Thursday, July 27, 2006

Church Planting Training?

I had a wonderful conversation yesterday with a young man named Joshua. He just graduated from Bible college. He anticipates starting seminary sometime in the future. He shared with me that he feels called to Church Planting. Specifically, he feels called to plant a church in the state of Maine.

He has been communicating with a Director of Missions up there who gave him some very interesting advice. He told Joshua that he should go to some type of school and learn a skill ... a trade ... that he can use to support his family with a good paycheck when he arrives on the field. He shouldn't show up in Maine and expect that other people are going to support him in a full-time work. He should plan to be bi-vocational.

I think that's some pretty good advice. I know that Roger (my Mission M Possible partner-in-crime) and I have talked about this before. Maybe we should rethink everything when it comes to training and deploying Church Planters to the "frontier" mission fields ... even the new mission fields in the south. Instead of paying our Church Planters two or three years of welfare-level (food stamp eligible) "support" through the Nehemiah program or any other program (and expect them to raise the support from somewhere else ... even though the Baptist world thinks they are "funded"), maybe we should use that cash and pay their way through a year of community college to learn carpentry, electrical work, plumbing, medical records, HVAC, or something of that nature. Send them back to another year of school to earn a teaching certificate. Heck, let's think big! Why not make sure that they will never hurt for a job and pay their way through two years of nursing school?

My point? I believe we have to rethink the ways that we will plant churches in the future. And we need to start that re-thinking right now. Maybe the bi-vocational (old fashioned tentmaker) approach is the most practical, most effective, and most biblical. I seem to recall that a fellow named Paul did it that way.


Blogger Michael Jones said...

I'm sure Josh just earned a special place in Roger's heart.

Being prepared to get a job that pays well enough to support your family and plant a church sounds like a great idea. It makes tons of sense. My friends that are going to Canada to pastor a church, are spending time trying to raise funds to go. Granted there are extenuating circumstances (i.e. - they're not allowed work in Canada.) If you're prepared to fund yourself it shoud make things easier. Working as a plumber/electrician or any type of general contractor is a great way to get out and meet people. Plus, here's the great part, they have to listen to you while you are in their home working!

8:42 PM  
Blogger Bryan Riley said...

But Paul wasn't always self-supported and there is a wide variety of support and ministry showcased in the Bible. I think God can call us in many different ways. And, remember, that where people's treasure lies, their heart will follow. And, look at 3 John 5-8, where it shows how the supporters of a minister become coworkers with that minister. God works mightily through the building of support, growing the faith of both the minister and those who support that minister.

Having said all that, I also think that having skills are very key to missions work because even if it is not for one's support (or if it is) it can be terrific for ministering!

3 John

5Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they are strangers;

6and they have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God.

7For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles.

8Therefore we ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth.

9:05 PM  
Blogger Roger Ferrell said...

Yes, we have talked about this and I often wish I had found out about church planting when I was a teenager so I could have made preparations to be bivocational. I was in Maine as a church planter, trying to find a job with a bachelor's degree in Religion! It is tough and that is why it is best for today's church planters to train for other fields, get jobs, and then go anywhere God calls them with full funding through their secular occupation.

Another reason to "keep your day job" is that you can reach people better in context than without. For example, a guy who works as a police officer meets people at work, in the community and has built in credibility with anyone in town. A full-time church planter has to try to meet people and is viewed with suspicion because no one understands how he fits in the community.

So plan to be bivocational. And if God blesses you with full-time funding, then praise God! But chances are it will be better for your family, and your ministry, to go bivo. By the way, the statistics show that bivocational pastors grow churches just as fast, and sometimes faster, than the full-time guys. Just in case you were wondering!

9:14 PM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

After serving in Ottawa, Ontario for six months and having to raise every single penny to be there, I'm a HUGE supporter of tent making.

When I was a freshman at North Greenville University (it was actually a college when I first started) I started out majoring in Christian Studies. I realized pretty quickly that most of those in that field of study were guys studying for the pastorate. I left that major and pursued a missions degree. I'm about to finish at North Greenville and I'll be getting a bachelor's degree in history and I'm certified to teach English as a second language. I think that it's becoming more and more important to have a secular job. Anyway, that's my two cents.

9:27 PM  
Blogger Geoff Baggett said...

Good word, Bryan.

I think there's just a lot of confusion in Southern Baptist life right now. Unfortunately, most of our people believe that they do their part for missions by giving to the Cooperative Program. They don't understand when the missionaries and Church Planters comes around seeking support. They tend to wonder, "Where did all those CP dollars go?" And I don't blame them.

Definitely, we should support our workers. But, realistically, there are only so many funds to go around.

5:16 AM  
Blogger Michael Jones said...

Is the CP only for church planting or does it have other purposes?

10:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are only so much funds to go around? Do you know what an increase of just 1% in giving would mean to the Great Commission? Do you see how people spend 100 dollars at the drop of a hat for a dinner out? Multiple times a week? I'm glad people can do that and God has blessed America with great wealth. If we can communicate the vision, prayerfully, and not in a manipulative or worldly way, but through the empowering of the Holy Spirit, I believe God will supply all our needs. Philippians 4! It's all His money. If what we are doing is according to His will, He will feed and clothe us and send us in a way worthy of His calling.

10:43 AM  
Blogger Bryan Riley said...

I just saw on the website that there are 42,000 SBC churches in the US. There are 4000 - 7000 unreached people groups. Seems like simple math and plenty of resources to accomplish a lot to me. If we would be willing to work with other Christians and add to that 42,000 all the evangelical churches in the US and then all the evangelicals around the world... Well, we could have groups of 10, 20, 50 churches supporting a huge team of missionaries to each unreached group...planting a church...discipling... WOW.

12:47 PM  
Blogger Geoff Baggett said...

Big ifs, anonymous ... but I hear you, my friend. Without doubt, IF there were as many people in our Southern Baptist churches as the Annual Church Profiles say there are, and IF they were to all give a biblical tithe, then none of this would be an issue.

But the simple reality is that there are currently not enough AVAILABLE dollars to fully fund and support everyone who desires to be fully funded and supported in their North American ministries. So, we have many of our M's in North America who are actually forced to COMPETE with one another over the same offering plate dollars. And, in many cases, I fear that individuals support these missionaries at the expense of the local church, which never sees those privately invested dollars.

I agree, anonymous, that it is all God's money. But isn't it just as much God's money if it is earned on a construction site or in a classroom as it is if it comes through some church's offering plate?

In Philippians 4, even Paul experienced support from only one church ... at Philippi. The others, apparently, were unable to support him. I think the greater lesson that Paul is teaching in Philippians 4 is that we should be content with our circumstances (v. 12), not that we should expect complete support from others. Sometimes our circumstances require us (or, even our spouse) to get a job.

There are simply too many bi-vocational ministers out there who have fruitful, fulfilling ministries. I used to be one of them. I agree with your statement that God will feed us and clothe us in a way worthy of His calling. But sometimes we have to go out and earn a living in a secular job for that food and clothing. God blesses and provides through a paycheck in the same way that he blesses through the charity of others.

1:17 PM  
Blogger Bryan Riley said...

I agree with both anonymous and this post and followup comments. God may call us for a time to bi-vocational work and for a time to being fully supported. I just worry that we walk by sight rather than by faith with regard to money.

Remember that raising support isn't about money. It is about ministry and is a part of the ministry for those who raise support. Paul makes that clear. Those who support are fellow workers in that ministry and are receiving a blessing through doing so. And, when they give of their money, their heart follows. Are you more likely to pray for someone you support financially? I bet most people are.

2:21 PM  
Blogger Michael Jones said...

On a funny note: I hope the guy in the picture isn't going to use those two boards he's nailing together!

2:53 PM  
Blogger Geoff Baggett said...

C'mon, Michael, let's give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he's nailing together a header to go over a door or windiow ... yeah, that's it...

Bryan, I understand what you're saying. But dare we wait for people to get right with God and start giving for the right reasons before we deploy our people to plant new churches throughout North America?

International missions is something altogether different. But in our own nation, within our own culture, I can't stop thinking that bi-vocational CP's and M's must be a critical part of our strategy.

6:14 AM  
Blogger Geoff Baggett said...

Sorry, Roger, "window." I'm typing on my daughters' computer.

6:15 AM  
Blogger Bryan Riley said...

I don't disagree, but I also worry for the faithful ministers who have plenty of work to do and who can be weighed down to the point of quitting by having to work more than their bodies are designed to work or more than their families can stand. I also know God can move hearts to give. Effective communication is key. People givce all the time to causes that are less important to the Kingdom.

Now, having said all that, again, i agree that having other skills is a very good thing. It can help in your life generally; it can add maturity to the one serving; it can open a door to ministry that might not otherwise be there; it can help support the minister (but we can't be focused on the money--our focus must be God and His ministry through us); and, it can help the minister meet more than just the emotional and spiritual needs of the ones the minister serves.

12:04 PM  
Blogger Kiki Cherry said...

My husband, Doug's, response to this post was, "But that sounds logical, reasonable and effective. Are we allowed to do that?" : )

I love the way you guys think.

11:06 AM  
Blogger Geoff Baggett said...

Awesome thread ... our best yet.

Thanks for the word, Kiki. Practical and effective is what we church planters are all about!

2:46 PM  

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