At the Urban Church Planting Forum we brought together some leaders from very diverse backgrounds within the evangelical world to discuss how we can plant missional churches in urban settings that are bringing about transformation that God wants to see. Shane Claiborne was able to join us by conference call and was terrific! His passion for Jesus and his love for people comes through with every world that he spoke. I like putting myself in front of people who will challenge my thinking and methodology. It’s a great place to be stretched and create new possibilities and synergy’s. Shane did that. When we asked Shane what he would say to a room full of church planters here are a few of his comments along with some of my own thoughts and questions.
“Beware of the commuter mentality.”
Shane is a big advocate of the Parrish church and believes that life is better lived in a walkable community that is designed to human scale. I can’t argue with that. I agree. We have partnered with a couple developers who have designed and built communities around new urbanism principles. But on the other hand I can hear Lyle Schaller telling me, “the automobile is here to stay, so what are you going to do about it?” What do you think? How should church planters create genuine Biblical community in a place where most people use automobiles for transportation?
“Beware of political neutrality”
Shane pushed this one pretty hard when he said, “we do no justice if we separate the social from the personal gospel.” He went on to say something I’m still thinking about: “don’t choose a political ideology; rather support and be involved in a political ideology.” OK, I’m going to have to wrestle with this one. I am fully committed to community development. We need to do this and Jesus calls us to do this. After that it gets difficult for us at Community since we have locations in both under-resourced communities made up largely of first generation immigrants and we have locations in affluent suburban communities that are predominately Anglo. You think they have similar political ideologies? Probably not. So what do you think, is political advocacy the way to go or should the church focus on changing peoples hearts one at a time and allowing those changed hearts to do acts of service in the community?
“Beware of big and celebrate small.”
Shane said that above his door is a sign that says, “small things with great love or don’t answer the door”. Gotta love it! He described the ministry he is involved in and how they do all their ministry out of their homes. He said, “church has to be lived out at the dining room table.”
He laughed about how mega-churches are trying to create small groups
out of their large churches to give people the experience of
community. All good stuff. Here is my question: what do you do when
you start a church, like we did at Community with a handful of college
friends and it grows from one small group to five small groups to now
hundreds of small groups with 5000+ attenders at 8 locations? Am I
just being defensive? Is “big” really the problem?