I agree with Swanny that “church planters” may not be the best term for “church planters” but since “church planters” call themselves “church planters,” and so far, I don’t know another name to call them (apostles? blech. missionaries? meh.), I will go with “church planters.”
Whatever they are, there does seem to be a new form of them appearing around the world right now. Sure, many are still doing it the “old” way, where they raise $300,000 and purchase state-of-the-art sound equipment, do lots of radio and TV advertisements, and try to make a big splash in the community. But the new breed of church planters focus on completely different things.
They want to plant churches for unchurched people, and especially for those who will not ever go to a traditional church. They want to spend time with people who don’t want to sing Christian songs, share prayer requests, and listen to someone teach the Bible for 45 minutes. This new breed of church planters love hanging out with people who use use foul language and have bad habits. They are not afraid of questions from people who aren’t sure there is a God. They don’t run away from people who sin a lot, and sin blatantly.
The bottom line is that this new breed of church planters looks at who the typical church rejects or shuns, and says, “Those are the people I want to hang out with.”
And to do this, these new church planters make radical changes to the “how” and “why” of church. No, they don’t just dim the lights and get cooler music. No, it is not about meeting in a theater instead of a church building. No, it is not about wearing shorts and a t-shirt instead of a suit and tie. No, it is not about having a beer with your steak.
We’re talking radical changes. Often, what they end up with doesn’t look, feel, or sound like “church” at all… at least, not according to people who “attend church.”
There are no rules or guidelines. No 501(c)3. No bylaws. No doctrinal statement. No set meeting place. No set meeting time. No membership classes. No worship band. No paid staff. No church name. No bulletins. No order of worship.
There is one common denominator, however. Most of those who belong to this new breed of church planters do shun a certain type of person. They shun and reject those who come from other churches. The typical person from an established church has too many ideas of how church should be done. They come with too much theological baggage. They believe they know what a “church service” should look like, and cannot comprehend a church that doesn’t even have a “church service.”
So even though many of these church people may be the most involved, generous, outreach-focused, Jesus-loving people you’ll ever meet, they generally don’t “get it” when a church planter tries to do the things that are necessary to plant a church for people who won’t go to church.
By starting with people who have never been to church, the people are not looking to eventually buy a building, start a worship band, have Sunday School and VBS, print bulletins, and meet at 11:00 on Sunday morning. It does not occur to them that beer and Bible discussions don’t mix. They never think twice about people smoking on the front steps. Nobody winces when someone utters a bad word.
But they love each other, and they all recognize that they are on a spiritual journey together. And as they discuss the Bible and go serve the community together, they know that they are acting like Jesus in the world.
Also, this new breed of church planters are so un-churchy, they don’t even think of themselves as “church planters.” They are just people who love Jesus and want to love and serve others. As they do this, they naturally gather with others who also want to love Jesus in a tangible way in the community.
So what do you think. Is this “church”?
David Hoopingarner says
Hmmmm, sounds just like Jesus sitting, visiting, and eating with sinners and publicans. WAY TO GO!!
When I owned a cafe, several years back when I was also ‘pastoring’, many times over coffee and/or pie, I was able to reach folks who would never darken a church building’s doorway. Yes, some of them had coarse language and lives yet they were able to open up, share their hurts, needs, and thoughts without ‘feeling looked down on’. Some even accepted Christ which, to me, was fantastic.
However, one of the board members of the church said God told him to tell me that I was to choose between the cafe ministry and the people of the church. Well it did not set to well with him or the rest of them that I did not believe I was to make that kind of choice.
I had the notion that I was feeling just a tad of what Jesus felt when accosted by the Pharisees in a similar setting.
I guess I was too unchurchy also. 🙂
Jeremy Myers says
Wow. Did you choose?
Keri Lynn says
I Just want to follow Jesus and serve others-would love to find this “church”-but I would not call it church (too much baggage)
Jeremy Myers says
We are longing for this too. And I agree with you. I wouldn’t call it “church.”
Will Rochow says
Love the article. In my books, “Yes,” it is a church. Though I’m a former Baptist pastor with two theological degrees, I haven’t been to a traditional church in over 10 years now. Frankly, they nauseate me. The type of “church” gathering described in this post, however, I would (and do) attend regularly.
I’m reminded of a “Bible Study” (???) we had once in a busy bar room. Bibles were open, beer was flowing and the nachos and chicken wings were great. It was also amusing to see the confused looks on the faces of some of the other bar patrons. If I’m not mistaken, it was just after that event that we baptized a former cocaine addict in the hot tub on our deck.
Is that church? I vote YES. Blessings all 🙂
Jeremy Myers says
Yes, yes, and YES! Awesome.
If you do most anything with other people and try to include people with a church background, most of them try to make it look like “church” as they know or have known it. Even the people who have left the institutional church try to make almost every group of which they are a part look like “church”, which is usually the kiss of death for the group.
Starting with “people who have never been to church” works much better. Together we can love and serve, not try to start an institution and not buy property or pay anyone. We can serve people, which just seem natural. Some people who love to serve may “love Jesus”, and others may be thinking about it. While I might not call this “church” (the term has been hijacked by the religious and used to describe what is often something that looks nothing like Jesus), it really is.
Jeremy Myers says
Yes, this truly is what “church” is. I think you are living it out there in CA. You are an inspiration to me.
stephen Hammond says
Do you know where that upsize down church is?
Vancouver, Canada. (Where Mosaic has a church planting team- The Laughlin’s)
Cool picture….better back story. Hope all is well!
Jeremy Myers says
That is an actual picture? I thought it was computer generated.
By the way, your church in Arlington is the one I hint at in the previous post.
Dan B. says
“this new breed of church planters looks at who the typical church rejects or shuns, and says, “Those are the people I want to hang out with.””
Awesome. I’m going to sip on a Guinness tonight with some friends and think about this. And tomorrow I’m buying some fishing gear in order to get spiritual with some non-churchy people in my life. Who knew that “church planting” could be so much fun?
Jeremy Myers says
That is awesome. Great job. Have fun! Wish I could join you!
I haven’t been a part of Church, Inc. in some time and I won’t be going back. I like reading posts like this about radically loving the unloved. But I rarely find anyone talking about dealing with sin. Jesus didn’t condemn the woman caught in adultery but he told her to knock it off! I guess I struggle with people who won’t call a spade a spade. I’m not talking about grabbing a bullhorn and shouting destruction. But it seems like we can’t even address an issue or else we’re not loving. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 5 : What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Do you not judge those within? I take this very personally. Jesus said that we are to be holy as He is holy. Romans opens and closes talking about the “obedience of faith”. If we love Him, we obey Him. If we don’t obey we lie and the truth is not in us. So many people I used to fellowship with have become accepting of any personal choice as ok but Isaiah says Woe to those who call good evil and evil good. The new testament has plenty of passages that talk about restoring those caught in sin but how can I do that if I’m being unloving by even bringing it up?