Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Thoughts from a Unitarian Church Planter

Okay, that title isn't a crazy at it seems.

I'm starting to like Unitarians. I still don't always agree with their theology, but they have some good things to share. One of the bloggers that I like to check out on occasion is Ron Robinson, a Unitarian-Universalist pastor in Oklahoma that has some experience in church planting. His posts always make me think about what it means to be church and a recent post is no different. Here are some of his views concerning church growth:

Find groups of five people who can work together as a team, who have an entrepeneurial and mission passion, and turn them loose. Self-sown seeds. Watch what happens. By entrepeneurial I don't really mean it has to be business-minded folks although lord knows that will probably help more than by seminary-trained liberal arts message-weighed down people like me; but people who can be risk-takers. And don't be afraid to invest in the places you wouldn't ever be told to invest in by demographic studies. What has it gotten us to go to those areas where there are abundant higher education degrees? Though there is so much still to be done, and so many potentials even in the places loaded down with Starbucks. It's time to have the vision to expand in all directions.

But even those ideas coming from the top as new ventures are probably doomed. So I am back again to linking 12 people as apostles, those who are sent, who can model culture change, attract people on fire, feed their health and starve the dysfunction that will grow up in reaction. People who know in their bones what Church is, and that it is good to seed a diversity of little church expressions of Church. These 12 may be from all over,but they will share associational life together, retreating together, mentoring others, a kind of new monastic order of missionaries, going out into the wilderness of the new environment and bringing back reports to share of the findings and learnings and experiments of others, inspiring others to do the same with others in their areas, or getting away from the bounds of geography, with others in their niche culture, through the technologies. And as these people come into contact with others existing churches will be changed and new endeavors of church, growing their own resources, will sprout. What the association does is resource the start-up missionaries, the 12, and join in prayer, adding new if needed, and thinking not of 3 year cycles and results but 300 years.

Robinson is saying that church planting is about community: a community living in a way that is different from the prevailing culture. It gets back to the idea of the church not as a place, but as a people living a certain way: the way of Jesus.

Tomorrow I meet with someone from the Minnesota Conference of the United Church of Christ. I want to share my idea of working with a congregation ready to try something new: to gather a group of people interested in being the church and start in a local area and see what happens. It's just crazy enough to work.

Who says you can't learn anything from Unitarians?

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