My guess is there are a number reading this right now who are attempting to discern the call to plant. Especially for you who may be in seminary, where anything from a PhD to being a missionary to an unreached people group are viable options, the question is naturally, “what is God calling me to do?”
There are varying views within the church as to how to understand “God’s will for my life.” The most prevalent I’ve found within churches, yet the one that I tend to disagree with the most, is that God’s will is “like a corn maze, or a tight-rope, or a bull’s-eye, or a choose-your-own-adventure novel.” Gerald Sittser articulates this conventional view as a “specific pathway we should follow into the future… Our responsibility is to discover this pathway-God’s plan for our lives. We must discover which of the many pathways we could follow is the one we should follow, the one God has planned for us…if we choose rightly, we will experience his blessing and achieve success and happiness. If we choose wrongly, we may lose our way, miss God’s will for our lives, and remain lost forever in an incomprehensible maze.” I’ve found this view to not only lack Scriptural evidence but also encourage paralysis when it comes to taking a risk for God. We have churches full of people who are waiting on goosebumps to confirm that they’re supposed to go and do something great for Jesus.
My wife and I chose to take a different approach as we worked through the call to plant – my central question was not what will God tell me to do?, but rather what has God already told me to do? To put it another way, my decision was based little on a feeling and more on what God has already said through the Bible.
When I looked at the Bible, I found God’s will for my life: to live out the Great Commission the best I can with the time, talents, and desires that God has given me. God’s will for my life is to figure out how to best take part in the Great Commission.
With this in mind, my wife and I decided it was our responsibility to either go to the nations or a great urban center where the nations have come. This came from examining the status of global Christianity (where are we needed?), as well as evaluating our experiences (my unchurched background and success starting new ministries, my wife’s time helping with North American church plants), gifts (I work best in a predominantly non-Christian context), and desires (we think there is no more amazing way to give our lives to Jesus than to plant a “sending” church that plants more churches in areas of tremendous need). With this in mind, we decided that we would plant a church in a great U.S. city.
But a word of caution: you tend to tell stories about your own life in a way that makes things seem better than they actually were. For us, there were months of agonizingly trying to decide between two or three options, all of which could have been used to God’s glory. There were countless conversations with already established church planters, lots of reading, much time in prayer, and many, many days where my wife gave me that dazed, frustrated look that communicated, “can you at least narrow it down to the continent we’ll live on following seminary?!” Our story is much more complex than what you’ve read above, but this provides the basic logic that we worked through when we decided to move toward church planting.
So are you called to church planting? In one way or another, you absolutely are called. Some of you will stay in the South while others plant your life in a city or go abroad. Some will be pastors while others professors or businessmen. However, all are called to obey the Great Commission, which necessitates all Christians giving themselves to the establishment of local churches throughout the world.
A few resources that may help as you try to discern your own calling:
A talk by my pastor, J.D. Greear, about discerning the will of God.
Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung
The Missionary Call by M. David Sills
Part 2 of “Discerning the Call” will deal with our calling to a basic methodology/framework for how we would move forward in the church planting process. Part 3 will speak to how we chose to plant in Denver.
Preparing to Plant (P2P) is a new series by Baptist21 contributor, Bryan Barley. The series follows his year of preparation to begin planting a church in urban Denver, CO in early 2011.
The series strives to offer a unique look into church planting, providing a glimpse into the life of a planter well before an actual “launch” is in view.
I probably shouldn’t commit to this blog series.
My name is Bryan Barley, and I am a classic “overcommiter.” I guess church planting and I were destined for one another.
I’m almost one year away from moving to Denver, Colorado to plant a church. Currently we have a team of six individuals prepared to make the move from Raleigh/Durham to downtown Denver. We will plant our lives there in January 2011 with the intention of planting God’s church.
Since making this decision, preparations have been overwhelming. Yep, I was that fool who thought that church planting actually began when you launched. After a few months of functioning as a bi-vocational pastor in the attempt to lay the foundation for a healthy church, I quickly realized I was wrong.
So why, in the midst of the chaos that awaits me this coming year, would I start a new blog?
A few reasons:
- I’ve found very few resources on church planting that don’t assume you’re a month away from launching a service in your local elementary school. I hope this could provide some practical help and encouragement to guys who aren’t that far in the process yet.
- I hope this will provide a glimpse into the amount of work required to church plant, helping readers understand the importance of supporting and encouraging planters within their sphere of influence.
- I know this next year will be one of the most interesting of my life. This will help discipline me to regularly chronicle what happens.
- I hope this challenges some guys sitting on the fence to get in the game and plant a church. If God can use a guy like me, He can use a guy like you.
My commitment is the following:
- Regular posts that are intentionally kept short to facilitate readability. I also hope to have other planters post from whom I’ve been fortunate to learn.
- Both practical and theological writing. I plan to touch on anything from “what is it like to lose a core team member before launching?” to “how do ecclesiological convictions impact our philosophy of potential partnerships?”
- As much candidness as I can provide – I’ve found church planting to be a deeply personal process. Sometimes this is good, because you pour your heart into your work. Sometimes this is bad, because you’re setting up a functional idol. The line is rarely as clear as we’d like it to be.
So if this is of any interest, feel free to follow our journey here. I’m looking forward to an exciting 2010.
For the Gospel,
Reeves is certainly right, GCR discussions are quite muddy. And there doesn’t seem to be any signs that things will change. So, where do we go from here? This answer, of course, is complicated. But, to throw in our two cents, we’ll offer one suggestion.
We think that the conversation will only advance with clarity. That is, we think the conversation will only advance in a way that is pleasing to Christ when all of the pertinent facts are communicated about the issue. Nobody will fight against a Great Commission Resurgence (not many, at least). Come on, we’re all about the Great Commission. In the same way, nobody will fight against reaching the state of Kentucky for Christ. Yet, there will be great disagreement about the precise way there will be a Great Commission Resurgence and how Southern Baptists will reach the state of Kentucky for Christ. Right?
If we had to vote for or against keeping the same percentage of every dollar in the state of Kentucky as before based solely on the information provided by Reeves’ articles, we would probably vote in favor of it. But, if we heard about the great need in Kentucky while also hearing about the even greater need around the globe, we would undoubtedly vote to send a greater percentage of our money towards this greater need. Make sense? If Southern Baptists do not have clarity when they’re talking about this issue, then it will not be Southern Baptists who are deciding whether or not to vote for a Great Commission initiative. Instead, it will be those that are delivering the “facts” that will be deciding the issues, since they only report the “facts” that support their cause.
Let us be up front. We think that if Southern Baptists are given the opportunity to view all of the relevant facts, they will support giving a greater percentage of their CP dollars for international missions. We think Southern Baptists will struggle to find words to describe the greatness of the need around the unreached globe when they see all the numbers. It seems to us that when many hear that 93 cents of every dollar stays in the local church they will realize that this only highlights the fact that too much money is staying in the state, since the current allocation of CP funds would mean that around 97 or 98 cents out of every dollar stays in state. In light of all of this, we wonder whether people will think that giving more money to the CP is the best answer since only a small percentage will actually make it to the unreached peoples languishing without a Savior.
Whatever you think about all of this, the key point we’re trying to make is this. In order for the GCR discussion to move forward we all need to put the facts on the table, even the ones that might hurt our arguments. We need to be able to say to those who disagree with us that we think that higher percentages of our CP money should go to reaching the hundreds of millions of people around the globe who have little or no Christians, let alone churches or denominational structures, and less should stay here. Or, we need to be able to say that we understand that there will be a lower percentage of the dollars given going to the nations, but we need the money to support the efforts of the denominational leadership and thousands of churches to reach the millions of Kentuckians. That is, there needs to be Southern Baptists who say we know that there are billions of lost people outside of the states, many of whom do not have a single Christian in their midst, but we think that most of our CP dollars still need to stay in our state. When Southern Baptists have discussions like this, we think the Great Commission will actually be helped.
The Great Commission Resurgence is important. What comes of it is important. How we discuss the various options along the way is important. At Baptist21, we are very concerned and excited about the discussions we’re all having. We’re haunted by the unbelievably large amounts of lost people around the world, with little or no access to the gospel. We know that many others, on all sides of the GCR, are haunted by this as well. But when it comes to the GCR, like Reeves said, things remain a bit muddy.
The 20/20 Collegiate Conference is fast approaching and we would like to invite you to be a part of this exciting conference at Southeastern Seminary. The theme for the 2010 20/20 Conference is A City Within A City: Church, Culture & Counter-Culture. We hope you would consider making the trip to Wake Forest for this important conference. You can register for this conference by clicking here. You will find all the information below.
Date: February 5-6, 2010 on the campus of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Topic: A City Within A City: Church, Culture & Counter-Culture. God’s church always finds herself in the midst of a broader human culture. Though the church is a part of that culture, she also bears witness to a Reality greater than the culture. For this reason, we as believers have the great privilege and responsibility of finding ways—in our colleges, workplaces, neighborhoods, and communities—to display the truth, goodness, and beauty of God and his gospel. Come and join us as we explore ways of bearing witness to God and his gospel in the midst of a skeptical, morally confused culture.
Plenary Session Speakers:
Break Out Sessions: The Conference will also include break out sessions with a variety of other speakers, including many of the SEBTS Faculty
Friday, February 5
3:30 PM Registration Open – Ledford Center
7:00 PM Welcome/ Praise and Worship
7:30 PM Plenary Session I (Daniel Akin)
8:30-8:45 PM Worship (Quick Restroom Break)
8:45-9:45 PM Plenary Session II (Matt Chandler)
10:00 PM Closing Song & Remarks
Saturday, February 6
8:00 AM Continental Breakfast – Ledford Center (Gym)
8:30-8:45 AM Morning Worship
8:45 AM Plenary Session III (Clayton King)
10:00 AM Breakout Session I
11:15 AM Breakout Session II
12:15 PM Group Lunch – Ledford Center (Gym)
1:15 PM Afternoon Worship
1:30 PM Plenary Session IV (David Platt)
2:45 PM Breakout Session III
3:55 PM Worship
4:00 PM Plenary Session V (JD Greear)
5:15 PM Closing Song & Remarks
You will not want to miss this opportunity – Check out a Past 20/20 Collegiate Conference
At the last SBC, 95% of Southern Baptists in attendance voted in favor of having a presidential appointed GCR task force. It was an exciting day by all accounts. Over the past several months many of us have followed with excitement and prayed with hope, as the GCR task force carried out its weighty task. Exactly what they’ll report and how their report will be received is yet to be seen.
In the meantime, we thought it would be helpful to talk a little about how things are going. It seems to us that one of the most critical and sensitive areas under examination has to do with the way our Cooperative Program dollars are split up and the way that people talk about the issues associated with this.
In most states, around 70 cents of every dollar given to the Cooperative Program stays in the state. The 70 cents funds all kinds of helpful and serious ministry in the respective state. The 30 cents that makes it beyond the borders of the state through the CP is divided up between the national entities, seminaries, mission boards, etc. This, of course, is coupled with special offerings for NAMB, the IMB, and other state offerings throughout the year.
Should We Change the Percentage of CP Dollars that Stay in State?
One of the key questions that many are asking is whether or not 70 cents out of every CP dollar should stay in state. On the one hand, there are people like Dr. Danny Akin who have argued that more CP money should go to support international missions and less should stay here. Though the GCR document later softened the language, Akin, one of its authors, writes, “our denominational structures have become bloated and bureaucratic at every level, from local associations to state conventions to the SBC itself. We believe our ministry effectiveness is being strangled by overlap and duplication, poor stewardship, and a disproportionate amount of Cooperative Program dollars being kept by the state conventions.” When Akin was later asked what the real motivation was behind his strong language and hope for a GCR, he answered simply, “It is about getting the gospel of Jesus Christ to the 6 plus billion people on planet earth.”
So, it would seem, Akin and those who agree with him would like to see less money staying in the states (especially those with a large number of churches in their state) and more going to effectively equip those attempting to reach unreached parts of America and, especially, those attempting to reach the unreached peoples of the world. Their perspective really makes sense when you think about a few statistics.
For instance, the Joshua Project says that there are 2.75 billion unreached/least reached people in the world. I know, I know, it’s hard to wrap your head around that number. I’ll just pick a few examples from the site. For instance, the Ansari people of India have a population of 9,726,000. How many evangelical Christians are there of the 9 million? None. That is, amongst a people that are twice the size of the people in the state of Kentucky there are no Christians. Zero. And, as you would guess, the Ansari people are not the exception.
The Uyghur people of China have a population of 10,760,000. They have zero evangelical witness at the moment. The Hui people of China have a population of 12,561,000. You’ll find no evangelical witness amongst these people as well. The Sunda people of Indonesia total 34,720,000. Of this number, 0.08% are evangelical Christians. The Somali people of Somalia have a total of 7,678,000 people. They too, have zero evangelical witness. Are you tracking with us? Needless to say, when the need for gospel witness around the globe is put into focus it is overwhelming. At the very least, it would seem that more resources should go towards reaching these completely unreached people than currently does. This seems especially true in light of the fact that the IMB has recently stopped sending certain types of missionaries because of a lack of resources to support them.
Should We Keep the Current CP Standards and Focus on Giving More?
On the other hand, there are people like those writing for the Kentucky Baptist State Convention who have argued that the states do not keep too much money in their state and that they are not bloated bureaucracies. Rather, state conventions are actually quite streamlined in their ministry efforts. In a recent article, entitled “State Conventions Stretched, not Bloated,” Robert Reeves wrote, “Here in Kentucky, even in the best of times, we only have about 75 full-time Mission Board employees to meet the needs of nearly 2,400 churches. Other part-time, contract or temporary workers are also used to help out but their roles are by budgetary necessity very limited.” In other words, this team is doing a lot with very little in order to help Kentucky churches reach the 4.5 million people that live in Kentucky. Reaching these people, Reeves argued in another article, should not be minimized or overlooked in favor of international efforts.
Reeves writes, “This lostness is not imagined. It has been documented in a variety of ways. According to research conducted by NAMB, some 251 million people in the United States and Canada — that’s three out of every four — are lost. Here in Kentucky, according to research conducted by the Barna Group on behalf of the KBC, nearly 1 million Kentuckians are unchurched with another 650,000 not committed to the church on whose roll their name appears. The Association of Religious Data Archives estimated that nearly 1.9 million of Kentucky’s 4 million population in 2000 had no affiliation with any religious group. No matter how you want to cut it or whose numbers you want to use, the point is that there is a great need for missions on our own continent and in our own country and state.”
Thus, for Reeves and others who would agree with him, Southern Baptists don’t need to rearrange the percentages of each dollar that stay in state and go beyond. Instead, Southern Baptists simply need to give more dollars. Commenting on the need for more money, Reeves states, “right now on average here in Kentucky, 93 cents of every undesignated dollar that a person puts into the offering plate, stays in the local community for local church operations, ministries and missions. That leaves 7 cents to be divided among the state conventions and Southern Baptist Convention for all of the other work that takes place across the nation and world. And where we’ve ended up in part with the GCR is a scramble for how best to divide up that 7 cents. At times it reminds me of football players trying to recover a fumble on a muddy field.”
There are a lot of folks that we could’ve chosen to represent these views. Hopefully, these examples provided a helpful description of two different ways that people are approaching a “GCR.” Although many times they use the same language, it seems that they mean something contrary to the other. This, obviously, makes discussions about the GCR clear as mud for many people. We’ll follow up with our take on these two options next.
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