church planting represent a healthy pattern of mission? .................... 39 Summary...................................................................................................... 40
4. The impact of Anglican church plants upon the local community Introduction ................................................................................................. 42 Runners........................................................................................................ 44 Grafts ........................................................................................................... 47 Transplants .................................................................................................. 50 Seeds............................................................................................................ 52 Summary...................................................................................................... 54
Bibliography ................................................................................................ 61
Introduction Church planting has been described by Peter Wagner, a leading light in the Church Growth movement, as the â€œbest evangelistic method under heavenâ€? i. However, evangelism as it is practiced in the West has been seen by many as being strong on proclaiming the Gospel, but weak on living it out in the community. For some time, Christians of a more liberal or catholic persuasion have been sceptical about the commitment of evangelical Christians to justice and social action. Recently, prominent evangelicals such as John Stott and Ronald Sider have sought to reaffirm the social concerns of their forebears such as the Clapham Sect ii. Even so, given its close links with modern evangelicalism, it is worth asking whether church planting offers a holistic approach to evangelism and mission. In order to answer this question, it is important to consider what is the nature of the Church and what are healthy patterns of mission. Only when this is done can we assess whether recent church plants are true to the nature of the Church and its mission. We will do this with particular reference to church planting in the Church of England. In addition to the published literature, there has been a considerable amount of unpublished research in this area which has helped to paint a picture of what has been happening. However, most of this work has tended to raise ecclesiological issues as an afterthought rather than beginning with them. This dissertation attempts to reverse this process. It is hoped that this will make it easier to assess whether current approaches to church planting in the Church of England produce congregations that are in true relationship to the Church as a whole and rightly integrated with the community in which they are set.
Quoted in J. Montgomery, DAWN 2000, (Highland, Crowborough, 1990), p.38. See also C. Peter Wagner, Your church can grow, (Regal Books, Glendale, California), pp.106-108. ii See, for example, J. Stott, Issues facing Christians today, (Marshalls, Basingstoke, 1984) and R.J. Sider, Rich Christians in an age of hunger, (Hodder & Stoughton, Sevenoaks, 1979).
1. The Nature of the Church
Signs of the Church The Church is a strange institution, being at the same time human and divine. Various images have been used to describe it; a Divine Society, the People of God, the Bride of Christ, the Communion of Saints (both dead and alive), and the Body of Christ, which the Anglican Book of Common Prayer goes on to describe as “the blessed company of all faithful people”. This last phrase captures the essence of the Church as something which is both human and divine, in the sense of belonging to God. Thus it is at the same time ‘visible’ and ‘invisible’, and it is impossible to separate these two facets of the Church. This is true to the etymology of the English word ‘Church’, which derives from the Greek ‘kyriake’, or ‘belonging to the Lord’. However, the concept of the Church was originally derived more from the Greek word ‘ekklesia’, which was used in the Greek Old Testament to mean ‘assembly’. The transition in meaning from ‘assembly’ to ‘Church’ occurred within the New Testament, where three usages can be discerned: the local Christian assembly (Rom. 16:16), the whole Church (Matt. 16:18, Gal. 1:13), and the mystical body of Christ (Eph. 1:22f, Col. 1:18) i. The Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381 set out four characteristics of the true Church, which it described as “one, holy, catholic and apostolic”. This is, of course, a statement of faith as much as a statement of fact. Any one of these characteristics will be imperfectly expressed or even apparently absent at different stages in the history of the Church. But they are to be seen within the context of a statement of faith, which acknowledges that, although all truth resides in Christ, certain aspects of the truth are either beyond human apprehension or will only be realised in the fulness of time. It was in reaction against the corruption of the Western Church in the Middle Ages, that Martin Luther identified seven signs of the true Church ii. These were reduced to two in the Augsburg Confession of 1530, which defined the Church as “the assembly of the saints among whom the gospel is purely preached and the holy sacraments administered in accordance with the gospel” iii. This is also the definition of the Church given in the nineteenth article of religion of the Church of England. However, as Moltmann points out, the Reformers’ two signs do not contradict, but complement, the four classical signs of the Church: “word and sacrament point to the Church’s four attributes and cannot be purely and rightly ordered without the fellowship 6
which faith sees as having these attributes” iv. Even more importantly, both the two Protestant signs and the four classical signs are inadequate in themselves. “What is truly decisive is not the formal presence of certain characteristics, but their use and practice”, says the Roman Catholic theologian Hans Küng v. In other words, the signs must be lived out, or made real, in the life of the Church. This pragmatic approach is no less evident in Orthodox ecclesiology, with its emphasis on communion. Zizioulas argues that all the elements which formed the primitive Church had to pass through the eucharistic community in order to be validated, and indeed that God the Holy Trinity can only be known in communion vi. However, he criticises the classical Orthodox doctrine that “wherever the eucharist is, there is the church”, on the grounds that it “risks suggesting the idea that each Church could, independently of other local Churches, be the ‘one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church’”
. We will consider this assertion under the heading of the catholicity of the
Church. As he considers the local churchviii in a perspective of communion, Zizioulas asks this question: “what makes a Church ‘local’ and what makes a local body ‘Church’? For not every gathering of Christians is automatically Church and not every Church is necessarily ‘local’ ” ix. This question will become particularly pertinent when we discuss the effectiveness of various models of mission and church planting, and we will now seek to answer it with reference to the four classical signs of the Church. It is worth saying at this point that lack of space prevents a critical comparison of the Protestant, Orthodox and Roman Catholic understandings of these signs. Instead, we will seek to establish whether there is a consensus of opinion shared by these traditions, allowing points of similarity to emerge, whilst commenting on any unavoidable discrepancies.
The unity of the Church The basis of the Church’s unity is not in common doctrine or practice, even if that were possible, but in its being the body of Christ. It’s unity is not ethical or doctrinal, but Christological. From a Protestant perspective, Pannenberg asserts that “the interrelation between communion with Christ and the communion of Christians with one another describes the inmost essence of the church” x. Similarly, in his Church Dogmatics, Barth says that “it is in and through the man Jesus in the power of His Spirit that the one God is at work in the upbuilding of his community” xi. From a Roman 7
Catholic perspective, Küng claims that the quest for Christian unity is driven by two factors. Firstly, there is the desire to counter the alienation of people from the Church on account of its divisions. Secondly, and more importantly, there is the fact that Christ, by his reconciling work, is the basis of the Church’s unity. “It is one and the same baptism by which all are made members of the same body of Christ, one and the same Lord’s Supper, in which all are united with Christ and with one another”
. In this sense, the
disunity of the Church is an offence to Christ, whose prayer was that the Church should be united in him (John 17). Küng believes that the reunion of the Churches cannot happen without, firstly, independent historical research into the reasons for the divisions between East and West, and between Protestants and Catholics. Secondly, he believes that Churches must be willing to sacrifice whatever stands between them and unity. The criterion for change must be the Gospel of Christ, taken as a whole, in order for the Church to remain true to its nature, for there is “one Lord, one faith and one baptism” (Eph. 4:3-5). It is noteworthy that, in the New Testament, the different churches in a given city were seen as part of one church (cf Eph. 1:1 and Rev. 2:1). David Watson, an Anglican, agrees with Küng’s view that the criterion for unity must be the “original message of Christ”. “Every denomination and tradition must bend to this God-given revelation. Every viewpoint and structure must bow to the word of God and to the Lordship of Jesus Christ”
. He quotes the dictum of Robertus Meldenius:
“On the necessary points, unity; on the questionable points, liberty; in everything, love”. Nevertheless, if there is to be unity on the basis of the Gospel, this must entail mutual understanding and respect on the main issues which divide Christians. The introduction to the World Council of Churches Lima Statement in 1982 puts it succinctly. “If the divided churches are to achieve the visible unity they seek, one of the essential prerequisites is that they should be in basic agreement on baptism, eucharist and ministry”xiv. On baptism, the report calls for a mutual recognition by the Churches of their different practices of baptism as a sharing in the one baptism. To this end, it calls on ‘believer’s baptists’ to renounce re-baptism, since baptism is an unrepeatable act, and to consider how to express the fact that children are under the protection of God’s grace. Alongside this, it calls on ‘infant baptists’ to guard against indiscriminate baptism and to take seriously the responsibility for nurturing the baptised.
Just as the WCC statement reminds Christians of the baptismal unity found in Christ, it also emphasises the imperative for unity underlying the eucharist. Since the eucharist demands reconciliation and the sharing of the participants, we are under judgement if we tolerate injustice in the world and “above all, the obstinacy of unjustifiable confessional oppositions within the body of Christ”
. Both Zizioulas and Moltmann
endorse the assertion that a true eucharistic community will work for justice and reconciliation in the world and not be inward-looking. As we have seen, the eucharist and the related concept of communion within the body of Christ are at the heart of Orthodox ecclesiology, and also the Protestant emphasis upon Word and Sacrament, which has been endorsed by Roman Catholic theologians of the Vatican 2 era
. The WCC statement seeks to clear away some of the apparent
doctrinal differences between Protestant and Catholic by explaining the eucharist as a thanksgiving to the Father rather than a sacrifice. Although the statement lists elements which are found ‘historically’ in the celebration of the eucharist, it asserts that “a certain liturgical diversity compatible with our common eucharistic faith is recognized as a healthy and enriching fact” xvii. However, this does not explain the fact that members of other Christian denominations are still not admitted to eucharistic Communion in a Roman Catholic church, which undermines if it does not deny the unity of the universal Church xviii. With regard to ministry, the WCC statement also acknowledges a legitimate diversity. Although it records that the threefold ministry of bishops, priests and deacons became the generally accepted pattern of the early Church and is retained by many churches today, it concedes that “the New Testament does not describe a single pattern of ministry which might serve as a blueprint ... for all future ministry in the church” xix. It also asserts that churches “can recognize their respective ordained ministries if they are mutually assured of their intention to transmit the ministry of Word and sacrament in continuity with apostolic times”
. This, of course, sits uneasily with the current
positions of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. Rahner appeals to Protestants to accept the Petrine ministry of the Pope without accepting the Vatican dogmas, and ARCIC 1 goes some way towards this. In this particular context, the recognition of Anglican orders by the Vatican would also further the mutual recognition of different orders of ministry. Zizioulas is surely wise, however, when he says that we should not
try to resolve the problem of recognizing one another’s orders in a juridical way, but “rather try to recognize each other as ecclesial communities” xxi. The way forward towards a more visible unity of the Church relies upon a willingness to accept a legitimate diversity within the body of Christ. Since every local church is a community, the unity of the Church presupposes a multiplicity of churches. As Watson says, “the cultural variations alone between rural and inner-city areas, between England and Rwanda, between the United States and Germany, are simply enormous”
. It is
right, therefore, that patterns of ministry and expressions of worship should vary from place to place. This allows for the existence of different denominations, which may have arisen in reaction to perceived errors in the established Church of their time and place (e.g. successive monastic orders and the churches of the Reformation), or to provide what was lacking, (e.g. the Pentecostal churches). However, although the existence of different denominations may be justifiable and even healthy, ‘denominationalism’ is neither justifiable nor healthy. Küng throws down a challenge to his own denomination when he says that different historical forms of the one Church may all be legitimate “as long as these Churches recognize one another as legitimate”, hold common services, “and especially celebrate the eucharist together”, and stand together in times of difficulty xxiii. In other words, a diversity of Christian communities is compatible with the unity of the Church, provided that they conform to the pattern of the Gospel and are in communion with one another. As Zizioulas puts it, “a local Church, in order to be not just local, but also Church, must be in full communion with the rest of the local Churches in the world” xxiv. The holiness of the Church Just as the unity of the Church lies in Christ’s unifying activity, so the holiness of the Church lies in his sanctifying activity. With his Christocentric view of the Church, Barth sees this very clearly. “Its institutions and traditions and even its reformations are no guarantee as such that it is the true Church, for in all these things we have to do with human and therefore sinful action, and therefore in some sense with a self-expression in which it can be only the semblance of a Church”
. Since it is composed of sinful
human beings, the Church can only be holy if it is purified and renewed from within. The New Testament does not refer to the ‘holy Church’, but it does refer to Christians as ‘saints’, i.e. those who are being sanctified by the Holy Spirit. “The Church is holy by being called by God in Christ to be the communion of the faithful”, writes Küng, 10
expressing this same idea of sanctification being a process xxvi. The Church is most truly holy, then, in an eschatological sense. She is the bride of Christ, but only at his return will she be revealed ‘without spot or wrinkle’ (Eph. 5:27). In the meantime, God is sanctifying the Church by bringing people to faith in Christ, turning them into disciples, and making effective the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments. The Gospel, which is the basis of the Church’s unity is also the basis of its holiness. Baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, which is for the forgiveness of sins, is administered in response to the Gospel (Acts 2:38). The community of faith which shares this one baptism is shown in Matthew 18:15-18 to have authority to mediate the forgiveness of sins. However, this task of mediation requires two things of the Church. Firstly, it means that the Church itself must be constantly open to metanoia (repentance), and therefore to internal renewal. Secondly, it means that the Church must be outward-looking. As Küng says, “this community which has been set apart must not cut itself off from the world” xxvii. Rather, its members are constantly sent back into the world to act in a different way from those who do not believe. It is at the heart of the Orthodox understanding of the Eucharist that it brings a realization of “man’s true being as image of God” before sending the participants back into the world to serve God
. This conclusion will be important
when we come to consider the impact of church plants upon their community, because it implies that social action is a sign of holiness. The holiness of the Church is also linked to its unity, because only a truly united Church can be holy. “Its holiness as the church of the one God and the one Lord Jesus Christ demands its unity,” as Pannenberg says, “and demands it unconditionally” xxix. He asserts that the way back to unity is through a reflection on the holiness of Christ, since the Church’s form, order and even doctrine are finite, and in constant need of reformation and renewal. Holiness, therefore, is a characteristic of the Church which is both a challenge to action and a sign of hope. As a result of the sanctifying activity of the Holy Spirit, whom the Father has given to the Church as a result of the Son’s reconciling work, the Church will never cease to be the communion of the saints, and will one day appear as the perfect bride of Christ.
The catholicity of the Church 11
The adjective ‘catholic’ was not used in the New Testament to describe the Church. Ignatius was the first person known to call the Church ‘catholic’, in his epistle to the Smyrneans, in order to describe the whole Church as distinct from individual congregations. From the third century onwards, it took on the sense of ‘orthodox’, in order to distinguish the true Church from heretical or schismatic churches. (This was the understanding favoured by the Reformers.) From the fourth century onwards, especially under Augustine, it was developed to include the ideas of geographical catholicity (over the whole earth), and numerical catholicity (larger than the other churches). However, as Küng has pointed out, it is possible for the Church to have all these dimensions of Catholicity and yet be untrue to its nature. In his view, catholicity “consists in a notion of entirety, based on identity and resulting in universality” xxx, whereby the local church is representative of the whole church, but not itself the whole Church. We need to keep a balance between the local and universal Church, and not identify the catholic Church with the universal Church, which was a tendency in pre-Vatican 2 Roman Catholic theology. The key to understanding the nature of catholicity is in seeing that it is not an ethnic, or numerical or moral quality, but a Christological one. The Church is catholic because it is the body of Christ and under his lordship, which ultimately extends over all Creation (Matt. 28:18, Eph. 1:22). Since the full lordship of Christ will not be recognized until he comes again, the catholicity of the Church is a statement of hope (in Moltmann’s phrase) as much as a current reality. “The Church is catholic to the extent in which it partakes of the catholicity of the coming kingdom” xxxi. As with its holiness, the catholicity of the Church is dependent upon the work of the Holy Spirit. However, the universality of the Church does not necessarily entail an universalist soteriology. As Küng remarks, it would be illogical say that non-Christians can be included in the Church against their will. However, it is universal in the sense that it embraces all nations, races and classes of people, and works for universal peace and justice. The Church is a community of baptised Christians, united by a belief in Jesus as Lord, celebrating the Lord’s Supper, and seeking to live by the Gospel. Whether or not we accept Küng’s description of the Church as a mother (i.e. Rome) with several daughters and grand-daughters, the catholic Church must include both East and West, Protestant and Catholic. As Zizioulas puts it, “the ultimate essence of catholicity lies in the transcendence of all divisions in Christ” xxxii. 12
The local Church, therefore, should be catholic in this sense, i.e. in showing that in Christ there are no barriers of gender, class or race (Gal. 2:28). With his understanding of the Church as communion, Zizioulas emphasises this strongly: “the Church is local, when the saving event of Christ takes root in a particular local situation with all its natural, social, cultural and other characteristics which make up the life and thought of the people living in that place” xxxiii. The logic of his argument leads him on to say that a local gathering is only Church “where all ages, sexes, professions, cultures etc. meet, for this is what the Gospel promises us to be the Kingdom of God: a place where all the natural and cultural divisions are transcended”
. This a surely a counsel of
perfection, only to be achieved in heaven, when perfection comes. It remains an eschatological hope, and there must be few local congregations which meet this criterion. However, it is more likely to be met in the present if one considers all the congregations of a particular area to be the local Church. Moreover, this seems to have been the New Testament understanding of what was a local church. The Churches at Corinth, or Rome, or Ephesus, for example, seem to have comprised several congregations. This is where it is helpful to remember that the Church is also ‘one’, and that ‘catholicity’ ultimately requires any local church to be in communion with all other churches in the body of Christ. This factor will be especially relevant when we come to consider the homogeneous unit principle in the next chapter.
The apostolicity of the Church The Church is ‘founded upon the apostles’. This means that it is called to be apostolic in two senses. Firstly, it is to be true to the witness and teaching of the apostles. The original twelve apostles were crucial for the foundation of the Church as eye-witnesses of the risen Christ. The primary criterion by which writings were allowed within the canon of the New Testament was that of faithfulness to the apostolic witness. The twelve apostles had, in this respect, an unrepeatable role. Certainly Matthias was chosen to make up the twelve after Judas had died. However, following Jesus’ ascension, after James was martyred, there was no attempt to replace him. But the idea of apostleship was not confined to the twelve. The second sense in which the Church is to be apostolic is in faithfulness to the mission of the apostles. The apostles were commissioned by Christ to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19), and it was in this sense that Paul was the apostle 13
to the Gentiles. Rahner is true to this aspect of the Church when he contends that “it means more to win one new Christian from what we may call neo-paganism than to keep ten ‘old Christians’”
. Although no one may be added to the twelve apostles,
nor may anything be added to their witness, there may still be apostles in this second sense of those who are sent out to gather believers who respond to their preaching of the Gospel. This role is still central to the mission of the Church, especially in the planting of new churches. As eye-witnesses the apostles have no successors, but the apostolic mission continues. Any claim to an apostolic role by the leader of a new church must be seen in this light. Given that the word ‘apostolic’ may be used in either of these two senses, there is an understandable confusion over what is meant by ‘apostolic succession’. Traditionally, it has been understood in the first sense of the word to refer to an unbroken chain of episcopal ordinations going back to apostolic times. However, not only is the existence of such an unbroken chain unprovable historically, it also overlooks the second and no less important aspect of continuity in the apostolic tradition. Zizioulas sees the eucharist as linking the Church of today with the original apostles, because it “realizes in the course of history the continuity that links each Church to the first apostolic communities and to the historical Christ”
. He opposes the idea that continuity of apostolic
ministry should be “identical with canalization”
. More explicitly, Moltmann states
that “the apostolic succession is, in fact and truth, the evangelical succession, the continuing and unadulterated proclamation of the gospel of the risen Christ”
sees the apostolic succession purely in the second sense of the apostolic mission, which, he argues, leads inevitably to tribulation and suffering, which was the evidence Paul gave for the authenticity of his apostleship in 2 Corinthians chapters 6 and 7. Indeed, it is likely that the true nature of the apostolic succession and indeed of the apostolicity of the Church lies somewhere between Moltmann’s and the traditional view. As Küng has expressed it, the true followers of the apostles are those who agree with the apostolic witness and continue the apostolic ministry. Firstly, if the Church is to agree with the apostolic witness, its faith teaching and action must be in accordance with the New Testament, which is “the original, fundamental witness of the apostles, valid for the Church of all ages” xxxix. Secondly, the Church can only remain true to the apostolic witness through service. Continuing the apostolic ministry involves serving others, since this was the pattern that Jesus gave his disciples (Matthew 20:26ff). 14
Hence, “apostolicity can never mean power through which the Church might rule” xl. However, this does not invalidate some notion of ‘succession’. The WCC Lima Statement sums this up well when it says that the “apostolical tradition in the Church means continuity in the permanent characteristics of the Church of the apostles” xli. By looking at some of the features of the Jerusalem Church described in Acts chapters 2 to 6, Stephen Abbott identifies these characteristics: open to the power of the Holy Spirit, evangelistic, apostolic teaching, fellowship, sharing, prayer, worship, miracles, and the experience of hostiliity and persecution xlii. It is all too easy to see how far the Church today and throughout history has fallen short of this standard. But if the apostolicity of the Church is to be a sign of hope and not an unachievable dream, there are two ways forward. Firstly, there must be a willingness on the part of all churches to examine their traditions in order to hold fast those which are in genuine continuity with the apostolic witness and mission, and to let go those which deviate from it. Tradition, as Zizioulas puts it, should not just be something which is passed on, but should be “consistently re-enacted and re-received in the Spirit”
. Secondly, we
need to bear in mind that historical continuity with the apostles has an eschatological significance. It points ahead to the day when God’s kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven, and the apostles will “sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28). Summary As we have seen, the unity, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity of the true Church is derived from Christ, who is the head of the Church. He is the ground of its unity, the source of its holiness, the authority for its catholicity and the commissioner of its apostles. It is in returning to its true identity in Christ that the Church will rediscover its true nature and renew the effectiveness of its mission. Although there is a legitimate diversity within the body of Christ, denominationalism is the cause of division, which goes against the true nature of the Church. With the apostolic witness of the New Testament as its standard and guide, the Church is called to work for unity, which involves a mutual recognition of the baptismal, eucharistic and ministerial practices and forms of different churches. If a local church is to be truly a part of the universal church, it must seek to be in communion with all other local churches which are true to the apostolic witness and mission, and therefore a part of the body of Christ. Ultimately,
these four signs are the criteria against which the authenticity of a local church is to be tested. i
P. Avis, Ecclesiology, in Blackwell Encyclopedia of Modern Christian Thought, ed. A McGrath (Blackwell, Oxford, 1993). ii J. Moltmann, The Church in the power of the Spirit, (SCM, London, 1977), p.340f. Luther’s seven signs were: 1) preaching of the true Word of God 2) right administration of baptism 3) right form of the Lord’s Supper 4) power of the keys 5) rightful calling and ordination of the Church’s ministers 6) prayer and hymn singing in the vernacular 7) suffering and persecution. iii W. Pannenberg, The Apostle’s Creed, (SCM, London, 1972), p.150. iv Moltmann, The Church in the power of the Spirit, p.341. v H. Küng, The Church, (Search Press, London, 1968), p.269. vi John D. Zizioulas, Being as Communion, (SVS Press, New York, 1985), p.21. Note Zizioulas’ questionable tendency to treat the terms ‘communion’ and ‘eucharistic community’ as synonymous. vii Ibid, p.25. viii The Church universal will be distinguished from a local church by the use of upper and lower case, except where a quotation dictates otherwise, as in the case of Zizioulas below. ix Zizioulas,Being as Communion, p.253f. x Pannenberg, The Apostle’s Creed, p.152. xi K. Barth, Church Dogmatics, 4.2 , (T&T Clark, Edinburgh, 1989), p.633. xii Küng, The Church, p.273. xiii D. Watson, I believe in the Church, (Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1978), p.355. xiv Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, (WCC, Geneve, 1982), p.vii. xv Ibid, p.14. xvi Vatican 2, The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, Vol.1. revised edition, (Dominican Publications, Dublin, 1992), e.g. p.172. “The homily is part of the liturgy and is strongly recommended, for it is a necessary source of nourishment for the Christian life.” xvii Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, p.16. xviii Vatican 2, The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, p.554ff. xix Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, p.24. xx Ibid, p.32. xxi Zizioulas, Being as Communion, p.246. xxii Watson, I believe in the Church, p.345. xxiii Küng, The Church, p.275f. xxiv Zizioulas, Being as Communion, p.257. xxv Barth, Church Dogmatics 4.2, p.618. xxvi Küng, The Church, p.325. xxvii Ibid, p.329. xxviii Zizioulas, Being as Communion, p.21. xxix Pannenberg, The Apostle’s Creed, p.146. xxx Küng, The Church, p.303. xxxi Moltmann, The Church in the power of the Spirit, p.339. xxxii Zizioulas, Being as Communion, p.162. xxxiii Ibid, p.254. xxxiv Ibid, p.255. xxxv K. Rahner, The shape of the Church to come, (SPCK, London, 1974), p.8. xxxvi Zizioulas, Being as Communion, p.22. xxxvii Ibid, p.207. xxxviii Moltmann, The Church in the power of the Spirit, p.359. xxxix Küng, The Church, p.357. xl Ibid, p.358. xli Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, p.28. xlii S. Abbott, Join our hearts, (Marshall, Pickering, London, 1989), pp.29-56. xliii Zizioulas, Being as Communion, p.207.
2. Models of Mission
What is Mission, and how does it differ from Evangelism? Although David Bosch believed that the Church has reached a crisis of faith with regard to mission, he contended nevertheless that “the Christian faith ... is intrinsically xliv
. In the same spirit, David Watson contends that “a healthy church will
always be especially concerned about its missionary work both on its own doorstep and overseas”
. But if mission is both local and global, as Watson implies, what is the
meaning of mission? Just as the Kingdom of God is wider than the Church, so mission is wider than evangelism. As Michael Green puts it, mission includes evangelism and “embodies the total impact of the church on the world” xlvi. More explicitly, Bosch writes that “mission is a multi-faceted ministry, in respect of witness, service, justice, healing, reconciliation, liberation, peace, evangelism, fellowship, church planting, contextualization, and much more”. The theology of evangelism must be derived from the original setting in which the word was used. The Greek verb euangelizesthai means ‘to announce good news’ and is found 52 times in the New Testament xlvii. This good news centres upon the salvation to be found in Jesus Christ (Acts 8:35, Rom. 1:1,3). Evangelism, then, involves the sharing or announcing of good news concerning salvation, which may involve a variety of methods or emphases. A widely accepted definition of evangelism, credited to William Temple, was given in the report entitled Towards the conversion of England: “to evangelise is so to present Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, that men shall come to put their trust in God through him, to accept him as their Saviour, and serve him as their King in the fellowship of his church”
. This definition implies that evangelism involves each
member of the Trinity, calls both for a decisive response and incorporation into the Church, and results in discipleship. The agreed statement of the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization (1974) added the dimension of responsible service in the world. A pioneer of the Church Growth Movement, Ralph Winter, unravelled evangelism into three strands: presence (Christian witness, primarily by deed, in the local community), proclamation (teaching or explaining the gospel message), and persuasion (discussion and questioning)
. The main accusation levelled against the Church
Growth Movement, and evangelicalism in general, is that it is concerned with 17
proclamation, to the exclusion of the preaching and practicing of justice l. There is some truth in this. Wagner asserts, for example, that “the one acute human need that churches and only churches can meet is the desire to relate to the ultimate, to know God personally” li. However, he expects social action to follow on from evangelism, and not to be divorced from it. It is a question of priorities. From an evangelical perspective, Green opposes any dichotomy between evangelism and social action: “to separate the spiritual from the social is to be blind to the fact that they are the inside and the outside of the same thing” lii. Evangelism, properly understood, needs to be integrated within the mission of the Church, even though it is concerned fundamentally with the sharing or announcing of the good news salvation through Jesus Christ.
What models are there for mission? Before we look more closely at current Church Growth thinking, and the place of church planting within it, it is important to consider the different models of mission found in the New Testament and through Church history. Perhaps the most comprehensive historical treatment of these models is to be found in Bosch’s Transforming Mission (1991). In order to differentiate them, Bosch uses Hans Küng’s six historico-theological paradigms of the mission of the Church.
He begins with the apocalyptic paradigm of primitive Christianity. Bosch’s contention is that the New Testament is a missionary document. Jesus’ own mission overturned “the well ordered proprieties of society”
, broke down barriers between people, and
attacked evil in all its forms. His mission was holistic in the way he combined the proclamation of the good news with healing the sick and defending the poor. However, although Bosch defines mission as “the proclamation and manifestation of Jesus’ allembracing reign”
, he recognises that each New Testament writer gives a different
perspective upon this mission. Matthew’s gospel emphasises mission as disciple-making. “Three terms in the ‘Great Commission’ summarize the essence of mission for Matthew: make disciples, baptize, teach”
. Making disciples involves both the idea of the original disciples being
prototypes for the Church, and membership of the fellowship of the disciples being incorporation into the body of Christ. Baptism represents the gift of God’s grace through which people are called to become disciples of Christ. Teaching what Christ has 18
commanded draws together different ideas of discipleship: as a costly process, as bearing fruit in righteous living, and as liberating others. For Luke, the writer of the third Gospel and also of the Acts of the Apostles, mission is more concerned with practicing forgiveness and solidarity with the poor. Luke 4:1621, which replaces the Great Commission as the ‘mission statement’ of Christ and of the Church, announces Jesus’ concern for the poor, his setting aside of vengeance, and his Gentile mission. Whereas the rich are portrayed as having used up their portion of happiness (6:24ff, 16:19ff), Zacchaeus illustrates the fact that salvation “includes the total transformation of human life, forgiveness of sins, healing from infirmities, and release from any kind of bondage” lvi. It is noteworthy that his salvation results in moral transformation and restitution to the poor. However, it is also worth pointing out that Luke records in Acts the beginnings of the mission to the Gentiles in which the emphasis is upon the expansion of the Church. Bosch describes the mission of the apostle Paul as an invitation to join the eschatological community. Although concerned to remain in full fellowship with the Jerusalem church, his mission to the Gentiles is inspired by the belief that God will ultimately triumph, and all will bow the knee to Christ (Phil. 2:10f). He is motivated by a concern for the lost (1 Cor. 1:18, Eph. 2:12), a sense of responsibility (2 Cor. 5:11), and a sense of gratitude (Gal. 2:20, Rom. 5:5). It is not surprising that Paul’s crosscultural evangelism, his methodical approach to planting new churches, and his tireless efforts both to proclaim the Gospel and to persuade people to believe it (e.g. Acts 18:45, 9) have served as a crucial inspiration to the Church Growth Movement lvii.
The second missionary model is the Patristic paradigm, which is represented by the Eastern Orthodox Church. Eusebius of Caesarea developed the Byzantine ideal of State and Church being united in harmony, so that mission became a concern of the Emperor as much as of the Church. This theocratic understanding permeated the Orthodox view of mission. When this in turn developed into an understanding of the Church as the Kingdom of God on earth, the Church became the object of mission. This has implications for unity and worship. Firstly, if mission is Church-centred, then division is a scandal, and evangelism which seeks to convert people to a particular denomination is unacceptable. Secondly, the Eucharist comes to be seen as a missionary event, in which people are sent out to worship God in serving others. Perhaps the key text for this 19
missionary paradigm is John 3:16, since Orthodox mission is founded on the love of God, and its goal is the divinization of individuals and of the whole world. Protestants are challenged by this model of mission, with its emphasis on unity and on the nonverbal, spiritual dimensions of mission, although it tends to become excessively inculturated and doctrinally inflexible.
The Medieval missionary paradigm, adopted by Roman Catholicism, was ushered in by Augustine, with his emphasis upon original sin, and his ecclesiasticization of salvation. However, it had its roots in Cyprian’s assertion that there is no salvation outside the Church. This provided the justification for aggressive missionary expansion, exemplified by Charlemagne’s forcible baptism of the defeated Saxons. From the sixteenth century, this was linked to colonial expansion, whereby the secular and religious powers worked together to bring subject people within the Roman Catholic hierarchy. A more peaceable form of mission was effected through the monastic movement, in which the boldness and prayerfulness of monks such as Columba and Boniface resulted in the voluntary conversion of whole tribes and kingdoms. The text which most characterises the Roman Catholic missionary paradigm is Luke 14:23: “compel them to come in”. This has provided a powerful impetus to mission, though its close alliance with secular power brings an inherent danger of nominalism.
It is the missionary paradigm of the Reformation which has most influenced the Protestant churches. Just as Luther’s rediscovery of the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith was the basis of this movement, so the most appropriate missionary text for this period would be Romans 1:16f: “the gospel is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes”. This also accords with the Protestant stress upon the individual dimension of salvation, and the centrality of Scripture to the life and mission of the Church. Protestant mission was hampered in its early stages by a preoccupation with reforming the Church and with establishing right doctrine and church government. This was changed by the Pietists and Moravians, whose concern for a subjective experience of God and for individual decisions for Christ gave a fresh and lasting dynamic to Protestant mission. In the first thirty years of the Moravians, ordinary men and women, often simple artisans, went as missionaries to twenty-eight countries, and were a direct inspiration to John Wesley among others. However, there are several ambivalences 20
built into the Protestant missionary paradigm, especially the tensions between the sovereignty of God and human responsibility, between the lostness of humanity and Christ’s all-embracing love, and between the role of Church and State.
The Enlightenment paradigm, with its exaltation of human reason over divine revelation, and its insistence that beliefs are a matter of private opinion, was more of a challenge than a stimulus to mission. Indirectly, however, as technical progress opened up the world to exploration and aided communication, the Enlightenment created the environment for a new period of missionary activity. A possible missionary text for this period would be the apostle Paul’s vision of the Macedonian man calling him to “come over and help us” (Acts 16:9). Confident in the superiority of the Christian West, missionary expansion went hand in hand with the exploration and colonisation of Africa. However, this militated against missionaries going out with a servant spirit, and was a primary cause of the present crisis of mission in a post-colonial era. Consequently, a more enduring and acceptable missionary text for this period would be the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20). William Carey used this text to justify foreign mission in a tract in 1792, and it has been appealed to by evangelicals ever since. Bosch perceives that the weakness of this missionary ethic has been a tendency to polemicism and to seeing mission more in terms of law than gospel.
A number of recent developments have undermined the Enlightenment worldview, notably a reaction against pure rationalism, the ecological crisis, the increasing gap between rich and poor, and the realisation that individualism is harmful if fostered at the expense of interdependence. Hence we are living in the Post-Modern era, which is marked by a combination of New Age syncretism, environmental concern, a growing spiritual hunger, and a search for meaningful relationships. Bosch argues that this has provided the elements for an emerging Ecumenical Missionary Paradigm within the Church. Alongside the traditional insistence upon mission as quest for justice and as evangelism, Bosch discerns some new trends within this paradigm. He cites the concerns for contextualization, for liberation (e.g. Liberation Theology), for inculturation, for a common witness (e.g. the formation of the World Council of Churches), and for mission by the whole People of God (not just by the ordained). Jesus’ prayer for unity in John 17 may serve best as the missionary text for this era. 21
dechristianization of the West, has opened up a new opportunity for mission in the West. Firstly, in reaction against excessive individualism, people are searching for meaning through relationships, and are open to the gospel at a non-cerebral level
Secondly, in reaction against rationalism, people are searching for spiritual experience, which has helped towards the recovery of the charismatic dimension of Christianity. There is an increased awareness within the Church of the need for holistic communication in mission, embracing an appeal to reason and experience. This in turn has given a fresh impetus to ecumenism as Christians seek to recover a balance of spiritualities in their worship and mission, which is sacramental (visual), evangelical (cognitive), and charismatic (experiential). Bosch argues that the six salvific events of the New Testament (the Incarnation, the Cross, the Resurrection, the Ascension, Pentecost, and the Parousia), have each provided a different focus of mission for different Christian denominations, e.g. Pentecost for Pentecostals, or the Incarnation for Roman Catholics. The challenge for the Church is to allow each of these aspects of the Christ-event to inform its mission, and to draw upon the most positive features of the paradigms which we have reviewed. It is against this background that we will evaluate modern Church Growth theories and methodologies, before seeing how mission relates to church planting.
The Church Growth Movement: an historical perspective The roots of the Church Growth Movement are in the mission fields of India. As secretary and treasurer for the United Christian Missionary Society in India during the 1930s, Donald McGavran became dissatisfied with the results of the mission’s work. He left his administrative post and spent seventeen years in planting churches. The results bore substantial fruit, and convictions about the reasons for the growth or stagnation of churches began to form in his mind and were published in The Bridges of God in 1955. He moved back to the United States and, in 1965, became the founding dean of The Fuller School of World Mission and Institute of Church Growth. Peter Wagner and Eddie Gibbs are among those who have served on the staff at this school. The term ‘Church Growth’ is a McGavranism. It was soon recognised that not all church growth is of equal value. McGavran distinguished between three types: biological (i.e. those born into Christian families), 22
transfer (i.e. those moving to certain congregations at the expense of others), and conversion (i.e. those becoming Christians and joining a church). In these terms, the third category is the only meaningful measure of growth. Another categorisation of growth is that provided by Wagner, which concentrates upon qualitative and quantitative growth. His four categories are: internal (i.e. discipleship), expansion (i.e. the growth of a congregation), extension (i.e. church planting within oneâ€™s own culture and area), and bridging (i.e. church planting across cultural boundaries)
recently still, within the U.K., Roy Pointer has given even more emphasis to qualitative growth in his fourfold classification of conceptual (growing up to maturity), organic (growing together in community), incarnational (growing out in service and evangelism) and numerical (growth in numbers) growth lx. It seems that there is a growing concern within church growth thinking that numerical growth, even if of primary importance, should not be at the expense of growth in maturity, in community and in service. In Understanding Church Growth, first published in 1970, McGavran developed the main principles of church growth which he had identified in The Bridges of God. These included the priority of church growth, the importance of concentrating upon responsive people groups, the removal of unnecessary cultural barriers, and the use of secular disciplines in planned evangelism. We will consider these principles critically and in more detail as they occur within the seven signs of growing churches which Wagner identified in Your Church can Grow (1976, whilst including the contribution made from a British perspective in I Believe in Church Growth (1981) by Eddie Gibbs. It must be said that Wagnerâ€™s study of growing churches is an empirical one rather than a theoretical one, although he does make some attempt to relate his findings to biblical principles. As a result, the criteria he uses are descriptive (they describe what has worked), although he does tend to use them in a prescriptive way. Consequently, they do need evaluating against the signs of the true Church and appropriate models of evangelism and mission.
Wagnerâ€™s seven signs of a growing church The first sign of a growing church which Wagner identified from his research was a positive, growth-orientated leadership. The key figure is a pastor who is able to galvanise the church into action for growth. However, as John Finney points out, it is unlikely that any leader will have all the leadership gifts listed in Ephesians 4, therefore 23
a leader must be an enabler as much as an activist
. This sign is criticised on two
further counts. Firstly, Peter Cotterell, the President of the British Church Growth Association, criticises church growth as a goal of mission on the grounds that it artificially narrows the Kingdom of God whilst aggrandizing church leaders. Secondly, Bosch asserts that authentic evangelism may cause a church to decline (although he does not explain why
), and cannot be divorced from a concern for justice
whilst his concern to hold together evangelism and a concern for justice is surely right, his assumption that organic and incarnational growth is superior to numerical growth is questionable. In response, McGavran makes a critique of ‘remnant theology’ lxiv, noting God’s concern for the lost, and his ultimate desire for the Church to grow lxv. Nor, as we shall see, does he divorce evangelism from God’s concern for justice. However, it falls to Gibbs to make a clear distinction between Church and Kingdom in this context lxvi. Wagner is aware that no one leader has all the gifts required for leading a church, giving a well mobilized laity as the second sign of a growing church. He approves of the rediscovery of spiritual gifts since the 1960s, and notes that a church in which the pastor does all the work is virtually unable to grow beyond 200 members, whereas the mobilization of the laity enables it to exceed this barrier. After stating that all Christians are involved in the mission of the Church, Eddie Gibbs adds that “all Christians are equipped by the Holy Spirit to fulfil specialist roles, for God’s mission entails a vast range of activities”
. Both he and Wagner emphasise the need to mobilize the
evangelists. Wagner’s observation is that, whereas all Christians are called to witness to their faith, about 10% of Christians have the spiritual gift of evangelism, which needs to be discovered and nurtured if churches are to grow effectively. Whereas McGavran does not say much on this topic, he did add a chapter to the 1980 edition of Understanding Church Growth in which he states that, from the times of the apostles onwards, divine healing has prepared people to receive the Gospel. Wagner’s third sign of a growing church is that it is big enough to meet the needs of its members. This is deliberately ambiguous, because he recognises that different people have different needs, which will be met by different sizes of church. For example, a small church caters for some one who likes intimacy, whereas a large church caters for some one who likes anonymity or specialized groups. In summary, he says that “a growing church can consider itself big enough when it is effectively winning lost people to Christ, when it provides the range of services that meet the needs of its members, and 24
when it is reproducing itself by planting new churches” lxviii. This implies the need for a church to ‘divide and multiply’ once it exceeds the ideal size for a church of its type. That the ability to reproduce is a sign of a healthy church will be one of the significant arguments for church planting in the next section. Related to the identification of the different dynamics of different sizes of congregation is Wagner’s fourth sign of a growing church, i.e. that it has a proper balance of relationship between celebration, congregation and cell. In his terminology, a celebration is gathering of over 80 people, in which they can worship God in an uplifting way in an atmosphere analogous to that of a major sporting event. A congregation is a smaller gathering of 30 to 80 people, in which they can experience fellowship. A cell is a small group of 8 to 12 people who can minister to one another in an informal setting. Wagner believes that every Christian ought to have the opportunity to relate to each of these different groups if the Church is to grow effectively. So, for example, he argues that a large church should be divided into smaller groups in order that its members can be discipled. The impact of small cell groups upon the growth of the Church in China, Korea and South America supports his case. Gibbs states unequivocally, “in all of my eleven years of itinerant ministry, I cannot recall any growing church which does not encourage small groups” lxix. The principle underlying Wagner’s fifth sign of a growing church is that it draws its membership chiefly from one homogeneous unit. McGavran’s archetypal phrase is that “people like to become Christians without crossing racial, linguistic, or class barriers” lxx
. This is the most controversial principle of the Church Growth Movement. However,
in many ways, it is merely a statement of the obvious. It follows from McGavran’s observation that each country is a mosaic of different people groups, e.g. gypsies in France. The homogeneous unit principle can easily be defended sociologically, in that people find it easier to relate to people of their own type lxxi, but it is questionable theologically. Bosch criticises a homogeneous unit church which “finds it impossible to communicate with other churches and believes that its perspective on the gospel is the only legitimate one”
, and Cotterell contends that “the concept of a homogeneous church is clearly
. Galatians 3:28 is cited to support this view. However, Wagner defends
the concept biblically, arguing that it “is a modern day application of the decision of the Jerusalem Council reported in Acts 15”, i.e. that Gentile Christians do not have to adopt 25
Hebrew culture in order to become the people of God
. Moreover, he stresses that
this principle is not enough in isolation. Crucially, he insists that, in structures above those of the local congregation, Christians should demonstrate practical, public love and concern for other homogeneous units
. His argument for a balance of celebration,
congregation and cell groups relates to this concern. In relation to the discussion of the catholicity and unity of the Church in the previous section, it might be said that homogeneous unit churches are acceptable so long as they remain in communion with the wider Church, and particularly with other churches in their locality. The sixth of Wagner’s signs of a growing church is that it uses an evangelistic method that works. He concludes that neither crusade evangelism nor saturation evangelism (e.g. using mail or radio) have been effective in making disciples, which is the primary aim of church growth
. This is amply corroborated by research in the U.K. which
shows that conversion is more often a process than a crisis, and that evangelistic events only play a subsidiary role in bringing the majority of people to faith in Christ lxxvii. Lyle Schaller’s research shows that in the U.S.A. also the majority of people joining a church are brought by a friend or a relative lxxviii. This relates to the homogeneous unit principle and the importance of evangelising people groups. As McGavran reminds us, this was the way that most of the peoples of Europe became Christian, e.g. through the work of Boniface among the tribes of North Germany and of Augustine among the AngloSaxons in England. Moreover, this approach is equally valid in countries which are still divided more or less along tribal lines. A common criticism of Church Growth methodology is that it limits the activity of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, a common factor running through the writings of McGavran, Wagner and Gibbs is their belief in the undergirding work of the Holy Spirit in the Church’s mission
. So their approach is not purely sociological, even when they use
sociological disciplines. However, the Church Growth Movement unashamedly advocates the use of secular disciplines in order to obtain clear data about the social factors underlying growth or decline, so that successful methods of evangelism can be developed. “Sociology, communications, religions, anthropology, theory and practice of education, ecumenical relationships, history of evangelism and mission, biblical studies - all have a contribution to make” , says McGavran
. Gibbs is careful to refute the
charge that data gathering is unbiblical lxxxi. McGavran defends it both pragmatically and biblically, so long as it is done with the right motives lxxxii. 26
The seventh sign of a growing church is that it has a right order of priorities. By this, Wagner means that evangelism should be the first priority, and social action should be secondary. As we have seen, his belief is that social action usually flows from evangelism, but not vice versa
. Our investigation of individual case studies in
chapter four tends to bear this out. McGavran also agrees with this diagnosis
However, he also contends that “the Bible shows a steady preference for the poor”, and points out that Jesus “was born to a peasant girl of Nazareth and grew up in the home of a carpenter”. He deplores mission which aims at the educated upper and middle classes, and creates middle class churches. He exhorts such churches to “break out of their middle class encirclements, seek receptive peoples in their neighbourhoods, and establish constellations of living congregations among the masses”
. This is a
necessary modification of the homogeneous unit principle, which would otherwise become unhealthily introspective.
An assessment of the Church Growth Movement We have seen that the protagonists of the Church Growth Movement tend to approach mission and evangelism from an empirical rather than a theological perspective. Although they adduce theological justifications for their theories, these tend to be ‘post hoc, ergo propter hoc’, which is a faulty line of argument. Although this does not of itself invalidate their conclusions, nor indicate that their approach is unbiblical, it does mean that their theories need to be evaluated critically against previously determined theological criteria for the nature and mission of the Church. Although the Church Growth Movement has taken account of these criticisms as it has evolved, it continues to advocate 1) the priority of evangelism over social action, and 2) evangelism within homogeneous units of people. However, neither of these principles indicate that the movement necessarily runs counter to the four classical signs of the Church as One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. Firstly, evangelism is not advocated at the expense of social action. To do so would be to at the expense of the calling of the Church to be holy. Secondly, although the contentious homogeneous unit principle is potentially at odds with the unity and catholicity of the Church, its advocates insist that a homogeneous unit church should actively seek to work and worship with other churches, and is only one small part of the universal church. These are crucial qualifications. 27
Although ecumenical in ethos, the Church Growth Movement is unashamedly evangelical in theology. In a sense, it straddles the Enlightenment and Post-Modern paradigms,
Consequently, no one text identifies it adequately. Perhaps a combination of Godâ€™s concern for the lost (Luke 15:1-7) and the relevance of the gospel to all nations (Romans 16:25f) captures best the missionary thrust of the Church Growth Movement.
Where does church planting fit into mission? This will be the subject of more detailed examination in the next section, in which we will investigate the current church planting movement, with particular reference to the Church of England, and evaluate which models of church planting are most true to the nature of the Church and represent the most healthy patterns of mission. For the moment, it must suffice to put it into the context of historical patterns of mission and the Church Growth Movement. A superficial analysis indicates that church planting fits easily into the paradigms of mission which we considered earlier in this section. So long as each new congregation is in communion with the rest of the Church, and therefore truly reflects both the locality and the universality of the Church, it coheres with the Patristic/Orthodox model of mission. It also reflects the Orthodox emphasis upon the love of God for the whole world. Church planting sits well with the Medieval/Roman Catholic emphasis upon going out to new people groups and geographical areas, and drawing them into the Church. The Reformation/Protestant model, even after the influence of the Enlightenment, takes seriously the power of the Gospel and the challenge of the Great Commission, which complements the ethos of the church planting movement. PostModern concerns for experience and relationship are well expressed through the planting of churches so long as they seek to build relationships within their community, and to be local incarnations of the Body of Christ. As we have seen, church planting is also an essential ingredient in the Church Growth Movement. McGavran sees the multiplication of churches as the only way to evangelise all nations, especially in view of the need for cross-cultural mission which has been identified within the typology of E-0, E-1, E-2 and E-3 evangelism
. This global
emphasis may seem inappropriate to countries such as the U.K. that have already been evangelized. However, as we shall see in the next section, a shifting population, new 28
housing developments, and the introduction of new people groups through immigration, all indicate the need for church planting. Moreover, it will be argued that a static, parochial model of the Church is inadequate in view of both the nature of the Church and its mission.
D. Bosch, Transforming Mission, (Orbis, New York, 1991), p.8. D. Watson, I Believe in the Church, (Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1978), p.299. xlvi M. Green, Evangelism through the local church, (Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1990), p.9. xlvii New Dictionary of Theology, ed. S.B. Ferguson and D.F. Wright, (IVP, Leicester, 1988), p.240f. xlviii Quoted in M. Green, p.9. xlix J. Clarke, Evangelism that really works, (SPCK, London, 1995), p.15 (a concept first put forward by Ralph Winter). l D. Bosch, Transforming Mission, pp.418-420. li C. Peter Wagner, Your Church Can Grow, (Regal Books, Glendale, California, 1976), p.174. lii Green, Evangelism through the local church, p.5. liii Bosch, Transforming Mission, p.34. liv Ibid, p.40. lv Ibid, p.66. lvi Ibid, p.107. lvii See, for example, D.A. McGavran, Understanding Church Growth, (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1990), p.270. lviii J. Drane, Evangelism for a New Age, (Marshall Pickering, London,1994), p.136. lix McGavran, Understanding Church Growth, pp.71-73. lx R. Pointer, The Growth Book, (MARC, Bromley, 1987), pp.7-10. lxi J. Finney, Understanding Leadership, (Darton, Longman & Todd, London, 1989), pp.35-69, and E. Gibbs, I Believe in Church Growth, (Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1981), chapters 9 and 10. lxii Bosch, Transforming Mission, p.416. lxiii Ibid, p.418. lxiv McGavran, Understanding Church Growth, p.121f. lxv Ibid, pp.27-29, for example. lxvi Gibbs, I believe in church growth, chapter 2. lxvii Ibid, p.217. lxviii Wagner, Your church can grow, p.109. lxix Gibbs, I believe in church growth, p.174. lxx McGavran, Understanding Church Growth, p.163. lxxi See footnote xxxii for evidence for this. lxxii Bosch, Transforming Mission, p.456. lxxiii P. Cotterell, Mission and Meaninglessness, (SPCK, London, 1990), p.168. lxxiv Wagner, Your church can grow, p.132. lxxv Ibid, p.141. lxxvi Ibid, p.161. lxxvii See, for example, Clarke, Evangelism that really works, p.149; Drane, Evangelism for a new age, pp.91-97; J. Finney, Finding Faith Today,(BFBS, Swindon, 1992), chapter 3. lxxviii McGavran, p.165f. lxxix See references to the work of the Holy Spirit in McGavran, Understanding Church Growth, p.144, Wagner, Your church can grow, p.29, and Gibbs, I believe in church growth, p.69. lxxx McGavran, Understanding Church Growth, p.265. lxxxi Gibbs, I believe in church growth, p103f. lxxxii McGavran, Understanding Church Growth, p.67f, and pp.269ff. lxxxiii Wagner, Your church can grow, p.174ff. lxxxiv cf. McGavranâ€™s reference to the United Methodist Church in Understanding Church Growth, p.277. lxxxv McGavran, Understanding Church Growth, pp.199, 200 & 220. lxxxvi E0 = bringing existing church members to a personal commitment to Christ,E1 = evangelism of local non-Christians of the same culture, E2 = evangelism across a small ethnic, cultural or linguistic gap, E3 = xlv
evangelism across a large ethnic, cultural or linguistic gap. See McGavran, Understanding Church Growth, pp.47-51 for a fuller explanation..
3. Church Planting in the UK
DAWN and the International Perspective As we have seen, church planting is not a recent invention. The book of Acts describes the beginnings of a rolling church planting movement, in which the apostle Paul would set up a church and then move on with a small team to start another one, having appointed elders to lead the new church. At different stages in Church history, there has been a resurgence of church planting. The evangelisation of Northern Europe in the sixth to tenth centuries, and the worldwide missionary movement of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries would be two examples. However, the late twentieth century has brought what Bosch refers to as a crisis in mission, in which Western missionaries are frequently resented and the emphasis on ‘inculturation’ has resulted in national churches being encouraged to engage in mission with a minimum of western involvement. Ironically, however, this trend has acted as a stimulus towards renewed church planting activity, not just in the ‘Two Thirds World’, but also in the West. In the early 1970s, a graduate of the Institute of Church Growth called Jim Montgomery returned to work as a missionary in the Philippines. Like McGavran, he was disappointed by the superficial effects of traditional missionary methods. In 1974, he brought together 75 Philippine church leaders to agree upon a more strategic approach. For administrative purposes, the Philippines is divided into barrios or barangays of about one thousand people, who frequently share the same language or dialect and basic vocation. These church leaders decided to aim to plant a church in each of these barrios by the year 2,000. In this way, the movement called DAWN (Discipling A Whole Nation) was born. DAWN is intended to be both practical and biblical. Montgomery argues that it is based upon biblical models of the systematic occupation of the land given by Joshua in the Old Testament, and Paul in the New (e.g. Acts 19:8-10), and reflects God’s concern for all nations (Matt. 28:18-20, Rom. 16:26). At the same time, it is built upon the practical approach of dividing a country into recognisable and discrete groups of people in order to develop a missionary strategy and provide an objective measurement of success lxxxvii. However, there are legitimate questions which can be raised concerning this approach, especially as it is presented by Montgomery in ‘DAWN 2000’. In the first place, it is hard to determine what he means by a church. When he assesses that a further seven million churches are required to complete the Great Commission by the year 2000, is he 31
referring to churches or cells, i.e. a group of up to a dozen Christians who meet together? In his terms, a church is formed “when at least a small group of believers led by an elder meets on a regular basis for worship, instruction, the basic New Testament sacraments and for witness and service”, and he seems almost to equate a cell with a church
. But this definition begs a number of questions. For example, what is the
minimum size which a cell group has to attain before it can be called a congregation or a church? According to Wagner’s criteria given above, there needs to be at least thirty people meeting together before a congregation is formed. However, Montgomery’s virtual equation of cell and church, which is axiomatic for both the Base Community and Cell Church movements, is compatible with New Testament usage, e.g. Rom. 16:5 and 1 Cor. 16:19. Secondly, Montgomery’s commitment to the catholicity of the Church seems at times to be in question. By what criteria can a church regard itself as part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church? Montgomery’s definition of a church seems to conform to the Protestant insistence upon the preaching of the Word and the right administration of the sacraments
. Therefore, it is also important to ensure that the elder is ‘apt to
teach’ and to administer the sacraments correctly, and that each church is in communion with the rest of the Church of God, which means taking seriously the concepts of ordination and apostolicity. However, although Montgomery’s understanding of the Church seems at times to be exclusively evangelical, this is compensated by an emphasis upon the importance of different denominations working together in the multiplication of churches xc. Moreover, the ten DAWN principles for responsible church planting which had been developed by 1986, and which were adopted by the first DAWN congress in the United Kingdom in 1992, stressed the importance of co-operation and mutual respect between denominations. At this congress, approximately 600 people from 35 denominations and church streams met together and in denominational groupings. These delegates set an unofficial goal of 20,000 new congregations by the year 2000. Although the second congress in 1995 revised the timescale for achieving this goal, the rate of church planting had increased in the intervening period. As Appendix 1 shows, the independent and Pentecostal churches are still the most active church planters, but the Church of England, for example, has seen a recent increase in the number of churches planted.
Recent Church Planting in the Church of England As the Bishop of Coventry reminds his readers in the foreword to a booklet giving an account of recent church plants in his diocese xci, the mission churches built in the midnineteenth century were also part of a church planting movement. However the planting of a new congregation within the Church of England every fortnight since 1990 represents a recent resurgence in church planting
, which is all the more notable at a
time when the general population is not growing. The fact that the size of the population is relatively unchanging is one reason why many Anglicans continue to question the necessity or even the legitimacy of church planting within the Church of England. After all, the parish system covers every square inch of English soil. However, the decline in the number of ordained clergy xciii, the fact that only about 2% of the population attend an Anglican church on a Sunday, population migration, the arrival of immigrants from different cultures, and the increasing heterogeneity of society all call into question the effectiveness of the parish system. The grass roots church planting movement within the Church of England, which represents a response to these trends, has now received official sanction in the form of the General Synod report Breaking New Ground (1994), and in booklets from the dioceses of Southwell (Stories of Church Planting, 1993), St Albans (Sowing Seeds, 1993) and Coventry (Coming to Flower, 1994) There are several factors which have contributed towards this sea change in official thinking. The Urban Church Project’s report to General Synod in 1974 revealed that only churches in parishes with a population of 1,800 or less had a regular Sunday attendance of 10% or more of the population. Larger parishes became victims of the law of diminishing returns. The report’s conclusion was that to retain parishes of over 2,000 people is effectively to settle for congregationalism and to abdicate from parochial responsibility. The Decade of Evangelism has also concentrated people’s minds upon this issue. Professor Robin Gill has argued recently for “a judicious mixture of planting and pruning” and a move away from simply spreading declining numbers of clergy more thinly
. More recently still Robert Warren, the National Officer for Evangelism, has
included church planting within the five elements required to build a missionary congregation xcv. The combination of long term decline and the sense that the Church is increasingly out of step with social change means that Warren’s challenge to the Church to move from pastoral to missionary mode has struck a responsive chord.
Types of Church Plant Church planting is a helpfully descriptive phrase because it implies a new source of organic life. However, the categorisation of church plants can be just as confusing to the non-specialist as botanical categorisation, e.g. that a tomato is a fruit rather than a vegetable! Classifying church plants by type is useful for those considering church planting, and wanting to assess the different options open to them, but it is not a precise science. What is more, a confusing variety of attempts have been made to define the different types of church plant. In the early 1980s, the Principal of London Bible College, Michael Griffiths, coined three memorable terms to describe the different processes which give rise to a new church: a) spontaneous schismatic outstep, which is a split in a church resulting in a breakaway group meeting nearby b) spontaneous schismatic inpush, whereby a new group comes into an area, usually with a dismissive attitude to those churches already there c) denominational outreach, whereby an existing denominational church sets up a daughter congregation in a nearby community which has no church
surprisingly, within this generally negative terminology, Griffiths sees only the last of these as legitimate. Now that church planting is viewed more favourably, and becoming a part of theological training even within the more established denominations, a more positive and detailed categorisation has been developed. An Anglican, Bob Hopkins, pointed out in a 1988 Grove Booklet that church plants tend to conform to the two methods of reproduction found in the plant kingdom, i.e. vegetative/asexual (as in a strawberry runner) and seed/sexual (as in a dandelion seed)
. He also makes the distinction
between ‘progressive plants’, which build upon the existing life and witness of Christians in an area, and ‘pioneering plants’, in which an individual or small team begin a completely new witness in an area. Another Anglican, George Lings, further subdivided vegetative church plants into runners, grafts, and transplants (see Appendix 2) xcviii. A runner remains in a close relationship with the mother church. A graft occurs when a group moves elsewhere to revive an ailing congregation which is larger than itself. A transplant occurs when a larger group moves elsewhere either to revive a congregation that is smaller than itself or to take over a redundant church building. A feature of Lings’ categorisation is that it includes the complicating factor of the parish system. In other words, transplants which occur across parish boundaries without 34
the permission of the Bishop and the incumbent of the receiving parish are defined as ‘wildflower’ rather than ‘pioneer’ plants. As a result, although his four part categorisation of runner, graft, transplant and seed is more comprehensive than Griffiths’ or Hopkins’, it tends to give an institutional rather than a missionary perspective
. Moreover, the categories are perhaps too neat. Does a progressive seed
plant exist, or is it a contradiction in terms, given that the characteristic of progressive plants is that they build upon an existing Christian presence? The same applies to pioneering transplants. If transplants are from strength and consist of a congregation which has already been formed, in what sense can they be pioneering? This confusion is not limited to the Church of England. Robinson and Spriggs list ten models of church planting, taking account of the size of the team, the motives for planting, and the methods used c. It would be useful to have a clearer categorisation, which has a missionary orientation, and which takes separate account of the size and the type of plant. One of the problems with the existing models is that they tend to confuse these two dimensions, and it is unclear whether it is size of team or type of outreach which governs how a plant is classified. For example, it is unclear whether a seed plant is characterised by the size of the team or the distance from the planting church. In Appendix 3, an attempt has been made to do this in the form of a matrix. In one dimension this separates church plants by whether they represent E1, E2, or E3 evangelism
, which also forms a spectrum reflecting to what degree they are
progresssive or pioneering. In the other dimension this separates church plants by size of team. This is still not foolproof. For example, not all church plants involving a small team are grafts. They may involve going into a new area, rather than being integrated into an existing Christian witness.
How church plants relate to the wider Church Distinguishing between different church plants within the categories of E1, E2 and E3 evangelism has the added advantage that it sheds light upon the rather stale controversy over the homogeneous unit principle. Church planting, no less than the church growth movement as a whole, has been criticised for adopting this principle, and aiming at particular people groups to the detriment of the all-embracing message of the Gospel. 35
Bob Hopkins acknowledges the allegation that this principle denies the reconciling goal of the gospel (Gal. 3:26ff, Eph. 2:11ff). “However,” he continues, “it seems to me to be the logical conclusion of the whole modern missiological movement to ‘enculturate’ or make the gospel culturally relevant and to exclude cultural imperialism from mission” cii
. He comments that many of the most successful church plants exemplify this
principle, although he concedes the need for sensitivity towards those excluded by a particular type of church. His judgement is cautiously endorsed by Breaking New Ground, which challenges defenders of the parochial status quo to recognise that “human life is lived in a complex array of networks and that the neighbourhoods where people reside may hold only a very minor loyalty”
. The answer to this conundrum,
surely, lies in a dynamic interaction between the local and catholic dimensions of the Church, as explored within the section on the nature of the Church. In other words, if a particular church represents one particular type of people, it is important that this is offset by involvement with and affirmation of other churches, particularly within the immediate locality, which represent a different spirituality and/or social group. A related issue concerns the success of church plants in adapting to the communities in which they are set by their adoption of culturally relevant patterns of worship. In one way, this is an entirely healthy response to the failure of the parish system and the widening gap between the Church and society produced by the sociological trends outlined above. However, this is another area where counterbalances need to be in place. A wider frame of reference is needed to ensure that teaching and doctrine remain apostolic, and do not drift off into heresy or idiosyncrasy. Breaking New Ground shows an awareness of this issue when it sets the boundaries within which a plant can be recognised as a church. It defines a church as a network of Christians “led by those with authorization from the wider Church, whose worship and common life includes regular commitment to preaching the Word and to the celebration of the two dominical sacraments” civ. Whilst reminiscent of Montgomery’s definition of a church, this brings into question the authorisation its leaders. In considering cross-boundary plants, the authors of Breaking New Ground conclude that, “to be members of the Church of England, clear local identity and responsibility must be matched with clear central accountability” cv. In other words, the leaders of a church plant should be identifiable and authorized by the wider church. This seems to run counter to David Pytches’ assertion in ‘New 36
Wineskins’ that “a simple, unordained leadership from the locality” is all that the New Testament requires, and may even be ideal for “new local wineskin churches”
Undoubtedly there is a tension here between the local and universal church. Pytches may be right to argue that church order can come after the new life. But it will help to avoid problems especially if a church plant crosses a parish boundary if the leaders is centrally authorized, albeit with a flexibility on the part of central authorities regarding training requirements. Otherwise, the lack of ordained ministers will stifle practically all church planting initiatives, or prevent them from reaching independence and maturity. The evidence George Lings has collated from recent Anglican church plants indicates that duplicate services, satellite congregations and daughter churches tend to reach a stage beyond which the number of attenders reaches a plateau and then declines
However, those plants which move quickly to independent leadership, finance and pastoral structures, tend to produce sustained growth. He argues, therefore, that each church plant should aim to become self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating (using the nineteenth century missionary Henry Venn’s terminology cviii). It is noticeable that Venn was talking about native churches overseas, and that it is rarely thought that Church of England churches should be self-propagating. It seems that the ‘modality’ (structure) of the parish system has stifled any sense of the ‘sodality’ (mobility) of the missionary Church. However, there is a strong argument for considering the ability to reproduce not only a sign of a healthy local church, but one of the central aspects of the nature of the universal Church. In all of these areas, church planting raises questions about the nature of the Church and poses serious challenges to the ecclesiology of the Church of England in particular: 1) If the homogeneous unit principle ‘works’, how can this be reconciled to the implicit assumptions behind the parish church system? In an age when people often relate more naturally to relational networks than to geographical parishes, especially in cities, surely it is almost inevitable that individual churches will (consciously or unconsciously) aim for and attract certain specific groups of people, and not others? The extent to which people drive outside their parish to attend church is testimony to this. 2) If it is right that church plants are sensitive to the culture of their target area, to what extent are fixed liturgical limits to what constitutes ‘Anglican’ worship either desirable or legitimate? We have seen that the Bible and the historic creeds govern the true nature of the Church. The Church of England adds the Book of Common Prayer to these 37
historic formulae. Within the overall question of what is true to the nature of the Church, the question of what is truly ‘Anglican’ is a matter for continuing debate. 3) If church plants require new leaders in order to become a healthy, independent church, where are these accredited leaders to come from when the number of ordained clergy is in decline? Is it possible for church plant leaders such as Church Army officers and Readers to be licensed to the ministry of Word and Sacrament in a way that does justice to both the locality and the universality of the Church? This raises the whole question of what is meant by ordination. There is not the space here to deal with this question properly. However, if ordination is, at its most basic level, a ‘setting in order’ of the Church’s ministries, and there is a growing movement across the denominations to involve all the baptised in ministry, surely some flexibility is desirable. If not, surely Robin Gill’s plea for a “judicious mixture of pruning and planting” within the Church of England becomes all the more pressing. 4) If the ability to reproduce is a sign of a healthy, missionary church, can the Church of England afford to regard church planting as a marginal activity? The implications of Breaking New Ground are that it cannot. However, there is no nationally agreed commitment to the church planting objectives agreed unofficially at the first DAWN congress, or even to revised objectives, and the adoption of a church planting strategy by individual dioceses has been very piecemeal.
Does church planting represent a healthy pattern of mission? In the previous chapter, we considered the relationship between evangelism and mission, and the different historical/theological paradigms of mission, with particular reference to the contemporary Church Growth movement. Regarding what represents healthy patterns of mission, our conclusions were that a) evangelism is a part of the mission of the Church and should include both proclamation of good news and incarnational service b) there are a variety of missionary paradigms, each of which has biblical support, but none of which are adequate in themselves c) Church Growth theories, which straddle the Enlightenment and Post-Modern paradigms, originate from a sociological approach and need some theological correction. Church planting is an important means of evangelism which is an element within each of the missionary 38
paradigms we have examined and the Church Growth movement. In this section it is treated as if it were an entity. However, it has several strands, which will be treated separately in the next chapter. In his foreword to Stories of Church Planting in Southwell Diocese, the Bishop of Southwell says that “the parochial principle must also take into account the fact that most people today choose to relate to each other through a network of relationships ... neighbourhood or network, both provide a fitting context” for church planting cix. At the same time that he challenges assumptions about the parochial system, the Bishop also implies that, especially within the Church of England, church planting gives the opportunity for a creative synthesis between the mission of the Church and its engagement with the community. At its best, Anglican church planting will take seriously both the modality and the sodality of the Church which were mentioned above. Recent Church of England publications on mission have acknowledged the need to move from a purely pastoral approach to mission, and to hold these two elements together cx. When the parish system, especially when it is reinforced by the freehold of an incumbent clergyman, is used to restrict mission, and to prevent the very variety of churchmanship which it is supposed to protect, Pytches’ description of the parish system as “the condom of the Church of England”cxi does not seem too wide of the mark! A cavalier approach to church planting only serves to reinforce this defensive attitude. But when a proposed church plant is motivated by a proper concern for the community it is intended to reach, this seems to be a healthy reflection of the original missionary and pastoral motives which brought the parish system into being. This urgent need to hold together church planting and a commitment to a particular community, which is required both by the nature and the mission of the Church, will provide the particular focus of the next section, when we come to consider the impact of specific church plants upon their target community. However, it should be noted in passing that this imperative sheds light upon another sterile debate, i.e. the apparently conflicting claims of social action and evangelism. When we came to define evangelism, we saw that a comprehensive definition should include social action. This is no less true for church planting as an aspect of evangelism. Hopkins expresses this well when he considers the tension between the church as a gathered community and as a part of the universal Church. “The church local, as the church universal, should surely find its identity both as a gathered people, called out from the world, and also as a 39
servant people to a communityâ€?
. Church planting and commitment to a community
are inextricably linked within a comprehensive understanding of the nature of the Church and its mission, which is why the next chapter will assess the success of church plants largely in terms of their identification and involvement with their local community.
Summary Church planting is a part of the historical and universal mission of the Church. Although a renewed interest in church planting has come from the Church Growth Movement in response to the failure of other missionary methods, and as a result of sociological research, it has an historical and theological basis. However, there is a certain amount of confusion regarding the categorization of different types of plant, and account must be taken of both the size and the type of plant. Various models are used, and it is unlikely that all are equally valid expressions of the mission of the Church either in their intentions or in their results. In the final chapter, we will review recent Anglican church plants, with reference to official statistics and specific case studies, in order to ascertain which models are most helpful. It is important to compare different types of church plant. Which ones reflect successfully the signs of the Church? Which ones have the best balance of proclamation, presence and persuasion in their overall approach to evangelism? In particular, it would be useful to compare different sizes of plant with regard to their impact upon the local community. Is it the case that the smaller the team, the more responsive it is to the culture and needs of the community in which the church is set? To put it another way, is a seed more expressive of the vulnerability of the Incarnation than a transplant? On the other hand, is a larger team more able to meet the needs of the community without being overwhelmed, and to act as a prophetic voice within the community? These and other questions will be considered in the following chapter.
For an explanation of the DAWN initiative, see J. Montgomery, DAWN 2000, (Highland, Crowborough, 1990). For its application to the U.K., see M. Robinson and D. Spriggs, Church Plantiing the training manual, (Lynx, Oxford, 1995), chapter 1.1, especially the references to Challenge 2000. lxxxviii J. Montgomery, DAWN 2000, (Highland, Crowborough, 1990), p.79. lxxxix See chapter on The Nature of the Church for a discussion of the Protestant signs in the context of the four classical signs of the Church. xc Montgomery, DAWN 2000, p.155. xci Colin and Fey Holtum, Coming to Flower: Stories of Church Planting in Coventry, (Coventry Church Planting Network, 1994), p.3. xcii Breaking New Ground, (Church House Publishing, London, 1994), p.v. xciii The UK Christian Handbook, 1994/95, ed. P. Brierley and V. Hiscock, (CRE, London, 1993) p.251, shows a 2.4% reduction in Anglican ministers from 1975 to 1985, and a 1.3% decline from 1985 to 1995. xciv R. Gill, A vision for growth, (SPCK, London, 1994), p.61. xcv R. Warren, Building Missionary Congregations, (Church House Publishing, London, 1995), p.36ff. xcvi C. Cleverly, Church Planting; our future hope, (Scripture Union, London, 1991), p.156f, quoting from M. Hill, How to plant churches, (MARC, 1984). xcvii Bob Hopkins, Church Planting: 1. Models for Mission in the Church of England, (Grove, Nottingham, 1988), p.14ff. xcviii See Breaking New Ground, p.6f and appendix 2. xcix Breaking New Ground, p.49, and my Appendix 2. c See M. Robinson and D. Spriggs, The Church Planting Manual, (Lynx, Oxford, 1995), pp.39-46. Their models include daughter churches, the ‘strawberry runner’ principle, colonization, adoption, multiple congregations, ‘accident’, using a mission team, with a pioneer, with a founding pastor, and by means of a crusade or mission. ci See previous chapter on Models of Mission or Donald A. McGavran, Understanding Church Growth, (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1990), pp.47-51. cii Hopkins, Church Planting 1, p.21. ciii Breaking New Ground, p.3. civ Ibid, p.5. cv Ibid, p.23. cvi D. Pytches and B. Skinner, New Wineskins, (Eagle, Guildford, 1991), p.27. cvii See G. Lings, Anglican Church Plants, Church Structures, Church Doctrine - Their Relationship, an unpublished sabbatical report, for evidence of this. cviii Bosch, Transforming Mission , p.331 cix P. Morris, Stories of church planting in Southwell Diocese, (Nottingham, 1993), foreword. cx See The Measure of Mission, (General Synod Board for Mission and Unity, CHP, 1987), p.53f. and P. King, Making Christ Known, (General Synod Board of Mission, CHP, 1992), pp. 7f ,36f. cxi Pytches, New Wineskins, p.20. cxii Hopkins, Church Planting 1, p.24.
4. The impact of Anglican church plants upon the local community. Introduction In church planting as in gardening, there is a danger that a new plant will fail to survive in the soil into which it is placed, or fail to adapt to its surroundings. To pursue the analogy further, the more established a plant is, the more likely it is to ‘take’. Whereas many seeds will fail to germinate, and seedlings will often be killed off in frost or drought, a more hardened and established plant has a better chance of survival. However, there is a difference between survival and adaptation. Although a larger plant may be more likely to survive, it may not fit into its surroundings, never be truly indigenous. When we come to consider the impact of a new church plant upon its community, these horticultural parallels raise some important considerations. In the introduction to Breaking New Ground, the Bishop of Southwell, who has been involved in church planting both in northern Argentina and in Huddersfield, asserts that “planting new congregations enables churches to reach out with a locally accessible centre of Christian worship, witness and service”
. He does not explain what he
means by accessible. A church may be accessible geographically, but inaccessible culturally. However, the rest of the sentence, and the introduction as a whole, implies that he means geographical and cultural accessibility. If a church is to reach out effectively in worship, witness and service, it will need to be culturally relevant. David Gillett, the principal of Trinity College in Bristol, highlights the danger of detachment from the local community when he asks of a given church plant, “is it for all the people in an area, whatever their personal commitment to Christ, or just for the committed Christians?” cxiv. An assessment of church plants by category, with reference to case studies,will help us to evaluate to what extent Anglican church plants are integrated with their community, and to what extent the Bishop of Southwell’s description is accurate. In so doing, we will use the four categories of church plant set out in Breaking New Ground, subdivided into ‘pioneer’ and ‘progression’ plants, as detailed in the previous section. This will have the dual purpose of demonstrating whether these categories ‘work’, and of contrasting the dynamics of the different sizes and types of church plant in relation to their community. In the summary, we will compare our findings with the results of a recent survey undertaken in co-operation with Anglican Church Planting Initiatives. 42
This survey of the 300 Anglican church plants to have taken place in the last twenty five years (and which are in the A.C.P.I. database) produced 102 responses, including 90 completed questionnaires (see Appendix 4). Although this is too small a sample from which to derive valid statistical data, it is large and representative enough to give a broad-brush picture of the Anglican church planting scene. In most cases, the leaders of church plants reviewed in the case studies have also completed a questionnaire.
Runners The first category of church plant given in Breaking New Ground is the ‘runner’, often described as a ‘strawberry runner’. This represents a church plant closely linked to the parent church, which provides all the members of the planting team, and within whose parish the new church meets
. We will look, first of all, at examples of
‘progression’ plants, i.e. which are building upon an existing witness in the target area. a) progression runners: 1) St George’s Art Centre, Fatfield, Washington, Tyne and Wear. Before planting, there were about twenty adults and their children living in the target area, a cluster of new housing estates some distance from the parish church. The church was planted in 1990 by a team of about thirty adults, and now has an average of 85 adults and 45 children attending Sunday worship. Although weighted towards children and younger families, the church is broadly representative of the social mix of the community. The church has close links with a Christian Medical Centre, a Women’s Refuge, a Parent and Toddlers group, a football club, and in other community interests such as the local schools. However, involvement in such a range of activities has placed considerable pressure upon church members, and this involvement may be reduced. 2) Cross Lane Fellowship, Marple, Stockport, Cheshire. All Saints Marple is situated at one end of a parish which can be split into three identifiable communities. The members of three home-groups meeting in a working class community which was culturally different from the congregation of the parish church formed a lay-led team of eighteen, including children. In 1991, they started the Cross Lane Fellowship, which is now led by a Curate, and has an average Sunday congregation of 32 adults and 15 children. This church runs social events in local homes for the elderly, and an expanding parent/toddler group in the local primary school. 43
3) St Thomas Crookes, Sheffield. Another type of church plant which is most easily categorised as a ‘progression runner’ is a church which divides into different congregations still using the same building. St Thomas Crookes is a well-known example of a church with multiple congregations, each of which has its own leader and pastoral structures and aims at a discrete group, such as students or young families. Such a model would come under attack from opponents of the homogeneous unit principle, which it exploits unashamedly by reaching out through social networks rather than within a geographical community. However, it enables the dynamics of a smaller church to be maintained whilst allowing for continuous growth, so that between 1,000 and 1,500 people meet every Sunday in a building which can only seat around 400
Also, it is able to reach different groups effectively in a culturally relevant way. However, this particular congregation would be better categorised as a pioneer plant cxvii
b) pioneer runners: 1) St Luke’s Bolton
. Although this church was growing, it was doing so mainly
through people coming from outside the parish. (Even now, 95% of the congregation live outside the parish and are predominantly white middle class.) In order to reach local people effectively, two satellite congregations were begun. In 1986, a congregation was planted in a local bowling club, using a team of thirty. A year later, another congregation was established in a largely Asian area of the parish, with a team of twenty led by a couple who specialised in ministry among Moslems. Through the establishment of personal relationships, and taking advantage of Christian, Hindu and Muslim festivals, a number of Asians were drawn into this congregation
. However, the
majority of the congregation of this second satellite have since left St Luke’s over the question of independent leadership. The first satellite, after initial rapid growth, has gone into decline. The new Curate has now been charged with reviving this satellite and developing a truly local leadership. Like the mother church, this congregation is largely not composed of local people. This example illustrates clearly the difficulty that satellite congregations have in achieving independence and maturity. That similar problems have been encountered in the parish of Chester-le-Street, which was divided into six satellite congregations in 1971
, suggests a fundamental weakness in the satellite runner model, and tends to
support George Lings’ contention that, unless church plants become self-governing, 44
self-supporting and self-reproducing, they eventually wither and die. However, although they have encountered a tension between the unity of the parish and the autonomy of the satellite congregations in Chester-le-Street, they have managed to train local leaders. 2) St Peterâ€™s Harrow. In 1986, a team of twenty two left the parish church and planted into a church building which had been closed for five years and was in an unreached district within the parish. A decade later, the lay leader has been trained and ordained, and the average Sunday attendance is 80 adults and 50 children. Although the age distribution shows more children and teenagers than is reflected in the surrounding community, the congregation has a representative social mix. Its impact upon the local community has been considerable, especially through a Christian Medical Practice, which has a surgery in the old vestry. If it seems appropriate, patients are invited to regular healing services, and there is a good interaction between the church and the practice. At the same time, a playgroup, two toddler groups, a youth club, and a womenâ€™s group all meet on the church premises. This example highlights three issues which are of concern to church planters. Firstly, the church is the only large public building in the area, and is also used as a polling station and for Residentsâ€™ Association meetings. It seems as though a church building can provide a focus for a community which is denied church plants meeting in rented premises, such as a school. Secondly, the team, despite moving into an area without an established Christian witness, were socially very similar to the people who were living there. It is likely that this helped the church to become involved in the community and to grow. Thirdly, the establishment of the church has undoubtedly been helped by continuity and development of an independent leadership. The contrast with the previous example is marked in this respect.
These examples indicate that runners thrive when they are planted into an area where the local population are socially akin to the planting team, and when they achieve independence early on. They grow in numbers, develop a range of activities which have a positive impact upon the community, and become truly integrated within that community. On the other hand, if a runner is planted into an area which is socially distinct from the planting team, and never achieves true independence, it fails to thrive, and has only a superficial impact upon its community, as has tended to be the case with
‘daughter churches’. This seems to have been the pattern in both Bolton and Chester-leStreet and, to a lesser extent, in Marple. The multiple congregation model employed by St Thomas Crookes is a separate case because it grows along social networks, with only a limited relationship to a geographical community. This model has produced distinct congregations which have grown and thrived. However, its impact upon the local community is necessarily diffuse.
Grafts The second category of church plant under consideration is the ‘graft’. To quote from Breaking New Ground, “a ‘Graft’ refers to a church plant where a planting team has come in from outside the parish, in junior or equal partnership (in terms of size and role) with the receiving parish, to create a fresh overall congregation with a mission emphasis”
. It is the fact that the team is in junior or equal partnership with the
existing congregation which distinguishes it from ‘transplants’, which will be considered under the next heading. a) progression grafts 1) The Church of the Ascension, Balham Hill, London. This church is a granddaughter of Holy Trinity, Brompton, having been planted in 1993 by a team of fifty from St Mark’s, Battersea Rise, most of whom lived in the Balham area. However, it is also an arranged marriage between this team and the original congregation of The Church of the Ascension, whose electoral roll numbered 69 at the time. The church now has 240 members, and a regular Sunday attendance of 200 adults and 40 children. Although the team comprised mainly upper middle class whites, and the existing congregation was very mixed, with a large West Indian contingent, the arranged marriage has been a success. This is all the more remarkable given the evangelical, charismatic spirituality of the team, and the Anglo-catholic spirituality of the existing church. This combined congregation, as it has grown, has become very representative of the community as a whole, which is sociologically very diverse. One particular need in the area was for free legal advice, as the Citizens Advice Bureau had closed a year before the graft took place. Some lawyers in the congregation were able to establish The Ascension Legal Advice Centre. Another priority of the church is its work with the homeless, through a ‘soup run’, and recent attempts to 46
rehouse people in the parish. The church also runs the Community Mental Health Project, and helps to run the Community Centre. It seems that having a church building, although it has needed expensive repairs, has helped the church to become ‘earthed’ in the community. 2) St Barnabas, Lenton Abbey, Nottingham. Like Holy Trinity Brompton, St Nicholas Nottingham is a thriving, eclectic, city-centre church, forced by lack of space as much as by a concern for mission to consider church planting. Unfortunately, their attempts to plant or graft teams into areas in which large numbers of their eclectic congregation were living have been unsuccessful
. (Holy Trinity, Leicester is a similar case
St Nicholas’ latest attempt was to graft a team into St Barnabas, Lenton Abbey. Even though both the local clergyman and the diocese approved the scheme, it ran into difficulties when it became clear that the team from St Nicholas would outnumber the existing congregation by a factor of 12:1, which posed real questions about the nature of the proposed partnership. This issue was all the more acute given that Lenton Abbey is composed mainly of council housing, and St Barnabas was seeking to be a church with a local mission. An influx of mainly professional people might hinder rather than help this objective. In the end, this scheme has also foundered, although a few members of St Nicholas did move across to St Barnabas. As well as throwing up the difficulties of cross-boundary planting when there is no redundant church available and/or when diocesan authorities are not supportive, which will be discussed more fully when we consider ‘wildflower transplants’, this story also illustrates the difficulty that arises when a graft is larger than the receiving congregation. In this case, the venture becomes more like a transplant, and runs the risk of imposing an alien emphasis upon the mission and social involvement of the receiving church.
b) pioneer grafts 1) St Leonard’s Church, Norfolk Park, Sheffield. It has proved almost impossible to identify an example of a ‘pioneer graft’ for the simple reason that teams used in a graft usually live in the target area. In fact, this was the only example the author could find within this particular category. In one way, this initiative was more like a ‘seed plant’ than a ‘graft’. The minister and his wife moved from Peterborough, and only one person moved from the parent church, St Thomas’ Crookes. However, they have continued to receive resources from St Thomas’ such as finance, and people such as a worship leader, 47
and children’s workers who have helped as required. Thus, although the sending church dwarfs the receiving church, much as St Nicholas Nottingham dwarfs St Barnabas Lenton Abbey, it has remained a junior partner in the resuscitation of the life of this church. Hence, it is probably best described as a graft, rather than a transplant or a seed. The congregation of 17, which was in long term decline, has increased since the graft in 1993 to about 40 adults and 10 children. The church is set in an Urban Priority Area, with many single-parent households and long-term unemployed. That the congregation has continued to be representative of the commmunity, even as it has grown, is probably due to the fact that it was never overwhelmed by outsiders from a different culture. A comparison with The Church of the Ascension indicates that this a particular advantage of grafts compared with transplants. However, the lack of people and resources at St Leonard’s has prompted the conscious decision to support existing local community groups rather than to start new ones. Since St Leonard’s is in the parish of Christ Church Heeley, the fact that the Bishop of Sheffield pronounced it a conventional district at the time of the graft has also helped what had been a daughter church to establish an independent identity. The use of this device is a helpful way of fostering identified mission areas within the existing parish system. If it seems appropriate, a conventional district can be made a separate parish at a later date. Although provisional, it seems to be a more productive model than simply creating a satellite congregation or daughter church, as it safeguards a measure of independence and identifies an area for mission and pastoral care. From the three examples of grafts which we have considered, it seems that the need for the incoming team and the church authorities to respect the independence and identity of the local church is paramount if a strong, local witness is to develop.
Transplants In Breaking New Ground, a ‘transplant’ is described as “a church plant in which a coherent team large enough to form an instant congregation is, with permission, transferred across a boundary to a new location”
. This team may take over a
redundant building or be in senior partnership with the receiving congregation. George Lings categorises separately transplants which occur without permission as ‘wildflowers’. Obviously, this category only has meaning within an Anglican context. These plants are not necessarily more pioneering than ‘legitimate’ ones simply because 48
they cross parish boundaries. In fact larger transplants tend not to be truly pioneering, in that they are already congregations, and do not have an urgent need to grow in order to survive. Their growth will depend, rather, upon inheriting a growth philosophy from the parent church. We will see whether this inhibits their impact upon the community into which they are transplanted. a) progression transplants St Mark’s, Battersea Rise, London cxxv. Like St Barnabas, Kensington cxxvi, this church was planted from Holy Trinity, Brompton, and has itself planted a church. In 1987, a team of 70 under an ordained leader took over a church which was about to be declared redundant. Most of the team were already living in the Battersea Rise area, so it was a natural progression. From the start, the emphasis was upon evangelism, discipleship and community service. The congregation grew to 400 adults and 150 children by 1993, and has recovered to the same level after sending the team to The Church of the Ascension. Undoubtedly, the congregation has more of a bias to young families and white collar workers than the surrounding community, but it has become more representative of the local ethnic mix as it has progressed. In addition to children’s clubs, a toddler group and an aerobics club, the church has become involved in work among the homeless and in rehabilitating young offenders, in co-operation with local statutory and voluntary agencies. b) pioneering transplants (Although Breaking New Ground does not include this category, St Paul’s Hounslow appears to be a valid example of such a plant.) 1) St Paul’s, Hounslow, London
. When the incumbent of St Paul’s Hounslow
retired and it became combined with the neighbouring parish of Holy Trinity in 1988, a population of 21,000 was now served by two Anglican clergymen. Holy Trinity’s growing, eclectic congregation of about 220 adults and children was now linked to a poorly attended, delapidated church in a multi-racial area with which they had no real links. Although the plan to sell St Paul’s vicarage and re-order the church was thwarted by the lack of planning permission, the Vicar of Holy Trinity eventually decided to take a team of 25 to St Paul’s. Since St Paul’s had been closed for a time after the remaining congregation had been encouraged to join Holy Trinity, this was truly a pioneering venture. The team included six Indians who belonged to the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of South India. The vision was to establish a multi-racial congregation alongside the 49
mainly white congregation of the parent church. This involved sacrificing the Eucharistic worship of Holy Trinity in order start an informal, evangelistic service at St Paul’s. The new congregation soon made inroads into the largely Asian local community. Despite the death of the incumbent, and a two and a half year vacancy, the congregation at St Paul’s now has an average Sunday attendance of 61 adults and 25 children, with about double that number associated with the church and attending regularly. A new Curate is about to take over the leadership of the church. Although Holy Trinity has strong links with the community through its High Street coffee bar and bookshop, and runs parenting classes and Alpha groups, St Paul’s has failed so far to become involved in activities which are not specifically religious. This may be partly due to lack of continuity in leadership, and to energies being diverted into making the building warm, dry, and adequately lit. However, the congregation has become more or less representative of the community of West Hounslow, with an estimated 40% coming from the Afro-Caribbean, South Asian and other Asian communities. Thus its overall impact upon the community has been far from negligible. It is likely that this is due largely to selecting a team which was already representative of the community.
c) ‘wildflower plants’ At least four Anglican church plants have crossed parish boundaries without permission and are classified as ‘wildflower transplants’. Not only is this category only meaningful to Anglicans, it is also misleading, since all these plants, if they had been sanctioned, would have been classified as ‘progression transplants’, for the reasons given earlier. However, we will review two examples briefly to assess their impact upon their community. 1) Glenfall Fellowship, Cheltenham
. A church which had become full, had
already planted within its parish, and wanted to plant again in an area from which many of the congregation came, encouraged by both the Team Rector and the Team Vicar, eventually sent a team of 20 to plant a congregation into a school against the wishes of the local Incumbent. The plant, which is now a member of the Federation of Independent Anglican Churches, is led by a Non-Stipendiary Minister, who still has the Bishop’s permission to officiate. Interestingly, the social mix of the congregation, which has now grown to over 100 adults and over 20 children, is more ‘blue collar’ than the 50
surrounding neighbourhood. It is not a clone of the parent church. Glenfall Fellowship has a policy of encouraging and facilitating existing community activities rather than initiating its own. Some individuals are involved in Scouts, visiting the sick and housebound, taking school assemblies, counselling, etc. 2) Emmanuel Dundonald, Wimbledon. The parent church, Emmanuel Wimbledon, is a proprietary chapel, so it had no possibility of planting within its parish, as it does not have one! Although Emmanuel Dundonald was planted with the approval of the local Bishp, members of the parish church were not originally in favour. However, after five years, during which the congregation has grown to about 100 adults and 40 children, it is now working co-operatively with the parish church, where the Sunday evening service is held. The morning service is still in the local school, which provides a base for involvement in the community through, for example, leading Assemblies and hosting a Summer Fair.
Transplants form quite a varied category. However, from these examples, it is possible to make some tentative generalisations. The danger of transplants, as ready-made congregations, is that they import an alien culture to an area and fail to become part of the local community. However, as in the case of St Mark’s Battersea Rise, it is possible to adapt successfully where there is a vision to serve that community. Adaptation is also facilitated where, as with St Paul’s Hounslow and Emmanuel Dundonald, the team reflects the sociological make-up of the receiving community.
Seeds Our fourth and final category of church plant is a ‘seed’, described in Breaking New Ground as involving “the crossing of geographical and cultural barriers by a small team who physically relocate and form minority partnerships” cxxix.
a) progression seeds It is clear from the definition given above that a ‘progression seed’ is virtually a contradiction in terms, since such a plant will almost definitely not be building upon an existing Christian witness. Both Holy Trinity in St Helens and The Carpenter’s Arms in Deal, which are cited as being in this sub-category, were really pioneering initiatives. In the former case, there were only a few people in the congregation, and they lived outside 51
the parish. In the latter, an attempt has been made to reach people in the Radio 1 and 2 culture, which is unrepresented in the local churches. In both cases, the seed team had to cross geographical and cultural barriers. Appendix 5 illustrates how the case studies in this section fit more easily and logically into the matrix mentioned in the previous section and shown in Appendix 3.
b) pioneer seeds Although Breaking New Ground alleges that seeds are the least common category of church plant in the Church of England, several can be found in this category. We have already identified two, and this is a particularly common model in areas of new housing. The Church in Valley Park, Eastleigh, and Roundswell Church, Barnstaple would be two further examples. However, we will consider two seed plants which were reviewed in Planting New Churches. 1) St Peter’s, Glascote Heathcxxx. Glascote Heath is a working class housing estate, with a population of 7,000, which is part of Tamworth. A female minister was appointed in 1989 to serve this area, with a view to building personal contacts through baptism enquiries and visiting the needy and sick. Eventually, six households took part in the evangelistic course ‘Good News Down Your Street’, and enough converts were gathered to begin Sunday worship in the local community centre. Fourteen were confirmed in 1990 and a further twenty two in 1991, and the congregation has grown to an average weekly attendance of around 50. Its worship has evolved to reflect a non-book culture. This incarnational approach has ensured that the church planting process has been culturally sensitive, and that the church has been indigenous from the start. It has been built upon developing relationships with and meeting the needs of local people. Specific community ventures include A ‘New for You’ sale, a mother and toddler group, and a children’s club. 2) Christ the King, Chatham
. The Princes Park Estate, which was built in the
1980s, has a population of about 10,000 people in mixed council and private housing. Since it straddled the parish of Christ Church and two other parishes, its designation as a conventional district helped to provide a focus for mission. Christ Church, itself a Methodist/Anglican Local Ecumenical Project, planted an ecumenical church there. At the end of the first year, when 20 people were meeting for weekly worship in the upstairs room of a pub, an ordained couple were licensed as Ministers-in-Charge of the 52
congregation and housed on the estate. After worshipping God, the churchâ€™s main priority at that time was to provide fellowship in a community where many were cut off from their extended family, and loneliness was common. After moving to a local school, the church began to grow. Monthly social events for the whole family, including games of cricket, football and quiz nights helped to foster a sense of community and resulted in several families joining the church. When local and diocesan grants allowed a new church building to be provided, there was an open week, during which everyone on the estate was invited to the new building. The church building has since become the venue for a baby clinic, Scouts, Alcoholics Anonymous, a midweek lunch and a toddler group. By 1994, the church had a regular Sunday attendance of 150 or more adults and children.
In both these examples, it is clear that a church which is representative of and integrated with the local community has grown out of a small, vulnerable team. It is too small a sample to allow any firm conclusions to be made about the relative merits of seeds with regard to their impact upon the community. However, it is worth suggesting that, of all the types of church plant, this is likely to have the deepest impact upon its community.
Summary Although other issues have emerged, our key concern has been the extent to which Anglican church plants have become part of and had a positive impact upon their local community. In concluding this section, we will summarise the evidence of these case studies and the results of the questionnaire survey under the headings of representativeness, identification and growth. At the same time, we will bring to bear the criteria for the nature of the Church.
1) Representativeness, i.e. how far is the composition of these churches representative of both their local community and the wider Church? The examples we have considered bear out the advice given by Bruce Collins, who took a small, local team to plant into the redundant church of St Peterâ€™s, Notting Hill: â€œif you are to build a community church, start with a nucleus of people from the 53
. A combination of starting small, and forming a local
team seems to have the greatest chance of success in producing a truly local church. However, the example of The Church of the Ascension demonstrates that this need not be the case when the planting team, even if initially unrepresentative of the community, has a clear vision of becoming so. Consequently, it is no surprise to see from the results of the questionnaire survey that Anglican church plants are generally representative of the target area, and have an average of 75% of the congregation living within it (see Appendix 4). A closer analysis reveals a slight bias towards white collar workers and young families. In other words, Anglican church plants retain the tendency of the Church of England as a whole to be more successful in reaching middle class than working class people. However, on the positive side, Anglican church plants do seem more successful than attracting children and young families than the Church in England as whole cxxxiii. Part of the reason for this may be found in the readiness of the leaders of Anglican church plants to experiment in order to enable people to worship in a way which is culturally relevant
. Inevitably, this brings into question what is a legitimate
diversity of worship, within Anglicanism and within the Church as a whole. Article 24 of the Church of England, which argues for the conduct of public worship “in a tongue ... understanded of the people”, provides for a good deal of diversity in form and presentation. The dynamic interplay between locality and universality is a crucial aspect of the catholicity and the unity of the Church. However, if a church is to be true to the apostolic nature of the Church, the content of its worship must, at the very least, be consonant with the historic creeds, and involve the right administration of the sacraments and the preaching of the Word. Within these constraints, it seems appropriate to allow the pattern of worship to develop along ecumenical lines when the church draws its members from a variety of traditions (e.g. in a new housing estate or a multicultural area).
2) Identification, i.e. how closely do the activities and concerns of these churches relate to the activities and concerns of their local community? In his keynote address at the fourth conference on Church Planting in the Church of England, in May 1991, George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, contended that a church plant should identify with the people to whom it seeks to minister: “If the church 54
is to root itself in the real community, then it must reflect that community, and this will not be easy” cxxxv. This is very much a part of the Church’s call to holiness, reflecting the incarnational approach of Christ by being in the world and yet not of it. It is important not to measure the extent to which a church reflects the community by the number of its community activities. As we have seen in the cases of St Peter’s Glascote Heath and St Leonard’s Norfolk Park, it is possible for a church to achieve this more by the slow and often unseen process of building personal relationships. Moreover, both St Leonard’s and the Glenfall Fellowship in Cheltenham have taken the conscious step of encouraging members of the congregation to become involved in existing community groups rather than starting their own initiatives. The congregation at Fatfield is also taking steps in this direction in order to avoid its members becoming ‘burned out’. In fact it may be true to say that even those church plants which we have reviewed which run a number of community activities would identify evangelism as their primary emphasis, even if they would not divorce this from social concern. However, Anglican church plants as a whole seem to have become integrated healthily with the local community, ‘wildflower transplants’ being weakest in this respect. As we have seen, an social action is an expression of the holiness of the Church. In passing, it should be noted that the existence of a church building seems to be of real benefit in enabling a church to become a focus for the community. St Peter’s Harrow and The Church of the Ascension come to mind in this connection. Moreover, the opening of the new church building marked a decisive step forward for the Church of Christ the King in Chatham. The question needs to be asked to whether the lack of licensed church buildings hinders the impact of the Anglican church planting movement. On the other hand, if there is no building available, as on a new housing estate, it seems best to wait until the church is established (e.g. Chatham) before considering a building project. The ability to rent a public building allows the church plant to focus more effectively upon mission in the initial stages, without energies being diverted into repairs, maintenance or fund-raising.
3) Growth, i.e. how far has the growth of these churches been healthy, and consistent with both the mission of the Church and the needs of their local community? These issues of the relationship between evangelism and social engagement and of the church providing a focus for the community lead on to a consideration of whether the 55
pattern of growth in Anglican church plants is also healthy. This must include the conceptual, organic, and incarnational aspects of growth, as well as numerical growth cxxxvi
a) conceptual growth, i.e. growth in maturity, is evidenced in two ways in recent Anglican church plants. Firstly, there has been a move away from the daughter church or satellite congregation model to creating independent congregations, with an accompanying increase in stability and maturity. Secondly, even the ‘wildflowers’ have remained in communion with the rest of the Church, e.g. Glenfall, which is indispensable to the unity of the Church. However, the increasing number of Anglican church plants poses a considerable challenge to the parish system. How can it be reformed in order to reconcile both diversity of churchmanship, which it helps to safeguard, and the church planting movement, which it tends to stifle? Only when this happens can the several unsuccessful attempts to plant by St Nicholas Nottingham and Holy Trinity Leicester, and the successful, but illegal plants such as the Glenfall Fellowship be avoided. The establishment of recognised mission areas as conventional districts within a diocesan mission strategy is one way, albeit inadequate on its own, of achieving this. b) organic growth, i.e. growth in community, has not been seriously examined here. However, a review of the case histories of The Church of the Ascension, St Leonard’s Norfolk Park and St Peter’s Glascote Heath indicates that seeds and grafts tend to develop a sense of community which is not dependent on like-mindedness. Such a communal life is an important aspect of the holiness of the Church, and the homogeneous unit principle needs to be moderated accordingly. c) incarnational growth, i.e. growth in evangelism and service. As we have seen under the previous headings, Anglican church plants tend to be active in both areas, which are essential to the apostolicity and the holiness of the Church. d) numerical growth, i.e. growth in numbers. In A Vision for Growth, Professor Robin Gill challenges growing churches to do an internal audit to determine to what extent their new members are coming from other churches. The Church Growth pundits would agree that such is not true growth. One of the accusations levelled against new churches, be they Anglican or not, is that they grow chiefly through transfers. The questionnaire survey indicates that this accusation is wide of the mark with regard to Anglican church plants. It should be borne in mind that the questionnaires were usually completed by the 56
church plant leader, and so are subject to a degree of bias. Nevertheless, even taking this into account, it is encouraging to note that, of the over 6,000 adult attenders at these church plants, only 16% were transfers from other churches, 32% were either lapsed Christians who had become recommitted or new converts, 17% were Christians who had moved into the area, 15% were fringe attenders, and 20% had been members of the church planting team. Not only does this indicate a remarkable rate of growth, of the order of 500%, it also indicates a low reliance on transfer growth and an ability to draw in both lapsed and new Christians. What is more, when some one does transfer, it would be rash to conclude that this is always wrong, especially if they are enabled to exercise dormant gifts and to take up new positions of responsibility. One of Robinson’s and Spriggs’ more questionable conclusions in Church planting the training manual is that it is better to wait until fifty people are gathered before beginning public worship cxxxvii. Lings shows that the majority of Anglican church plants would not happen if this criterion were applied rigorously cxxxviii. But he agrees that it is difficult for a church to grow unless it progresses beyond this number. Indeed, he shows that the majority of Anglican churches with fifty members or less are either static or declining
. Peter Wagner’s categories of group, congregation and celebration are
helpful in this context. They provide a way of both dividing a large church, and of identifying stages in the growth of a small church. What this means is that a ‘seed plant’ should always seek to grow from a seed into a group into a congregation, but to expect that it will take time to reach this critical stage, whereas a ‘transplant’ will be there from the start. Although both Montgomery and the advocates of the Cell Church or Base Community movements would argue that a group of a dozen or so Christian with a recognised leader constitutes a church, this is different from a church gathered for public worship. In fact, the Cell Church principle does acknowledge the difference between the cells and the congregation which they form when they come together. So it is desirable that each church grows beyond the point where public worship is viable and accessible to the outsider. Whether this point is reached with 50 attenders will continue to be a matter for debate. In any event, growth in numbers is but one aspect of the healthy growth of a church. cxiii
Breaking New Ground, (Church House Publishing, London, 1994), p.v. Planting new churches, ed. Bob Hopkins, (Eagle, Guildford, 1993), p.185. cxv Breaking New Ground, p.6. cxiv
Planting new churches, p.51. But note that this was written whilst the Nine O’Clock Service was still meeting in the church building. cxvii Breaking New Ground, p.24 (6.4.iv) cxviii This model is reviewed in Planting New Churches, chapter 8, and in Church Planting 2. Some experiences and challenges, chapter 1. cxix Planting New Churches, chapter 4.2. cxx See Breaking New Ground, chapter 5, Planting New Churches, chapter 12, and New Wineskins, appendix d. cxxi Breaking New Ground, p.6f. cxxii See Church Planting 2. Some experiences and challenges, pp.18-20, and New Wineskins, appendix G, and Church Planting in Southwell Diocese, pp.33-35. cxxiii Charlie Cleverly, Church Planting - our future hope, (Scripture Union, London, 1991), p.64f. cxxiv Breaking New Ground, p.7. cxxv See Planting New Churches, pp.89-91 and Church Planting 2. Some experiences and challenges, p.9f. cxxvi Planting New Churches, pp.92-94. cxxvii See Breaking New Ground, pp.25-28 and Planting New Churches, pp.63-68. cxxviii Breaking New Ground, p.32f. cxxix ibid, p. 7. cxxx Planting New Churches, chapter 2. cxxxi ibid, chapter 11. cxxxii ibid, p.121. cxxxiii The UK Christian Handbook 1994/95 edition, p.247 table 14 and figure 14, shows that people aged 19-45 are under-represented in churches. Although this would repay further study, the indications from the questionnaire survey are that Anglican church plants buck this trend. cxxxiv It is a commonplace for this to be mentioned by Anglican church planters. See, for example, Planting New Churches, pp.65,71,107, and 144. cxxxv Planting New Churches, p.29. cxxxvi See chapter 2 and the section entitled ‘The Church Growth Movement; an historical perspective’. cxxxvii M. Robinson and D. Spriggs, Church planting - the manual, (Lion, Oxford, 1995), chapter 4.2 cxxxviii Planting New Churches, p.174. cxxxix ibid, p.176.
Conclusion In the chapter on ‘The Nature of the Church’, we reflected upon the four classical signs of the Church given in the Nicene Creed. We concluded that the unity of the Church is compatible with diversity so long as mutual recognition and communion between churches is maintained; that Christ himself is the pattern and basis of the Church’s holiness; that catholicity rightly understood balances the local and universal dimensions of the Church, and that its essence lies in the transcendence of all divisions in Christ; that the apostolicity of the Church involves faithfulness to both the witness and the mission of the Apostles, and that apostolic tradition is in constant need of reinterpretation. This raised the overall question of whether recent church plants fall within this understanding of the nature of the Church, which we sought to answer in the final chapter. Regarding the different ‘Models of Mission’, we began by distinguishing between mission and evangelism, and establishing what is a good pattern of evangelism. This led on to an investigation of the different historico-theological paradigms of mission, beginning with the apostolic age. None of these was sufficient on its own, but tended to supply a different emphasis to the rest. The recent phenomenon of the Church Growth movement was studied in some depth, as this has provided an impetus to the recent upsurge in church planting. It was decided that, with some caveats, this movement provided a viable model of mission, straddling the Enlightenment and Post-Modern paradigms. Church planting was found to be an element withing each of these models of mission. The chapter on ‘Church planting in the U.K.’ began with a review of the international scene, before examining the different types of church plant current in this country. This gave rise to a number of issues resulting between the uneasy interaction between church planting and the existing parish system in the Church of England. We concluded that church planting provided a valuable challenge to the status quo, coinciding with recent Church of England publications on mission. However, questions remained about the validity of different types of Anglican church plant with respect to their relationship to the Church and their method of mission. The last chapter, on ‘The impact of church planting in the U.K.’, gave the opportunity to consider examples of the various types of Anglican church plant in detail, with special reference to their representativeness of and identification with their local 59
community, and their manner of growth. In conclusion, although this revealed a particular difficulty with transplants, both the questionnaire survey and the individual case studies indicated that Anglican church planting is true to the nature of the Church and its mission. With very few exceptions, they have sought to retain unity within diversity, to be holy in relation to God, to be catholic in relation to other traditions, and to be apostolic in their witness and mission. Moreover, they seem to embody a truly holistic approach to mission. Not only have they had a clear evangelistic purpose, but judging by the different criteria of representativeness of the community, involvement in the community, and the various kinds of growth, these churches appear to have had a very positive impact upon the community.
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