A New Direction for Urban Ministry
They call it church planting. It used to be common. Every church has to
start sometime, somewhere. The church in my hometown of Happy, Texas
(map), began meeting in my great-grandfatherâ€™s living room outside of
town. It never grew much beyond 100 people, but in a town of 642, thatâ
€™s not bad.
I grew up in that church. Morgan Sturgess is the first person I remember
hearing preach. Morgan was a farmer, tall and slender with a red neck
from driving the tractor in the sun. His neck looked redder than ever on
Sunday mornings against his stiff white shirt collar. And it turned purple
when he was preaching. It must have been from nerves. He was a quiet,
soft-spoken man who never got heated as he preached.
He preached about love. Because of Morgan Sturgess, I was spared the
miserable experience of growing up on a steady diet of what not to do,
what we donâ€™t do that other Christians do, and whatâ€™s going to
happen to the people who do those things. I learned about Ruthâ€™s love
for Naomi, Jonathanâ€™s love for David, Johnâ€™s love for Jesus, and
Godâ€™s love for all of us.
Our first church building had just one room. Classrooms were formed by
drawing two curtains on wires to complete squares at each of the four
corners. The adults met in what was left of the room.
Exodus Bayshore: an Early Church Planting
When I was a student at Abilene Christian College (http://www.acu.edu/),
some of my friends left as a part of Exodus Bayshore to start a church on
Long Island. But at some point after that, we seem to have decided that
the church as we knew it was fine as it was. Most of us had churches to
attend in the parts of the country where we lived--even places to visit when
we went on vacation. If we sent someone to start a church, it was
generally in some other country. Harold Shankâ€™s work in Minneapolis
was one of the few later examples of church planting I was acquainted with.
Why did we stop planting churches? Maybe because we failed to think
beyond ourselves and our needs. If we had access to families of Godâ
€™s people, maybe we assumed that everybody did. And maybe we
were just too comfortable where we were.
A New Movement Sweeps the Nation
Fortunately, today there is a growing movement of mostly younger people
who are determined to change things. They are planting new churches in
various parts of the country--churches that are being taught to plant
churches of their own.
As Lindy Adams put it in the May, 2005, issue of the Christian
Chronicle, â€œSome are house churches, some ethnic congregations,
some urban plants, some daughter churches--all have a target group in
mind before beginning. Many are associated with one of the half-dozen
young church-planting initiatives. Together they show promise that
congregations of churches of Christ--whose number has been stagnant for
15 years--will grow and bloom in the years ahead.â€�
Church plants in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut,
Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oregon,
Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, and Washington were featured in the Chronicle
issue. A number were presented at the Pepperdine University Bible
Lectures held the same month. Stan Granberg of Kairos , an organization
offering training and encouragement to church planters, led discussions by
four church planters on each of four nights.
14 Principles of Church Planting
Speakers were from a variety of church plantings--fast-growing suburban
areas with mostly young families, urban areas plagued by poverty and
need, and ethnic areas. Some church planters were sent out by larger
churches, often by churches that chose to begin a new work in another
place rather than to build a new building for themselves. Others by people
who just saw a need and responded to it. But, according to the speakers
at Pepperdine, these fourteen principles of church planting apply to most, if
not all, church plantings.