Plant rant

There’s a lot of chatter around the Australian evangelical blogosphere (that’s a pretty narrow field really) about a future church planting movement in Australia.

Some people are over in the US with Mark Driscoll and other renowned church planters right now. And they’re blogging up a storm. Most of the posts are buzzing with fanboyism. They’re chock full of quotable quotes, photo ops, video interviews and summaries from talks given at conferences. It’s no doubt very exciting for those caught up in the movement.

Some people are not so excited. I won’t link to the post because I’m not sure how long it’s going to stay up. Simone has a post on the matter here.

Church planting is exciting. Sure. It’s great to be pursuing new avenues to preach the gospel to people. It’s something I’d like to do one day myself. Maybe. But it has to be said that it takes a special character to persevere with someone else’s work and not go off breaking new ground. I’d say it’s more challenging for a minister of a church to take on an established eldership or church governance structure.

These new fangled church planters have some compelling arguments but they’re often built with some sort of naive view of the nature of ministry in mind. Mars Hill, Mark Driscoll’s church is in my mind a case in point. Pull Mark Driscoll out and things change dramatically. There doesn’t seem to be a great succession plan in place if your preaching pastor preaches to multiple locations via a satellite link. The model they propose works so long as ministers don’t parish hop (which they do) and as long as the church can provide for their own staff members from within their numbers (which they can’t always). When there’s a vacancy in an Australian church an outsider has to come in and take over. That’s the way it works – particularly when there are more vacancies than candidates to fill them.

I’m also not sold on the idea that all the good church stuff happens in cities. Which is a key theory behind a lot of Mark Driscoll’s strategies in particular. So I’m reserved in my exuberance when it comes to responding to the news that Australia is going to have a network of church planting being supported by the Acts 29 movement.

The rest of this post is a comment I posted on Simone’s blog where she was less than enthused by the personality cult (my words not hers) surrounding super church planters like Driscoll… you may already have read it. A few of these statements address the particulars of that post.

While I appreciate Mark Driscoll and love him for his passionate teaching and church growth strategies – if you can call them that – I don’t think his is an easily reproducible style.

I would say the church planters who are running these conferences were not only not going to these church planting conferences – but were not even following a church planting recipe.

I don’t set out to be Gordon Ramsay in the kitchen, and I’m not going to set out to be Mark Driscoll in church planting. I think the beauty of being both a celebrity chef and a church planter is that you work with the ingredients you’re given – and in most cases the ministry you forge (or the food you make) works best when it reflects your unique personality and not a cheap imitation of a trailblazer.

These guys all seem to be wanting to be trailblazers by following someone. And that seems contradictory.


simone says:

The post stays. You can link to me.

You are much more eloquent that me. I love your chef analogy.

Makes me feel like my ranting is based on something apart from ungodliness.


toph-online says:

Nathan: thought you might be interested in this:
Sent at 16:47 on Tuesday
me: why is that?
Nathan: because it’s about church planting and mark driscoll
two of your favourite topics

Sent at 17:12 on Tuesday
me: lol
church planting yes Mark Driscoll I would love to know why you and Tim think this…
Sent at 17:15 on Tuesday
me: saw this early and read it I like what you said.. would think though that if we have vacancies “video church” might help us out. other thought how much succession planning is there over here in other churches?
Sent at 17:18 on Tuesday
Nathan: not much – but existing churches don’t survive or fall on the basis of their founders
the denominational structure looks after that
Sent at 17:20 on Tuesday
me: confused? you think that mars hill will not survive without Driscoll?
i don’t like this
i am not defending him by the way just arguing the point
Sent at 17:33 on Tuesday
Nathan: I think Mars Hill will struggle when Driscoll is no longer there
how could it not
me: how is this different to any other Pressie church
Nathan: he’s part of the foundation of it – not as much as Jesus is – but it significantly reflects his personality and gifts
me: or other church for that matter
Nathan: you should make these comments in the comments

will comment further tomorrow

Nathan says:

@Chris – I didn’t mean you should copy and paste the chat. But it will suffice.

@Simone – alright, links are going up now.