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Are you Planting the Old Way?

Since Spring 2022, I’ve been working directly and on the ground with 7 different Church Planting Teams (and hubs) in 7 different locations across Britain…(primarily across the North Midlands)

It’s been a real joy partnering with those called to church plant and make disciples here in 21st Century Britain!

Whilst engaged in this work, I have often paused to ponder some questions concerning the way we have traditional planted churches (over the last 40+ years in Britain) and whether we need to plant in a new way!

Are 20th Century church planting techniques working here in 21st Century Britain?

Are You Planting The Old Way?

What springs to mind when you think; ‘Church Planting’?

Do you envision planting:

A Worship Service?

A Sunday Meeting of Christians in a Church Building or Large Hall?

Hiring or Buying Large Building Premises with Car Parking Space?

A Liturgical Calendar of Festivals, Weddings, Funerals, Christenings, Confirmations and Baptisms?

A Sanctuary with a Pulpit where you Preach Sermons?

An Altar /Table with Holy Eucharist where a priest presides over the Mass?

A Worship Leader and Band, Children’s Worker, Youth Worker, Admin Team and Senior Pastor?

Or Something Else entirely?

It’s hard to plant a new paradigm without first uprooting the old!

But why does the old need uprooting at this time of our development as Church around the world, and specifically here in Britain and the Western World?

Playing Without The Queen?

Alan Hirsch says this;

‘If you really want your church to thrive, if you really wants to make disciples and transform the world, that you must learn to play without the proverbial queen of the church–which is the Sunday morning worship experience.’

‘When experts of chess are teaching students to learn the game, I’ve been told that they have them play without their queen. Often chess players will rely too much on their queen and as a result their game isn’t as strong as it could be.

Let’s imagine what it might look like for a church to “play without the queen,” to give up, at least for a season, making worship and the Sunday morning experience the focal point. If we look at Jesus’ ministry, most of the discipling was done on the fly with a small group of followers. What if we focused our attention there…’

‘How can we be the church if we can’t gather in a church building or worship service? Have you ever considered Playing without the Queen?’

I want you to PAUSE for just 5 minutes…

Can you picture ways of being church, without meeting up in a hall or a house for a sung worship service?

[See article The Third Reformation for more on this theme!]

(Alan Hirsch shares more insight on church planting ‘Whilst Removing the Queen’ as the primary driver HERE!)

Church Plant Launch Event

Most church plants seem to lead up to a public launch event, which officially announces to Christians, other churches in that area, and the public that the new church plant has arrived in town…

But, by ‘church plant’, what is usually meant is that the Centralized Worship Service of one description or another has official started and opened up to the public…

There’s a number of inherent problems with this approach;

ONE, is the church narrowly defined as the public worship service? Is that the main attraction? Is that the main event? Is that even the core constituency that defines church?

TWO, who is the worship service actually aimed at? And who are the organizing team of such an event? Does the worship service match the culture of the surrounding area and people groups? Does it have buy-in from the people the church plant is aimed to make disciples of? Are new local disciples part of the organizing team of such an event?

THREE, should we start with a Worship Service when planting a new church in the harvest? Or with the mission of making new disciples first in the locality who then will gather to form indigenous churches that are culturally appropriate?

Organizing around the Mission of Making Disciples

What might it look like if church planting were organized around the intentional mission of making disciples and the strategy of Disciple Making Movements (DMM) as opposed to organizing around rotas involved with starting a public worship service?

What if the first thing the Church Planting Team did was start to make disciples in the locality (amongst that people group, place or sphere) instead of getting the guitars out, smoke machines, incense and worship band in a large hall?

Gathering the ‘Core’ Group of Christians

Traditionally, the approach to church planting has been to relocate and gather elsewhere (in the new area) approx 20-50 pre-established Christians to form ‘the core’ of the new church plant.
This has been the predominant method of church planting for at least a generation (the past 40+ years)

But is that the ONLY way to church plant?

Is it even the preferred Biblical method?

What problems come with that approach?

For one, the 20-50 pre-exisitng Christians bring with them a ready-made culture. Does the culture of this transplanted or grafted group of Christians match the culture of the place, people group or sphere you are planting into?

If not- can you see what the problem might be?

What Comes First: the Mission or the Church?

Would you rather be involved with a church that does mission or a mission that does church?

Planting a mission team who will Pioneer Mission into the area finding the Persons of Peace and their households (social circles) seems to be the preferred way that Jesus and the early disciples started up in the scriptures!

Making disciples in the household of peace and training them to make disciples who make disciples rapidly…then gathering those new disciples into Simple Communities in the places where the new disciples live, work or play seemed to be their mode of activity!

Have you ever thought of planting a church by making disciples of unchurched people?

Get in touch if you would like to partner with us in Pioneer Mission leading to Church Planting in Britain and Beyond!

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Peter J. Farmer

Peter J. Farmer is a church planter working with teams and networks to catalyze new forms of church that murmurate into movements...

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Lee horsfall

    Interesting questions
    How do we do mission in terms of intentionally following what the Bible models?

    1. Peter J. Farmer

      Well, we engage in what we call Pioner Mission following the principles of Matthew 10/Luke 10, then developing and building on that foundation with the principles and practices of prayer, gospel, Disciple Making, Church formation and developing leaders from the Harvest as demonstrated in the Book of Acts

  2. Jeremy

    A very interesting perspective on the typical (and flawed) method of church planting here and one I sadly relate to in my own experience. Thanks for posting.

    1. Peter J. Farmer

      Thanks for your refreshing honesty Jeremy!

      I think most of us can relate to the ‘old’ pattern or way of church planting in Britain (particularly the model of the past 40-60 years)

      Sometimes we need to uproot an old idea before we can plant the new!

      Post-Lockdown gives us the perfect environvironment and opportunity to forge ahead and Pioneer a new pathway for church planting and church planting Movements and disciple making movements across Britain and beyond!

      1. Jeremy

        Yes. I am currently still in a ‘recovery’ state and learning a lot about where I have been for nearly 30 years in my thinking and my ecclesiology. It’s taking a while and there’s lots to process but the way is forward, and not back.

  3. James

    Absolutely excellent Peter. And as you’ve explained before it is all about going back to the biblical roots of the very first church/churches. I think the issue we face is overcoming dogma, or changing the long established view of what church is. What church gives. What church should be about. And your idea of taking “non church” goers and making them into disciples is the only way to overturn this dogma. As they wouldn’t have any preconceptions of what a church should be about. And I have always found that those who are “brought” to faith later in life. Seem, in my humble opinion, to have more fire and outward passion for spreading the good news. An excellent read and very thought provoking. Thanks Brother

  4. James

    Hey Peter,
    This is absolutely fantastic. A true going back to Biblical roots. Changing the status quo is never an easy mission. But it seems, in my humble opinion, that is your calling. Or at least one of them. When I read this article the first challenge that came to mind was that of overcoming the decades of dogma. So many “Christians” are so set in their ways that making them see the real meaning of church : what the purpose of church is; what church should be about; what the meaning of chur has truly is and why/how the church community exists. Will be a mountain to climb. But, as you said, if we take the newly found disciples, and teach then the real way. We start a new why. All revolutions start with one man’s idea. And like virus ( in the positive sense ) it spreads. Christ used the metaphor of planting seeds. One of the many things I’m getting from this is that we plant those seeds in current non believers. And those very people become the church, and go on planting seeds. Thank you Peter. Excellent thoughts and theology.

  5. Paul

    Great blog Peter. Thanks. Just thinking about your question re: the problem that can arise when starting a church plant with 20-50 core people. I think that what can happen is that the ‘core people’ don’t live in or represent the locality where they meet, & so it’s harder to reach that community. It also promotes the old wine skin of putting on events to draw local people to the worship service, rather than being ‘on the ground’ in the community.

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