Church in New Modes

From Wendy McCaig:

While both Erin and I see ourselves as somewhat of an anomaly, I think there is a reason for our weirdness.  We are both women who pursued our theological training in a Baptist setting.  Female Baptist seminarians have a far greater challenge than most seminarians in finding positions within local church settings.  Both Erin and I are leaders, both are apostolic in our call, both of us are very creative and we are both willing to take risks.

The institutional structures in most Baptist expressions of the church are none of the above.  Thus, to be who God created us to be, we had to go outside the traditional church walls.  The funny thing is that we are both being called back into “the church” to help change the structures so that others who are shaped like us, do not have such a hard time living their call while staying connected to the institutional church.

For years, the image of a “church planter” was a hipster type male in his late 20’s with a goatee.   The idea being that young people will connect with young pastors and that young hip pastors will make the church “cool” to the more postmodern generations and “attract” that generation.  However, the hip, cool expressions with their multi-staff structure, full worship band and large group gatherings are expensive and few have proven to be successful. This is one area David Fitch and I totally agree on.  The church of the future will likely be smaller and lighter weight.  It will have a very low overhead and is likely to have no full-time paid pastor.  It will spend less of its energy and resources on itself and invest more in building the Kingdom and going on mission in the world.

This idea of creating church structures that are lighter weight will require that we prepare pastors to be bi-vocational or better yet, that we engage pastors who are already financially stable.  There will be fewer and fewer full-time ministerial positions which means that it will be less and less feasible for the 20 something male to move into full-time vocational ministry.  Think about it.  Most males in their late 20’s are recently married, have few assets of their own to sustain them, and will likely be moving into childrearing years.  The stress of starting a family, added to the financial stress inherent in any ministry position, plus the stress of starting something from the ground up is taking a toll on these young pastors and their families.

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  • Sherman Nobles

    Wendy has a thought-provoking perspective. In her blog she mentions Synago church which, if I understand it correctly from a brief review, is an inclusive fellowship of home groups.

  • The proper image of a church planter is someone who recognizes that the traditional church doesn’t seem to have a place for them, so they create that place.

    The reason the 20-something hipster male trend was so big for a while was because there was a real need at the time: 20-something hipster males didn’t fit in anyplace. Apparently females are more adaptable… or they’re used to living with less, which brings me to my next mini-rant.

    We could blame chauvinism for the lack of places for women in Baptist leadership, but I suspect a lot of it is because Baptist women aren’t planting churches and creating those positions for themselves. Had they done so years ago, there wouldn’t be anywhere near the lack there is now. Plus we’d have churches that would minister to women effectively, instead of men-focused churches whose leadership occasionally preaches against “emasculation” whenever a ministry dares to leave their comfort zone in order to reach women.

    Good on McCaig and her sisters for stepping up.

  • K.W. Leslie – I think your observation that there are few female Baptist church planters is true within the white church but I have been encouraged by the number of female church planters from the black church. This has always intrigued me.

  • L. Lind

    K.W. Leslie #2, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen the role of church planting as creating a church where “I” fit, nor for creating a place where “I” could have a position. Am I off base to think that church planting is about making disciples, not a place for myself, or am I just misreading your comment?

  • phil_style

    “The church of the future will likely be smaller and lighter weight. It will have a very low overhead and is likely to have no full-time paid pastor”

    interesting. It will be a test of faith to see how many pastors would continue without the paycheck and the numbers.

    Although removing the financial/income earning burden of ministry might be a blessing

  • L. Lind #4: More like I wasn’t clear.

    Church is family. You start churches to provide a support system for fellow Christians: To encourage them to worship and serve Jesus, and multiply. If existing churches are not that support system–if they’re too big, or too inefficient, or for that matter too efficient (they’re about processing you rather than having a relationship with you, or they have plenty of leaders and don’t see any need to develop everyone into leadership) there’s a lack.

    I don’t mean to say that we should start any church purely to suit ourselves. Then it becomes a Church of Me rather than a church of Christ Jesus. I’ve been to such churches; they’re awful. But if I go into any community and find that there’s no place for me, that the existing churches are “full,” I am more than likely not alone. Time to find those others who don’t fit in, who aren’t ministered to or aren’t allowed to minister, and plant a church.