By Shannon YouelI, CBWC Church Planting
I continue with my blog of last month in response to Hugh Fraser’s two questions posed by focusing on his second question: “Where have we articulated our shared CBWC definition of a church plant?”
Here is my thinking-in-process attempt at defining what our church planting team has been grappling with.
One of my favourite succinct ways of saying this came from Cailey Morgan, who wrote last year, “Church planting is developing an expression of God’s kingdom in a neighbourhood.”
Key words here for me are; developing, expression, neighbourhood. Walk with me over the next month or so while we try to break down this statement and perhaps form together a shared CBWC definition of church planting….we’re going to need your thoughts and help!
I worked in development for a time and some of the key things we focused on while working through the process of establishing/building a new community, was impact. What kind of impact or influence would our development have on the surrounding community? On the services, the traffic, the schools, the environment?
We paid big bucks to consultants specializing in multiple levels of impact/influence. In other words, we learned everything about our area of development before we did anything. The bottom question always came to viability. Is what we are planning viable in this community? It would behoove us to not put up million dollar homes in an area of town where people who could afford them wouldn’t necessarily choose to buy there. So what does this particular target community need.
If we look at that in regards to how we create new communities of disciples of Jesus, we need to know our community. Whether that is the community surrounding an existing place of worship, or a community we live in, or a targeted community, we need to understand the culture and context of that community. What are the people who live there struggling with? What are their values and concerns? Often we come in like the shopping giant Target with predetermined ideas of what the community “wants/needs” without knowing and understanding who that community is.
So we need to know our neighbourhoods. We need to move in or already ‘live’ there. We need to become a part of who they are and build relationships that show we value their context and culture. Our western world church culture has often been short sighted and uninformed in attempting to impose our values on a group before we even discover where God is already at work in shared values. We call it outreach which reads to me that we are doing something to our community rather than with communities and neighbourhoods.
If we look at the early church, it grew out of communities. The seed of the gospel, the good news of the kingdom of God was planted into communities and grew from within. It was relational discipleship and out of that grew gathered communities who joined together to sing, to read scripture, to gather resources to send to those in need, to encourage one another, to build one another up so that back at home, in their own places and spaces, they could do the same. Bob Roberts prefers to call church planters “community faith engagers” who think like community developers and share Jesus in everyday life, everywhere.
Next, what does “an expression of God’s kingdom” look like? Send us your thoughts and help write the next blog entry!
Thinking like a community developer,
Shannon Youell, CBWC Church Planting