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Our plan to maintain instability

by on July 29, 2011

All the comments on the last post on instability have made us here at Canterbury think and talk more about this whole issue. A woman from the morning congregation of St Pauls said to me today, ‘Anything worth doing has risks.’ Good point. It’s made me think of  a church planting movement in Bangladesh which we have a connection with. They send out workers into villages around the country, to see if they can start plant a church in someone’s home. They have hardly any money, the pastor who oversees the movement hardly has anything to live on, the churches they start are tiny and made up of new and untrained Christians, who have to do most of the ministry themselves. Talk about instability! If they waited until they had a stable situation before moving on with the mission, they’d never plant any churches. But as it is, they just keep going, and have to rely on God’s Spirit to cover all the things they can’t look after themselves, and to provide what they can’t. And they plant lots of churches. New ones every year. Instability is just a part of their missional edge. They’re kind of riding the wave rather than waiting for a calm so they can row in.

It makes me wonder what it means that we want stability. Cos we all do. It’s the goal of every new church: to reach a size and a point where things are stable financially and structurally and so on. Enough people to do all the jobs, etc. But I wonder if that’s a good goal. Might it not be a longing to lose our missional edge, to kind of reach the point where we don’t have to ride the wave any more, we can afford to just row along at our own comfortable pace? To reach a place where things are coming a bit easier and we don’t have to pray as hard?

Occurs to me that in our vision statement for Canterbury we say

11. We will put in place measures to maintain missional focus as growth occurs.

We want to promote not only a missional culture, but a church-planting one: e.g. setting a definite goal to plant another church once the first plant reaches a certain number of adults (maybe 25 incomes?). Church-planting is a permanent feature of church-life.

We’ve realised from the start that mission focus is easy at first but hard to maintain, it slips away unless you cultivate it. Our approach to keeping a missional edge is to keep church planting. As soon as we start to get comfortable (or ‘stable’) we send away say ten of our best people to plant a new church down the road a bit. Keeps mission at the top of the agenda. Keeps us riding the wave. Stops us reaching the ‘nirvana’ of middle-sized, middle-aged comfort. That’s our hope, anyhow!

A move like that is going to create two unstable churches – the sending one and the new plant. And if either of these achieves stability down the track, they’ll plant again. So in a way you could say we have a plan to maintain and promote instability, for the sake of the gospel!

What do you think of point 11? – is it inspired or just foolhardy?

From → General

3 Comments
  1. So does this mean, once a church has 25 people, only a few split off to form another church? I wonder what dynamics would change if, instead, you waited for the church to reach 25 or 30, and then split the church pretty evenly, perhaps mostly geographically, but making sure to have a few key, mature believers in each group. That seems to me like it would build in some inherent stability but not slow down growth and multiplication, necessarily. I’d be interested in what conclusions you’ve already reached on such questions.

    • That’s an interesting idea Megan. I like it. From where we stand, there’s a few different factors involved. One is that we want people to move into the area, so we’ll be asking some of our team to move to the new suburb. Big ask! It may be that half the team relocating is too hard. Then also we want to recruit in new missioners at the start of the new plant, it’s a good chance to do that. So we’ve been thinking we could send 8-10 and recruit the same again. Roughly.

      Also our idea is to send out our best people, rather than just half the church.

      We’re not really wanting to build in stability, more instability, really. I reckon 30 down to 20 would create a nice bit of instability, and a new team of 15-18 would be the same!

      But we’re still kicking around ideas, dreaming, praying. So we appreciate your suggestions!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment here. Means a lot to us.

  2. I’m not sure stability is inherently a bad thing. If you’re giving up some aspect of a healthy, Biblical church in order to lean on a man-made crutch or superfluous tradition, then sure, stability is not your friend in that case. On the other hand, i think certain means of stability are legit, like when the Apostle Paul says not to put new believers in elder leadership positions. I think community stability, if it can be without sacrificing the wrong things, is a good thing. But yeah, what you say makes sense. Sounds like you guys have put a lot of time into mulling this over and have planned for your situation. Excited to see what good things come of it in the future!

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