I love church planting. I’ve committed much of my life to it. My passion is to see new churches planted that transform lives, serve neighborhoods and impact cities. But over the years I’ve seen a kind of church planting that I worry has the potential of doing as much damage as it does good.
A couple months ago I had the opportunity to join a few dozen denominational and network leaders in NYC to talk urban church planting with Tim Keller.
If you’re not familiar with Keller, he and his wife planted Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan almost thirty years ago. Under Keller’s leadership, Redeemer has grown to over 5,000 in attendance (in one of our nation's most progressive and post-Christian cities, I might add) and helped plant over 250 new churches in 48 cities around the world.
So when TK speaks on what he sees happening in urban centers and what it means for future ministry, I lean in and take notes. Below you'll find some of my notes and comments from one of our conversations with Keller that continues to bounce around in my head and heart.
Whether you are ministering in an urban, suburban or even a rural context, I think there are some things here for all of us to think on and wrestle with.
I’ll admit it. Most years I love Christmas.
The lights. The sounds. The smells. The sense of anticipation in the air. Christmas music playing twenty-four hours a day on the radio. Endless replays of A Christmas Story on TBS. The one peppermint mocha I’ll drink all year just because I can. Watching our kids lose their minds on Christmas morning.
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”
Some years it really is.
But what about the others? What about those years when it’s not the most wonderful time of the year? Because let’s be honest, we all have them.
“Church planting is for girls.”
Yep, I said it. There it sits on the page. Don’t just breeze by it. Sit with it for a minute.
What thoughts or feelings come up?
Ah… another woman with an agenda.
Yes! I’m so glad we are talking about this!
Why can’t women be content ministering to women and children?
I don’t have time to deal with this… I’m trying to plant a church.
As an honest reader and gospel partner, I invite you to allow your thoughts to surface as you consider mine. I write trusting that this will be a moment when we can take a deep breath and open ourselves. Maybe God intends to say something to us.
This month we sat down with Mike Jarrell, founding pastor of Narrow Road Communities and founding Movement Team member of the Creo Collective. Under Mike’s leadership NRC has grown from just one missional community in their first year to twelve active MC's today. Just as significantly, NRC has more than twice as many people connected in missional communities than currently attending weekend worship gatherings. This week we sat down to talk about the irreplaceable role of coaching to missional community ministry.
I’ll never forget that phone call.
It was a Saturday in early 2017. The voice was that of a friend and fellow EFCA pastor.
“Aaron, you may want to sit down for this…Jeff passed away early this afternoon.”
It would take months for the gravity of those words to sink in. When Jeff Sorvik passed away many of us lost a friend, a mentor, a fellow champion of multiplication, and a brother in Christ.
And while I do find both hope and joy in knowing I’ll one day get to see Jeff again and chide his pasty white Scandinavian legs once more, for now I just really miss my friend.
I know that’s true of many of us.
So, what now?
It's a question many of us have asked. What happens to the Creo Collective when it suddenly loses its founder and lead visionary?
My city, like Baton Rouge and Dallas, is in deep pain and despair. These cities are groaning with the whole creation as in the pains of childbirth (Romans 8:22) because of the violence and injustice against Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the five officers killed in Dallas.
What can we do? What should we say? These are hard questions that need answers from many different voices and vantage points. I want to provide just one important answer as a pastor ministering in Saint Paul...
This year my wife and I celebrated our 16-year anniversary. It’s been an incredible ride. The road has included five moves, two dogs, three academic degrees, two church plants, and two amazing children. When it comes to being a godly husband, I don't claim to be an expert, but my tires definitely have some wear. Over the years I’ve learned a lot and still have much more to learn. Recently, I was reflecting upon the apostle Peter’s instructions to husbands in 1 Peter 3:7, where he says,
"Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered."
While there may have been a time when skepticism was largely pushed to the cultural margins, that time has long passed. Churches and their leaders no longer get the benefit of the doubt. Instead, doubt is alive and well. Skepticism has become a staple in the increasingly post-Christian West. Sadly, however, many churches continue to go on with business as usual. And many of them continue to shrink and die as a result.
I have the privilege of leading a church that has consistently reached skeptics in the five short years of our existence. What we’ve done is not innovative, but it has been intentional.