I recently attended a Church conference sponsored by the Acts 29 Network and Origin Church of Roseville called, “Simple Effective Church.”
Origin Church hosted the conference at their Roseville campus and described the event as, “uncomplicated systems for thriving disciple making.” A majority of the church leaders in attendance fell into the reformed or evangelical brand of independent churches, although I met a few from baptist and presbyterian denominations. Our collared priest outed our group as from a more liturgical background.
The event had three sessions led by Pastor Brian Howard. Pastor Brian co-founded Sojourn Network, a national church planting network, currently leads Church Multiplication for Pacific Church Network, and serves as Network Director of Acts 29 US West.
His three sessions were entitled, “How to Become a Church Planting Church,” “No One Even Knows Your Church Exists: What you can do about it,” and “Avoiding Elder Blowup: How to do leadership development from day one.”
Become a Church planting Church
Howard emphasized that we need to view missions as a three-pronged category that includes “local, domestic, and international” missionary efforts. Noting that while many churches focus on setting aside a percentage for international missions, perhaps we ought to consider adding a local church planting line to our budgets and plans for giving. It is also worth considering his suggestion to “adopt and support an existing church planter” and to, “partner with other churches in supporting a church planter.”
No One Even Knows Your Church Exists
If your church closed today, would anyone in your community notice? For those of us in liturgical churches, it is much easier to focus inwardly on the beauty of our own services. So where do we start? Howard suggests that the basic goal of church outreach is to develop a long term presence in your community. “Church is more than a crowd,” he said. “We all know that numerical growth is not the same thing as spiritual success.”
According to Howard, that long term presence begins with identifying your target area and researching the ways you can serve the community around your church. “We mapped out the neighborhood around my church and my home, and then we pulled up the census data for this region.” This “research” plan is to help church leaders navigate their own culture and what they hope to create. Age, ethnicity, language, religious preference, and income were all considered as relevant data points to help church planters understand what kinds of outreach they might explore. For example, a historically Roman Catholic demographic like latinos might be more primed for a liturgically grounded service, while outreach to an economically challenged community might take the form of a church-based medical clinic or food closet.
“Whatever you do, be seen as a community of love,” said Howard. He then challenged the group of pastors and leaders to each brainstorm twenty new ideas for outreach.
Avoiding an Elder Blow-Up
His third talk was important in a post-denomination church planting context. Many are familiar with the rise and fall of Mark Driscoll and a number of other “non-denominational” network-style planters. As I listened to the talk, I considered how much of Howard’s advice was embedded in the historical polity of both the presbyterian and episcopal models. I couldn’t imagine attempting to plant a church on my own and perhaps this is why Acts 29 Network has become so popular.
Brian Howard suggests plants create an “outside advisory team,” where pastors can, “communicate their plans from day one.” While encouraging churches to develop leaders as a priority, he also advised against installing men, “who were formerly elders in other churches.” While I disagree with this sentiment, I can understand where Howard is coming from with elders who move from church to church to gain control.
He concluding remarks suggested plants implement a more involved leadership development structure in the elder process. I’ve been working through Dr. Tony Baron’s work called, “The Cross and the Towel: Leading to a Higher Calling” (amazon) and would highly recommended anything by Dr. Baron on the subject.