Reporting from the Church Planting Seminar at Trinity – There were two more addresses on the afternoon of 6/17/10, one from the Rev. Canon John MacDonald and one from the Rev. Mike Wurschmidt, pastor of Shepherd’s Heart (an Anglican church plant in the Hill District of Pittsburgh). My notes from both addresses are posted here. The notes on John’s address are very sketchy (interruptions – apologies!)
The Rev. Canon John MacDonald: Creating a Reproducible Missional Environment in the Church Plant
To churches that want to grow, John asks: “Where are you praying about planting your daughter church?” Existing congregations should always be thinking about this, but many don’t. There are lots of excuses: we don’t have enough resources – it will siphon off our best people – what if the new church outgrows ours?
In the end the mother church is only focused on its own survival. It loses focus on God and falls into a death spiral. People have more faith in their own resources than in Jesus. At this point the door opens to all kinds of fad theologies and fad sociologies.
What about orthodox congregations? Why are they not growing? Why do some church plants fail? Lack of adaptability? Social changes being ignored?
Our society is no longer overtly Christian. We cannot continue to make the same assumptions. Is the US becoming like Europe w/ increased secularization?
According to a recent Barna poll, only 9% of Americans have a Biblical worldview. For young people this number is only .5% Young people are shaped by the current culture. Interest in church is declining among teenagers; their impression of it is not favorable. They see Christianity as no longer what it used to be and believe today’s church is not what Jesus had in mind.
Even the mega-churches are destined to fail as the baby boomer generation ages and passes away. The younger generations want to see their money going to helping the poor, not maintain huge infrastructure. As the senior pastors retire, the large churches are becoming vulnerable. In addition, churches that teach heterosexual monogamy are seen as out of touch or worse: prejudiced along the same lines as apartheid.
Most Americans believe there is no absolute truth; faith has become almost like the spirituality-of-the-month. In popular opinion Christians are known better for what they are against than what they are for.
What happens when society decides church is not important, or is dangerous to one’s psychological health? Church becomes a duty, a chore, something easy to skip. It seems anachronistic.
Here are some thoughts:
- We need to be intentionally missional. Adaptability and resourcefulness are highly valued in this culture – ‘tinkering’ to put a life together.
- This generation is very ‘connected’ and global. This extended church community needs to be able to tap into this.
- Being able to translate the gospel into different cultures is a good thing but it can also be one of our greatest weaknesses if we become too influenced by the society. This requires work, study, and using the gifts God has given us.
- We need to take a missionary approach, aware of regional differences and neighborhood differences.
- Look for a ‘bridge’ person to help translate between different subcultures. What are the values of the people you are reaching? What are their beliefs? What is their heritage? Upon learning that culture, are we prepared to make changes in our ministries? Be sure to be actually meeting the needs of the people. Need a strategy to meet the community around us.
- OTOH it’s possible to go to the other extreme in trying to be too relevant – “trendier than thou”. There is a wide spectrum of possibilities between the extremes.
Biblical model? Acts1:8 – “you will receive power when the H.S. has come upon you”. The task is to find out how He is calling you and where He is calling you. If possible, begin a missions program at the local church that has local, national, and international aspects. Build relationships with missionaries. TEC began to discourage overseas missions – ‘how dare we impose our beliefs on other peoples’ faith systems?’ – and that’s when it began to die.
Church plants need to have a structure that the mature plant will have – like a baby in the womb, it should have all the parts, it just needs to grow before it is viable as an independent life. This structure includes plans for cross-cultural and overseas missions. If the gospel is as important as we say, we need to be thinking on a grand scale.
Q. What is the key we can do to foster reproducibility?
A. Having the ‘DNA’ from the start is a large part; also depends on the people God calls to join the church. Who has God put on your heart to reach? Don’t be put off by budget constraints. More dispersion and horizontal networking. Relationships are no longer boxes on an org chart but are far more fluid.
Q. What model would you recommend?
A. Acts 13 is a picture of a healthy congregation. After their mission they exhort and animate the church.
The Rev. Mike Wurschmidt – Building a Transformational Community in the Inner City
Shepherd’s Heart – How we started
- Planted in the summer of 1993 by a group of Trinity students
- Walked the streets near the University of Pittsburgh, the streets of downtown Pittsburgh, and South Side
- Began as a street ministry bringing food to those in need, blankets and clothes, love and friendship; grew into a place of worship, a new life in Jesus.
- Started small – The first service was seven.
- Shared the vision over and over with anyone who will listen.
- Worshiped the Lord – preached the Word – baptized the homeless.
Why the cities? The harvest is plentiful. The workers are few. Urban areas are expected to absorb all the world’s population growth over the next four decades.
Who lives in the city? Prostitutes want to be made whole, addicts want to be set free, the homeless want a place to sleep that is safe, combat veterans want to find peace, hope, honor and respect… The church needs to take back the city streets. We need to pray while we walk. “Lord, show us who was weeping last night.” We need to be loving the lost and the broken, no matter who they are or where they’ve been.
“Where are your people? Where is your land?” – question a church planting pastor asked. Where is God calling you to go? Have you asked God yet? And with whom?
“The early church thrived in the cities and announced to all who would hear… that the Kingdom of God had come to the city. […] They backed it up by casting out demons, healing the sick, and giving forgiveness of sin… to all who would confess and believe.” – Burt Waggoner
The message of Jesus has not changed. He is calling His Church to pick up His Cross and follow Him into the cities. The gospel message of Hope is the only hope that can save lives. The government cannot do what you and I are here for.
If you minister in the city you need to live in the city! Take the poor and homeless into our homes. Families are part of the team, and the homeless become part of your family. “God sets the lonely in families.”
Values at Shepherd’s Heart
- Highest value – Pursuit of God and giving back to Him in worship
- Who is your neighbor?
- Founded on the Word of God – only Jesus Christ can save, not the government
- Evangelical – Catholic – Charismatic
- Jesus is our head and the Holy Spirit is our Counselor
- Holiness, honesty and generosity (you can’t out-give God)
- Churches that plant churches
- Servant leaders operating as a team. The senior pastor functions as a coach and operates as the visionary
- Financial support – each leader on the team works a job to support his or her financial needs
- Use contemporary music to develop an atmosphere in which the poor and homeless will feel at home
- Collaborative partnerships
Collaborative partners include:
- 89 churches
- 7 health-related agencies (hospitals, recovery programs)
- 10 homeless agencies (shelters, food pantries, soup kitchens)
- 10 government entities
- 12 academic institutions (internships, field training, life skills training)
- 22 veteran service organizations
Questions church planters must answer:
- Are you willing to worship the Lord?
- Are you in this for the long haul?
- When you hurt your team members are you willing to keep trying?
- When your body comes under assault, can you and will you continue?
- Are you willing to fail and start over?
Church planting is about taking back a piece of land. Intercession and prayer must always accompany ministry. Potential leaders and members have the blessing of their current church leaders.
Do not lay hands too quickly on gifted people. Make decisions as a team, including spouse and family. Be careful how much debt you and your family are willing to enter into.
Have everyone on the team sign an MOU – memorandum of understanding. Be able to articulate the strategy and commitments.
Find a team member and leader who also has knowledge and experience in drug and alcohol recovery programs.
Maintain self care and Sabbath rest – you will get weary and beat up. Stick to a disciplined routine.
- Have a weekly prayer partner
- Keep the diocesan leaders informed
- Give away your very best
- You do not need a permanent building
- Tell the stories of the lives changed
- Money follows ministry – started w/ nothing
- Do not be afraid to ask family and friends
- Think outside the Anglican Dio of Pittsburgh and your own tradition
- Stick to your core values, priorities, and standards
- Look at ways to connect to other ministry opportunities in the city
- There are a lot of people who understand how to write grants
- Do not be afraid to admit failures and mistakes
- Spend time with your family – your family needs you
About Shepherd’s Heart
13 Pride Street is now their building. They serve a hot dinner every Sunday night. The church has a homeless drop-in center, morning prayer, counseling, Bible study. Offers programs for homeless veterans. Manages 5 community houses – one has a basement chapel. Uses a shuttle bus to provide free transportation to the homeless, at no charge, Mon-Fri. Owns parking lots that are leased to a business for income.
Does your heart ache for the lost when you are in the city? Love the lost and the broken with the love of Jesus Christ. Have you asked God yet? It’s time to ask!!!