March 22, 2013

6 Key Principles for Church Planting in Urban Areas

Although this is a website dedicated to housing scheme ministry in Scotland, I want to highlight a video from America today. Here is a short video from Dhati Lewis, from the Rebuild Network, interviewing some Christian brothers about urban church planting in their context. Obviously, our situation is completely different in Scotland, but there are certain principles discussed here that I think are true across the board. Take a look and then I will respond to what they say and how I think we can apply some of the principles highlighted.

Here is what I think is helpful for our particular ministry:

1. I think they make a great point about reaching the unchurched and the importance of being cultural insiders in terms of understanding the mindset and outlook of our own people group(s). In other words, a council-estate Christian has far less contextualising to do in his own territory because he builds cultural bridges with the gospel intuitively. Cultural outsiders have to learn the mindset and that takes time, patience, and humility.

2. The preach it and they will come mentality just will not work in our contexts any more. Mission now is now much more about going out and participating in community rather than expecting them to come and participate in (what passes as) ours. Many Conservative, Reformed Churches in our country who pulled up the cultural draw bridge years ago have achieved their objective. They have remained doctrinally sound but are taking their doctrinal purity to the grave. We at 20schemes want a return to doctrinal rigour and purity that engages with unbelievers in some of Scotland’s poorest communities. I believe it can be done (with God's grace).

3. They helpfully indicate that as gospel workers and church planters, we need to create a long-term view by putting down roots in our contexts. In other words, church planting in schemes is not a smash-and-grab job. We must be in it for the long haul.

4. Funding, likewise, is a long-term issue. Many of us in schemes will not get financial independence for a very long time, and we have to face facts that some may never get it at all. That is why we need a close network of churches who can support one another financially and spiritually. We need funders who appreciate this and understand exactly the context of our ministry. These, sadly, are often in short supply in a world that likes quick results and sexy newsletters of amazing conversion stories. These reasons (and others) are why the strategy of 20schemes is to treat our objective of planting gospel-centred churches among Scotland’s poorest as a missionary endeavour, whereby we encourage our workers to raise financial support in order to create some momentum for the long term. We need to keep educating people about the reality of this side of the ministry.

5. Fruit is slow and painful. If we see pockets of 20–40 believers in schemes in 10 years, I think it will be a success. Most church planters wouldn’t even class that as a core group in today’s discussion. Many will sneer at my lack of faith and others will be incredulous at such pitiable numbers. However, being a realist is not the same as not having faith in God to bring revival to our land.

6. The importance of team. Again, 20schemes is committed to team approaches to church planting. Niddrie Community Church works because, whilst I may lead it and be the face of the work, there is a strong team behind me and a group of elders who offer support and accountability. One-man bands do not last long, and if they do, the work often remains stunted because of the high level of pressure and commitment this work requires. Building teams that have a stake in the ministry is good, healthy, and promotes spiritual growth, development, and ownership—and it inspires long-term commitment.

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