Category: church planting

The Church of Tomorrow

What is church all about?

That’s a question I’ve been asking for some time. It kicked into overdrive when I read the Interim Regional Minister’s monthly column. Churches in my region were worried. Would they continue? What can they do turn things around?

My denomination, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) describes the local congregation in our Design of the Christian Church. It states:

Congregations constitute the primary expression of the community of faith within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Through congregations, individuals are brought to the saving grace of Christ, baptized into the Body of Christ, nurtured in their faith, and gather at the Lord’s Table. Joined in discipleship, congregations partner with their regions and the general ministries of the church to share the good news from their doorsteps to the ends of the earth.

Design of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

The statement is pretty clear. The local church is physical place where people are “brought into the saving grace of Christ.” It is the place where people are baptized, nurtured and receiving communion.

The words seem clear, but at times it feels at least in our denomination that we are all confused why the local congregation exists. Why are we here? Why do we matter? Do we matter? Those congregations in Iowa wonder, how long will they be around. They are dealing with a changing culture and are unsure where to turn next.

I don’t pretend to know the answer. I’m not a Regional Minister, I’m just a pastor in a small suburban church that is wondering how it will survive in a changing world.

And how the times are changing! We live in a time when the church is not so central in our culture. We also live in a time when anti-institutionalism is rampant in our culture and that way of thinking has crept into the church. How many of us have heard how Jesus didn’t care about the institutional church? It’s the belief that as long as we do good in the world, why do we need church?

So mainline/progressive churches need to ask what are churches for, and it is a question that has to be answered if congregations are going to have any future.

I think we need churches as places where people are formed as followers of Jesus. It is a communal experience where we learn from each other. We need places that are places where forgiveness is possible, there are people who long to be forgiven. That need for forgiveness is important, but mainline churches are not as comfortable of talking about sin. What they are comfortable doing is focusing on justice issues. Issues like the environment or racial justice are issues where the church need to give voice, but as Christians we understand these issues belie the fact that we are in bondage to sin. Heidi Havercamp looks back to her great-grandfather to relearn the Calvinist belief in total depravity. She writes:

In recent years, the doctrine of total depravity has caught my imagination. It’s the first tenet of the notorious “TULIP” acronym, which came into popular use among Calvinists around the time of my great-grandfather’s retirement as a way to summarize the five main points of the faith. If you’ve never heard the term before, “total depravity” might sound like a joke or the name of a high school metal band. It is, in fact, an astoundingly dire theology. Total depravity frames humans not as good people who sometimes mess up but as messed-up people who, with God’s help, can do some good things—but nothing completely free of selfishness or error. We are unable to make a choice that is unquestionably, entirely good. None of our actions, loves, or thoughts can be truly without sin…

Total depravity speaks to sin in our personal lives. More importantly for me, it also gives theological definition to corporate and societal sins. It’s not just that I am unable to love everyone I meet or to live a life that is plastics-free. I have also found it impossible to untangle my individual life from systems of injustice—institutionalized racism, pollution of the air and land and water, cheap clothing and food supplies that depend on the exploitation of laborers, banks and corporations that bend the economy toward their profit. A contemporary Episcopal prayer of confession includes this line: “We repent of . . . the evil we have done, and the evil done on our behalf.” There is a lot of suffering and a lot of evil in this world, and I find I cannot consider myself entirely innocent of it.

Eric Thorson, who was a classmate of mine at Luther Seminary, understands that people are hungry for a place where they can experience forgiveness:

My work as a pastor came at a pivotal time in American Christianity.  Inclusion was the most pressing thing to be talking about.  The ideas and words we had spoken about people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender were not adequate to the reality of these people’s lives.  The ministry of the church had driven these people into hiding, hurt them, divided their families, and provided cover for the selfish hatreds people have toward those who are different.  I fought and preached and agonized over how to get the church to recognize the full equality of these beloved children of God.

My church, the ELCA, is trying to prove its relevance at a time of great unrest in society.  So many things have gone wrong.  So many wrongs have been championed in the name of religion.  How can we show we are not part of the problem?  How can we resist the tide of loveless brutality that sweeps through our society?

And yet, coming to church as a stranger, as a person merely seeking mercy and forgiveness, sometimes I have seen the basic message of the Christian faith drowned out by the struggles of the moment.  Yes, it is important to know the difference between good and evil, sin and righteousness, and yet, we should not forget that we are not good or righteous.  We need grace and mercy and life from One greater than ourselves.

I have met so many people these past years who are afraid of the church not because it fails to be inclusive, but because they believe their sins cannot be forgiven.

There is a truth in coming to the table as a beggar, to eat and drink life unearned and undeserved.  This truth should not be lost.

I think if I were to talk to those congregations, it is to tell them that there isn’t a special program that will turn their church around. Instead, I would tell them that they recover the lost lessons found in the Design. They need to be a places where people are formed into becoming followers of Jesus. They need to be places where they know that they are forgiven by God and experience the grace that has been denied to them for so long.

Finally, they need to be places where they are willing to take a risk for the Kingdom of God. The cover story in a recent edition of the City Pages focuses on Peace Lutheran church. A small congregation found on the edge of St. Paul. The church dwindled down to about 20 members and there was maybe about a year of finances left. It was then the church decided that if they were going to close they would at least do it with a bang. They opened the doors to the community and death was postponed:

“Parishioners decided if they were to die, they would die well. So they took loving thy neighbor to a practical extreme. Peace leafleted Lauderdale with 700 fliers, offering to roof houses, fix plumbing, repair anything in need, free of charge.”

A church that wasn’t open much through the week was now the first place people looked to if something went wrong.  Strangers decided to donate to the congregation keeping it afloat. The little church kept going out being servants to their community.  The church is growing because the people decided to risk, to serve.

Local churches in big cities, small towns and suburbs are places that are a local example of the wider church. If people are going to see real live followers of Jesus in action, it’s going to be at the church. It’s a place where they can see God in action through the lives of everyday people. If they are going to experience grace in a world where that is in short supply, it’s going to be at the local church.

That’s why churches exist. In a time where we think it’s all about me, the church says you are you because of community. In a time where the stranger is shunned, the church opens its door. In a culture where the meritocracy pushes people to be perfect, the church says we aren’t perfect but we are forgiven.

This is the message mainline churches need to recover. We need churches. Not because we love institutions, but because 2000 years ago, small churches in the dusty corner of an empire were able to turn the world upside down. We did it then and with God’s help, we can do it again.

Questions on the Disciples and the Local Church

Disclaimer: I have to start this blog post off by saying that the following criticism is not directed at any one person.  It is NOT a personal attack on anybody.  This is a critique of a larger system that people might be a part of, but again my beef is with the system and not any person.

church-you-can-see-through-10I think congregations in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) are in trouble and parts of the  General and Regional Church bodies are not prepared to deal with it.

They aren’t ready because they are not geared towards helping congregations as they are focused on their own agendas and a less corporate spirituality.

They also aren’t ready because in the past, the churches were doing well.  In the heyday of the Disciples, the churches were full and sent their monies to the various ministries.  Not every church was great, but churches were not dealing with the massive change they are now so whatever issues there were might have been easily solvable.

None of this was intentional.  I don’t think there are folks in Indianapolis sitting around finding ways to destabilize local churches.  That said, I think churches are struggling to be relevant and sustainable in this new century and time of being church and the various agencies of the denomination are not responsive enough to the changing mission field.

They also aren’t ready because the current structure of the denomination, now nearly 50 years old, isn’t designed to help congregations of the 21st century. I’ve said it a few times before, and it bears repeating now. According a video shown at the 2013 General Assembly, only 18 percent of Disciple congregations are considered sustainable according to 20th century standards, meaning the ability to pay a full time pastor among other factors.  I said in a post a year ago, that my current congregation is not considered susatainable according to these standards.  Which means we have to find a new standard.  What makes a congregation sustainable and vital?  That’s a question that people at the General church and the Regional church have to answer.  I think there are a lot of churches like First Christian-St. Paul that are not considered sustainable according to the mid-20th century standards, but they are still places filled with vitality.  How is the wider church reaching out to them and helping them with resources?

How are we handling churches that decide to close?  Are we working with the leadership to look at using the sale of buildings to further ministry?  Are we helping them “die with dignity?” Do we offer pastoral care for the members?

How do we help congregations understand their ministry context?  How is Regional staff working to help these churches do ministry in this post-establishment era of mainline churches?  Is there a way for churches to share their best practices?  In the past, tools that help churches understand the demographics of their neighborhood were available in the Region.  A few years ago, it seemed that Hope Partnership could do this but for a fee.  Can this be made free again so that churches can access this resource?

Here’s a basic one: do we even know why we need congregations?  My take is at times we don’t know.  It could be why new church ministry languishes in some regions. Speaking of new church, are Regions working on ways to have staff support for this endeavor? Do we understand how these churches can introduce people to a loving God?  Do we understand that churches are small examples of the kingdom God is bringing forth?

That’s just some of the questions I have right now about Disciple congregations.  I’m curious to know if others have the same questions or even if they have questions.  I’d like to hear from fellow Disciples on this.

 

 

Disciples 3.0

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Just before I left for the 2015 General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Columbus, Ohio back in July, a special appeal was sent out via Facebook about the upcoming event.  Registrations were well below what was expected and there was talk about what to do concerning the 2019 General Assembly which was supposed to be in Des Moines, IA.  It was decided at General Assembly to at least for now not sign the contracts for Des Moines and start giving some thought about future General Assemblies.  This makes sense since attendance at these events have been steadily declining.

But as the denomination starts to look at General Assemblies, I have to wonder if there is a bigger concern going on.  It may mean that it’s not just General Assembly that needs to be changed- indeed I’m thinking the entire denomination needs to be changed.

It’s been almost 50 years since the Disciples of Christ reorganized its structure.  Before 1968, the Disciples were not a formal denomination, but a loose association of churches and state coventions.  After 1968, the Disciples became more cohesive, less informal and more formal.

Of course, this restructure happened a year before I was born.  About two generations have passed since this plan was approved and many of the leaders involved have since died. The restructure came about in an age where we placed trust in institutions and not just institutitions, but large institutions.  It was an age where things were centralized.  It was also a time when denominational labels mattered.  I think that restructure was designed to take care or maintain the church.  None of those things matter today.  We don’t automatically trust institutions. We are suspicious of centralized power.  We don’t care as much if someone is a Baptist, Presbyterian or even Bhuddist.  We have a structure that I think was great at keeping the ship going steady, but we don’t have a structure that is designed for innovation in spreading the gospel.

I remember seeing a video around the time of the 2013 General Assembly in Orlando.  One of the things that I remember from that video was that only 18% of Disciple congregations are sustainable according to the 20th century model.  I was astounded by that number though not surprised, partially because I’ve seen churches struggling.  My own congregation is not sustainable to the old model.  Our churches are need of updating.  If they aren’t sustainable according to the 20th century standards, then what is the new standard?  This is something our denomination as a whole has to answer; because the key to restructuring our denomination starts from the bottom up.  It starts with churches, moves to Regions and then to the General Church.

Yes, we should entertain ideas of what to do about General Assembly.  Maybe it needs to be every 3 years instead of two.  Maybe we meet at a college instead of a convention center.  But frankly none this matters if we don’t get the churches straightened out.

But even more than churches, we need to figure out what it means to be a covenantal people.  Disciple pastor Lee Hull Moses shared what that means and how General Assembly fits into that:

What I do know is that we are a covenantal church; we are obligated to one another only by our relationships. We need time and space to nurture these relationships—in person, where we can hug each other and meet each other’s children and stay up late together. We need the time and space to connect with the manifestations of the church that enable us to do ministry more deeply and widely than any one congregation could ever do on its own. There were nearly 4,000 people at the assembly in July. Not one of them would have come if they didn’t love the church, and that is an incredible thing to behold.

Part of the problem I believe is that the covenant is in some ways frayed if not broken. Churches feel on their own. Regions can at times do their own thing spurning advice from the other two manifestations. General Church bodies seem distant and don’t always seem to connect to the local church.

It will be interesting to see what we decide about future General Assemblies.  But I think we need to do more than reboot GA; we need a reboot of the Disciples.  It’s time for Disciples 3.0.

Here I Am. Send Someone Else.

New Property Sign (1) [800x600]I came back from the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) a week ago.  I got some great ideas about revitalizing First Christian of St. Paul, but there is still this desire to be part of planting a new church.

I tend to believe that the Twin Cities and Rochester are poised for new Disciple congregations.  But while I believe this and feel that we need to get on the ball, I also know not everyone feels the same way, which only makes me more anxious to see something new.

Whenever I bring this up, everyone to a person seems to think I should be the one planting a church and my reaction is…mixed.

You see, I’ve planted a church before and while I had a good time, it was hard to get people to take part in the life of the church.  Gathering a church can be a challenge.  That and if I did it, I’d be on my own.

But it’s not just competence that keeps me from doing this- it’s also the fact that I’m busy trying to help revitalize a church and that takes time.  I want to help, but I just don’t have the time to start a church.

Which is why I pray that God will lift up people who want to plant a church.  I can’t do it now.  But I have to believe there are maybe first call pastors or young adults that would like to try something different.

I want to believe that, because I think the harvest is ready and we need some laborers.

Praying for Revival (I Think)…

IMG_0021A few years ago, I was at a local  gathering of Disciples (my denomination) in Minnesota.  It was a good event overall, a time when our small tribe could gather to worship and fellowship.  Somewhere early in the event, there was a slide that showed all of the Disciple congregations in Minnesota that no longer exist.  The speaker wanted us to honor the work that these former faith communities did and I was in agreement.  They had for a season, been a small example of God’s kingdom.

As much as I wanted to honor these congregations, I also felt a sense of annoyance. Not with these congregations, but the fact that we Disciples in Minnesota are a smaller groups of people.  In the last 15 years or so, a number of congregations in the state have closed.  Churches in Rochester, Mankato and Fridley (a suburb north of Minneapolis).  Some of these congregations had simply reached the end of their lives and that is understandable. No, the frustrating thing is that we aren’t replacing those churches and it seems at times like most people don’t care.

A century ago, it was not uncommon for local churches to plant new churches.  First Christian in Minneapolis (where I used to serve) planted a number of churches over the years.  They looked to see an area where there was no Disciple church and a number of people would go to start a Sunday School class that would be come a church.

Over time, our churches have lost that evangelical drive.  We have become risk-averse. People have become skeptical that investing money in church plants actually makes a difference.  Better to spend it on a needy social service agency.  Some pastors from outside the area have said they were interested in church planting, but only if they were given money to support them.

I don’t say this to trash talk or to speak ill of folk.  But I do think there is a problem here when it comes to planting new churches.

I have had an interest myself in planting a church, but I already have a church that is in a transformation process, so I don’t know if I have the time to do this.

What is needed is for their to be a revival of sorts, people who feel called to help plant new communities.  I pray for the Pentecost winds to blow among our small Disciple tribe in Minnesota to have a passion to tell the good news of Jesus that translates into new churches.

I think we can say “well done” to those churches that are no longer with us.  But we should also be busy planting new communities, places that can reach the Minnesota of 2015.

I pray that this might come true.

Volunteers Needed: Church Launch/Re-Launch Team

First Christian Church of St. Paul is looking for the curious, the energetic, the adventurous and others who are interested in relaunching this Mainline Protestant congregation as well as launching a preaching point somewhere in the St.Paul area.

The Re-Launch/Launch Team is the group of people who are simply saying I want to be a part of what God is doing in and through this church. It’s a group of people willing to walk with those already here and see what God is doing. You don’t need any special gifts or skills but an attitude that says I will do whatever is needed.

If you know of someone who feels called to redevelop or develop a congregation, please pass this along.

If you are interested in this journey, please contact the pastor. We will contact you shortly!

Stopping A Freight Train

I’m a little wary about writing this.

freight-01The reason for my skittishness is that I don’t want my frustrations to be misunderstood.  But I think I need to try to find someway to share these frustrations; otherwise they will eat me alive.

Anyone that knows me knows that I am a bit focused on new churches.  I’ve really wanted to see new Disciples of Christ churches in Minnesota reaching various populations.  Last year, there seemed to be some passing interest with a few people, but in the end none of the people who expressed interest were that passionate to do anything.

What has also frustrated me is the lack on interest in new churches.  For reasons that allude me, Disciples clergy and lay alike don’t seem to be rushing to find ways to plant new communities.

One thing you need to know about someone like me who has autism (and maybe ADHD as well).  When we believe in something, we are all in.  There is no half steps, no casual participants.  This belief is hard to let go.  It’s like trying to stop a freight train, it just ain’t gonna happen.

If I were in a church and saw someone like that, I would have a talk with them  They would be the best workers because they believe this.  Really, really, believe this.  But I think most churches and middle judicatories don’t know how to deal with someone like me.

It was the crazy speeding train passion that led me to start a church 10 years ago.  I still had a lot to learn and I made mistakes, but I felt I was able to find a place to channel my obsession.  Community of Grace never worked out and it was closed a few years later, but it was a fun ride.

I don’t know if I want to do that again, partially because I have a church to worry about and partly because I lack the people skills needed.

But I still want to see new churches.  What is frustrating is that it seems like no one else in my denomination here in Minnesota is interested.

I know that starting new churches is not everyone’s cup of tea.  I know there are other things that mainline churches are involved in such as social justice issues.  I know that most people aren’t this obsessed about this issue.  I know that my passion/obsession has pissed people off in my denomination (and for that I’m sorry).

I wish I could just be able to push this aside.  But this desire isn’t something I can switch off, as much as I would like it to.

I don’t think I can plant another church, at least at this time.  But I do want to help others (if there are others).  I do want to spread the word on this.

This post is not supposed to be a bitchfest.  It is showing how sometimes my autism and church life collide.  It’s hard to have a desire or calling, and be told no.

I have no idea if this blog makes any sense.  Maybe I have to learn as hard as it is to do, that sometimes your passions have to be set aside.

I guess that makes sense, but it is hard to accept.

Adventures In Church Planting: 2013 (REPOST)

Writer’s note: I was going to write another post about church planting in Mainline churches, and I still plan to, but I think this post sums up a lot of what I am feeling still. One update: I am not leading the new church team anymore.

The Clockwork Pastor

As most of you know, I’ve been the head of a new church ministry in my Region.  There have been some good and not so good developments in the area of church planting last year, though for the most part it was a down year in many ways.  The good news is that our group got bigger as a few more people expressed interest in being involved.  The so-so news is how I’m leading.  I want to give people the chance to step up and take part, but I have to balance that with the need to just get something done.

church planting quoteThe not-so-good things is the fact that a lot of potential church plants just died on the vine.  One planter looked like he was going to plant a new community in the eastern suburbs of the Twin Cities.  Things seemed to be moving ahead and then he back out…

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Yet Another Post on Church Planting

It’s been a bittersweet time for me.

sixfour_333_ChurchPlantingOn the one hand, I am excited of being pastor at First Christian.  There are a lot of challenges; the church is down a faithful few and we are starting to find ways to grow numerically and spiritually as well.  Most churches that are down to a handful would just close and that was suggested to the folks at First.  But they decided to stick together and keep on keeping on.  I am amazed at their faith and feel honored to journey with them as First-St. Paul becomes something new and yet the same.

But there is also a lot of frustration when it comes church planting.  As many of you know, I was heading up an unoffical group in my Region dealing with new church.  Without going into much detail at this point, the New Church Team is on hiatus.  I’m not heading it up anymore (though I’m still on the team) but I don’t know when if ever the group will start up again.

As I’ve said before, last year was a dissapointing year when it came to church planting.  There were a number of people who expressed interest in church planting, but for the most part all the talk was just that…talk.  Add to that is the failure of a Region-sponsored church plant in Rochester, MN and 2013 just seemed bad.

It’s not all a failure.  Our joint ministry with the United Methodists in North Dakota is doing rather well. I am thankful for Ward and Theta Miller and their heart and passion for ministry.  I’m also thankful for having the chance to help the Millers make their dream a reality.  The success with New Roots in North Dakota, made me hopeful and looking forward to helping birth another faith community.  I was hoping to help my Region have a better track record with starting new churches and at least from my vantage point, I failed.

My passion (actually, it’s my aspergian obsession) with new churches is part of a bigger passion that is only now coming together in my mind.  You see, I am passionate about new churches, but I am also passionate about keeping churches open.  I don’t believe that you should never close a church.  As a mentor once said, there are no churches around that have existed since that Pentecost Sunday.  But I think that Regions and other middle judicatories need to think long and hard before shuttering the church’s door.  Church should be a place where God’s people gather, remembering their calling and being sent into the world to preach the good news.  We can’t do that if we aren’t learning how to be a faithful living community of believers. We really can’t do it if we lack a passion for evangelism and that is something that is found in spades in mainline churches:

Mainline churches have always been good when it comes to social justice, but when it comes to what drives us, the passion of Christian committment, well, not so much. I think part of the reason there seems to be little urgency when it came to church planting is because it seems so old fashioned. We mainliners don’t want to look like those fundamentalists, trying to shove their faith down people’s throats.

But our approach hasn’t been a whole lot better. At times it seems like we have no passion, that we are going through the motions.

 

We seem to have a hard time starting churches, but we seem to be able to close long-standing congregations such as those in Fridley, Rochester and Mankato.  In some cases, these churches had outlived their ministry, so I can understand closing a church.  But we aren’t planting new churches in these areas and other parts of the state.  The reason we plant new churches is  to create communities where people can see what God is all about.  To be blunt, churches exist to show the wider community the love Jesus.  Do we understand that?  Do I?  This is what Episcopalian Robert Hendrickson said in a blog post from 2012:

Current trends in the Church point toward a revolution of profound and disturbing significance. We no longer seem able or willing to say how it is that God transforms us as individuals and as a Body because we are uncomfortable with difference. The underlying message of the Diocese of Eastern Oregon’s proposal to endorse Communion without Baptism was first that we have failed to bring new people to the Church and second that the failure really isn’t that important because people are fine as they are and not in need of Baptism.

The message of the Church cannot only be “you’re fine as you are.” This kind of undifferentiated affirmation results not in an inclusive community but in a community without an understanding of its own purpose, message, identity, or goal.

I am not advocating that we return to fire and brimstone or rest our teaching on moralizing about private lives but I do think we need to be honest that God is calling us to be different, to change, to be transformed. Christ’s message was not one of affirmation alone but an invitation to die. It was an invitation not to live today as we did yesterday but to know our old selves as dead. This was the invitation of Baptism. This was the difference.

The Church comes together to celebrate Sacred Mysteries. It exists to say the Mass together and share in the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving – in Communion with Christ. It exists to baptize new believers into the Body. It exists to be a Body of reconciliation and forgiveness. It exists to call people into union with one another in Christ. It exists to heal and to offer hope for the life to come.

The Church exists to change us and all those around us in sacred moments by sacred mystery. It exists to make us different – to make us one in Christ.

In some of my discussions about church planting, a few fellow pastors have suggested that I plant a church.  I am giving it some throught.  However, I am already working with one church and I feel I need to let them know I am with them as they try to survive and thrive.  I will see how God leads.  I don’t know if I could do two churches at the same time, but who knows.

With only a handful of Disciples churches in Minnesota, I want to see new churches.  But I am wondering if this is the time to give up, or take a “sabbatical” and start again.  Maybe this is a sign that I need to take a break.

I just hope at some point there is a passion at the Regional Church and congregational level to start new communities that will reach out to the growing diversity that is the Upper Midwest.  All I can do is trust that God will work through me and others.

God help me.

Fool Me Once…

l_4d1a8c20-9d46-11e1-bda1-cb0a57400002Last week, I had a conversation over the phone with a fellow pastor who is interested in planting a church.  He share some of his plans and ideas.  It seemed solid, so I asked him to share an outline of his idea that I could pass on to some other folks in the area.

While I’m excited to hear about his plans, there is a part of me that is wary, a fear that he’s just talking and not really that into planting a church.

Last year, when I was still leading New Church Ministry Team in the region, I had a number of people call me and tell me that they wanted to plant a church.  Each time I was excited and hopeful.  It seemed like God was doing a new thing in the area.  But everytime nothing came of it.  Most of the time I’d never hear back.  I had one person who said they had plans to start a church in the East Metro and was given items to start the church.  This person even went as far as printing business cards.  And then, nothing.  He got cold feet or realized he wasn’t that interested after all and abandoned plans to go farther.

All of these aborted plans do have an effect.  As I sit here a year later, I feel heartbroken.  Since I am so literal, when these people said they wanted to plant a church, I believed them.  Maybe there was an interest, but seeing so many people not take their idea to the next level kind of hurt me in a way.  I’m not saying this to blame folk, just to share it had an effect.

So a year later, someone says they want to plant a church and I have a hard time believing them.  Being the Aspie pastor that I am, the things I am passionate about are things I am REALLY passionate about.  I am passionate about new churches.  I want to see new Disciples of Christ churches in Minnesota.  So, when I hear someone casually say they want to plant a church, my heart goes all in.  This makes the letdown that much harder.

I sometimes feel that I’m alone in this passion.  Everybody else seems concerned about other things, but no one else seems to want to plant new churches.

Part of the reason for my passion comes from my evangelical upbringing.  While I don’t always agree theologically with evangelicals these days, I still admire their passion for sharing the gospel.  I don’t see that happening as much in the more liberal waters these days.  There are people like Nadia Bolz-Weber and a good chunk of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America that do want to tell the good news.  Bolz-Weber has a liberal evangelism that I love.  I wish there were more people like her, wanting to tell people about the love of Jesus.

A while back I shared my frustrations with a fellow pastor.  He suggested going and planting a church.  I have to say that is tempting, but I’m already busy trying to revitalize a congregation so I don’t know if I can.

All I can do right now is pray to God that this time, someone is truly serious in starting something new.

I hesitate share all of this, because I don’t want this to be “Dennis having a pity party.”  But I also need to be honest about how I’m feeling.  And right now that’s a bit of heartache.