Friday, August 31, 2012

Church Planter Coffee Conversations

Today I had a delightful coffee appointment. Of course the coffee shop was well chosen [all who see coffee making as an art know this is essential to supreme moments].

While in Australia, I was emailed asking if I would meet with some guys who are looking to plant in Costa Mesa. Now that is always interesting, this request was particularly intriguing. This was a plant from a church planting stable that dates back to the British Restoration move that found its expression in the 1980's. The founder of this part of the movement, Bryn Jones, I met in 1984. Their work around the world I have always watched with interest as it had parallels to our own story.

Our coffee was a delight. These are two remarkable men - Andrew is an older statesman. One of those who asks many questions yet you always feel that behind that inquisitiveness is an old kingdom veteran with many stories to tell, experiences to share. Carl, the young planter is hungry, eager and teachable.

The conversation drifted around church planting in Orange County. It was fun to be asked questions around what I would do, where I would do it and how I would approach it. Well here are some of the pointers from the conversation:

*   Although over 4000 churches are planted in the USA yearly most of them will fail - the reasons seem to be a lack of sufficient financial backing and the absence of true, intentional, in the trenches partnership with Ephesians 4 gifts - by way of calls, skypes, visits, listening, praying, befriending - the biblical way is not coaches and mentors but apostles and prophets;

*   Parachuting into a city requires doing the hard yards of getting street cred - with so many plants failing and a growing mistrust of churches and the clergy, there is no replacement for the value of the pre-launch. Here time is taken to establish a core team where vision and DNA are fashioned into a working narrative even before the plant is launched. This may take somewhere between 6 to 9 months...During this time trust is established in the community. I am here to stay. I love the city, her people and I want to lay my life down for her;

*   One must discover the "ant trails" [Ed Stetzer] - only time will allow us to find the rhythm of that city - where do folks go, what do they do, what drives them, how do their view their spirituality, where do they spend their money, who do they view their families and how do they recreate;

*   I was asked where I would plant - definitely near a university and a freeway... this is LA. Universities are a gathering place of folks coming in, they are disconnected from their old worlds, they are looking for new ideas and are looking for community in their new setting. In LA with the lack of public transport, one has to be within walking distance if possible or near a freeway for folks who drive in;

*   Connecting with other pastors and leaders in the city is a must. Planters are always standing on the shoulders of these who have labored in the paddock for many years. There is the integrity and humility of coming to town to respect and acknowledge those who have gone before. There is the teachability and collaboration of learning from those who have knocked on the doors of grace with their prayers. There is the kingdom mindedness of realizing we all need each other to get this glorious gospel out to all cities and countries;

*   We spoke of the notion of being weary of planting a brand rather than the gospel. It was so refreshing to hear of a plant that is passionate for the miraculous, signs and wonders, and healing. What a relief to taste such a hunger for the real, the authentic, the supernatural.

So that was a couple of hours in my life. Now you know why I love what I do. Jesus is so very kind.

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