Well, sort of…
Steve Timmis is the director of Acts29 Western Europe. This particular church planting organization was started by Mars Hills Church in Seattle, WA, a church founded and pastored by Mark Driscoll. Timmis is the co-author of Total Church along with Tim Chester. He recently had an article posted on the Resurgence website that I found interesting and caused me to think about what we having been doing in our adopted city here in Western Europe. I thought is would be good to interact with Timmis’ ideas on How to Plant a Church.
Timmis list 5 principles for planting a church; 1) Preach the Gospel, 2) Understand the Context, 3) Connect with People, 4) Connect with the Right People and 5) Train and Appoint Leaders.
1) Preach the Gospel – I wish starting a church was as simple as moving into a city and beginning a worship service and preaching strong Gospel-centered messages. Timmis isn’t saying this is the first thing you do, but is saying it must be done. I would propose it be done throughout each of the principles. The Gospel must be central to everything we do and say. In other words it must be woven so deeply into our message that it can’t help but seep forth from our topics of conversation. So, even in our connecting upon first arrival into a city, region or country we must be able to express why and how the Gospel has brought us to town. Definitely at the point at which people begin to meet in homes, public spots or in a corporate gatherings the Gospel must be clearly spoken.
2) Understand the Context – This is a process that has no ending point. In a new culture you must “ramp up” quickly to learn the cultural cues in which you live. Whether it’s in the city of your birth or in another state, region or country. Everywhere is different that where you are today in someway. Everyone thinks different, dresses a little different and not everyone has the same practices. What are the things that make where you live unique and how does the Gospel speak to the people who live there. The only way in which learn these things is to go to number 3.
3) Connect with People – This seems like the easy thing to do. Go find people and get involved in their lives. But depending on the context you live in and the context you came from this could be difficult. If the place you are coming from is vastly different from you present surroundings you may draw a crowd quickly, but will you communicate clearly and effectively in a way that people will understand and not be offended. For the one who is “planting” or “starting” a new work the connecting can seem to take too long. Taking time and learning to connect with the people and culture you now live in is vitally important to starting a new work. We presently are involved in various social groups, we are involved in our kid’s school and we meet with people individually weekly to listen and ask questions.
4) Connect with the Right People – I agree with Timmis on this point. We must be willing to let people know who we are and why we are in the city. For our team we have chosen to meet with local religious leaders from various Christian backgrounds to introduce ourselves. We want the local leadership to know we mean them “no harm” and we are not interested in “their people” being in the new work. We are here to bless the city by serving, growing the Kingdom of God by living, speaking and teaching the Gospel in both word and deed. We also want to be a blessing to their churches. How can we serve your local body through partnering together? We must work with people who have tenure in the city we have been sent to work and live in. We must learn from their history and wisdom. We also continually ask the Holy Spirit to guide us toward “persons of peace” who will lend their wisdom and influence to us for the sake of the Gospel in the city. We also continue to look for people who are influential in the local communities we live to develop relationships with people who influence the city.
5) Train and Appoint Leaders – As part of a city with existing churches we are seeking to bless the existing churches and para-ministries through partnerships and training. As we work together for kingdom purposes we model and train as we are allowed influence. Only through relationship will partnership with existing churches happen effectively. By allowing others to speak into our vision for a new church in the city with sending and multiplication in the DNA we are then given opportunity to train others. We seek to model missional living, effective evangelism, relational outreach and biblical models of community for those we walk among. Even as we are developing relationships with those who will one day cross the line of saving faith in Christ we seek to give them opportunity to serve and lead in ways that are appropriate.
These five principles for planting a church are solid, proven and effective. Thanks Steve for the opportunity to dialogue with your ideas.