Paradigm shift: planting movement is go!

Michael Kellahan

Last week, Wollongong Bishop Al Stewart, Central Coast Evangelical Church’s Andrew Heard and Steve Chong, lead pastor at Kirkplace and director of RICE, cast a bold vision to launch a new national network as they gathered potential church planters to think through how to make ‘talk’ of church planting ‘action’. 

Anglican Media asked me to go and report for this blog. Their interest was justified - this could prove to be one of the biggest news events of the year. I think its a genuine paradigm shift.

The organisers were hoping for 20 or 40 delegates. Word got out. There was a great buzz as 170 crowded into a room at the Wesley Centre.

Young and not so young church planters and ‘want to be planters’ were there from most states in the country. More details of and pictures are on my personal blogsite.

However, in short, the event raised a number of challenges for us to think through: 
1. how the Lord Jesus could be honored through the preaching of his gospel to Australia;
2. how countless numbers could come to know the Lord Jesus; and
3. how churches could be planted that multiplied other churches.

Why a new network?

Denominations are important, they alone are simply not producing enough leaders who are going to plant new churches and reach this nation for Jesus. Most denominational ministry ends up maintaining existing churches rather than growing the kingdom. 

What would the network be like?

This was a call for a network of young men dedicated to reaching the lost. Leaders who are evangelists and who missionally engage with the culture. These leaders can’t just be pragmatists - they need to be committed to the serious study and teaching of the Bible, and to maintaining true doctrine. They must be driven by a deep understanding of the eternal consequences of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus.

Church planting was the key strategy identified - and more than the ‘transplanting’ of churches. Instead churches need to be planted that will genuinely reach the unchurched. While this is happening sporadically at the moment - much, much more is needed. Nearly all Australians (97%) live in towns and cities of 10,000 or more.

What would it take to see an Evangelical, Reformed, Missional, Church planted in every Australian city, CBD, and town of 10,000 or more? The hope is that this new network will help church planters work together to reach the lost.

Some key beliefs and core values were sketched out:

The network would be Christian, Evangelical, Reformed (ie the 4 solas - Christ Alone /Grace Alone /Faith Alone/ Bible Alone), Australia wide, multiethnic, multicultural and bigger than any one denomination

The core values would be:
1. theological integrity, Bible teaching and reformed evangelical ministry
2. Entrepreneurial, culturally engaged ministry
3. Leadership would be valued and trained

What benefits would come from this ministry?

The potential of a ministry like this is considerable. People came who are already part of Christian networks -  RICE, FIEC, Plan to Plant, Presbyterian churches, Baptist Churches, Church Army, Anglican Churches and others. If they could work together then they could share and grow: resources, training, coaching, information, co-ordinate planting ventures, funding etc. I think a network like this would get a careful hearing from any Bible or Theological College about what was needed for the delivery of ministry training! 

What happens next?

The plan is to see this network launched in November 2009.

Al Stewart, Andrew Heard, Steve Chong, Mikey Lynch and Guy Mason are heading to Seattle to meet with Mark Driscoll and the Acts 29 guys.  There was discussion about whether to become part of the Acts 29 Network and take advantage of their ‘brand’, or to partner with them in developing an Australian Network. The issues here aren’t simple but we need humility to work out together the best way forward, we must build the kingdom not our empires. 

Stay tuned for more details. 

Please pray for God’s blessing and wisdom on this radical new proposal. And pray hard for the leaders and their wives and kids as they take on these big new responsibilities.

Initial reactions

The following great questions were raised last Thursday night or subsequently in conversation with others:

1. what would the actual doctrinal basis be?
2. who would lead this? are these leaders the right ones to trust for future plants and the raising up of the next generation of church planters?
3. what would membership mean for individuals and organisations?
4. what would the relationship be with Acts 29 organisation in the States?
5. what would the network be called?
6. what level of control/influence would the network have on churches?
7. would this initiative make redundant/swallow/duplicate/compete with/or co-operate with existing planting networks?
8. would this network promote the planting of churches to genuinely reach the unchurched? 
9. would this network be like Acts 29 in encouraging church planting to be led by young men who have not undertaken full time theological education?
10. how will Sydney Anglicans react to this?

What do you think?