too English to church plant?

plantWhen Mark Driscoll came to Sydney, he told us (us Anglicans, that is) that we were too slow and too English to be entrepreneurial church planters.

Interesting, then, that it’s been Total Church, a book by a couple of English guys, which has fanned into flame the sputtering embers of my passion for church planting.

That’s right, it’s The Crowded House guys — who’re getting some press over at Acts 29, by the way — Tim Chester and Steve Timmis who’ve got me excited about church planting!

I really like their idea that church planting is not just the job for a macho, omnicompetent guy who’s young, maybe not deeply theologically trained and has a kind of ‘mover and shaker’ personality. Church planting is a job for all of us.

It’s when every church member pitches in and serves according to their gifts and as there’s need that church planting really gets going. Of course, this can be slow and hard and even a bit … mundane (especially after the initial excitement of doing something ‘new’ wears off).

But it’s where we start working with the grain of the NT vision of church.

Which is where Total Church really comes into its own. It makes us reflect on what church is and what we should be on about. Without making church everything, it helps us see how it fits into the gospel story.

And it’s all about the way we tell the story. We only get the place of the church in salvation-history in focus when we recognise that God’s achievement in Jesus fulfils his longstanding intention to redeem, gather and sanctify a people for himself.

This is the beating — gospel, community, and missional — heart of the NT vision of church, within which there’s plenty of scope for different models of church government and polity.

(Although never mentioned in the pages of Total Church, there seem to be strong connections between this and Tom Wright’s work — e.g., his discussion of the interrelation of creation and covenant in Fresh Perspectives. But we’ll leave that for another time…)


  1. Thanks for the post, Chris. My only advice is get out of the blog world while there’s still time….

    As for the post, I guess the nature of the church as the body of Christ (1 Cor 12) is helpful -> it both means that it is never a single person’s effort (hyper-entrepreneurial), yet still is not a flattening of gifts, some of which will move people towards the teaching and leadership. Thus, no church can be a socialist gathering. Further, it keeps Christ as the head of the church, the one who grows his church (which no amount of leadership can do). Also, it keeps Christ as the centre of the salvation-historical gathering of a people to himself. Further, because it is the Spirit of Christ who gives gifts for the growth of his church, surely the question is not changing the lack of entrepreneurialism as encouraging people to use their God-given gifts in situations which might be uncomfortable.

    Thus, in this sense, there should be no difference between church and church planting, besides the newness of the gathered church community. Also, thanks for mentioning that a church plant (like growing an existing church) is hard, painful work which shouldn’t be romanticised (either by showing it as full of success or the sole domain of rugged leaders). But it is good work.


    1. Yes, Dan. Collapsing the opposition between church (read: ordinary, boring, unlikely to produce any real spiritual effect) and church planting is an important thing to do. Without losing our passion to connect with the community, reach new people and break new ground.

      But 1 Cor 12 is really lurking in the background of my thinking here.

      Interestingly, the way Christ is the head of his body — ie. ruling his church in the power of the Spirit by his (apostolic) word — in 1 Cor 12 doesn’t seem to be tied exclusively to a position or office.

      Rather, the relatively unpredictable phenomenon of prophecy (exercised in love, of course) seems to be the organ by which the church is built — both encouraging and moving Christians to maturity and bringing the unbeliever or outsider to recognise God’s presence in the congregation.

      Of course, prophecy is suborindated to the apostolic word here. Paul’s the one who gets to lay down the regulations about its acceptable use. But I’m not sure we’d be so keen to say that the office-bearers of the church, let alone the entrepreneurial young-gun church planter guy (and it’s always a guy in Driscoll’s thinking, right!) map directly onto the NT category of ‘apostle’…

  2. your going to boot camp…. well it says your running a q & a at one point 😉

    love to chat about total church and thoughts sometime!


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