Rooting Church Planting In the Story of God

God has a mission in the world, and as Jesus sent the church out he was drawing us into God's big mission. In this Broadcast, Trevor Hutton from the Nazarene Theological College in Manchester talks about how we can root our church planting in the story of God.


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What Does It Mean to Root Church Planting In God's Story?

  • Trevor has for years been involved in church planting - in the early days he encountered a lot of 'church growth theory'.
  • But God has a big story in creation - and church planting is about getting caught up in this big story.
  • The Bible doesn't actually say plant churches - but that is our micro-story that makes a contribution to God's much bigger story in the World.
  • The big story shapes all of the little stories, and the little stories are part and parcel of the big story.
  • Often church planters can only see their own little story and not the bigger story.
  • Everything that we are trying to do is all about God and what he is doing in his creation - the kingdom of God (God's eschatological kingdom).
  • The Great Commission tells us to share God's good news story with the nations of the world. In respond to this communities are formed and lives are changed.
  • Church planting is one missional response to sharing the story of God - as people hear that story and come to faith.
  • We plant the the gospel, and out of the seed of the gospel, communities are formed.
  • Jurgen Moltmann speaks into this a lot. He talks about a move from focussing primarily on church to focussing on what God is doing in creation.

Creativity

  • God has created a beautiful world.
  • He also gives people creativity to partner with God as co-creators. This is part of what it is to be in God's image.
  • We should be about creativity - not for his own sake but as part of what it is to reflect God.

Hospitality

  • God makes his home (oikos) with us.
  • Creation is like God's home/house and he has welcomed us to dwell in him and him in us, and to share the resources that he has provided. 
  • Part of what we are about is setting up God's home in his world - welcoming everybody to the table and having a place for everybody.

Relationality

  • We are made for relationship with God and relationships with each other.
  • We can also relate to the wider creation. 
  • We are called to be stewards and friends to the world God made.
  • God has called us friends - and friendship is a gift that we can give to others.

Identifying With Suffering

  • God identifies with those who suffer, who are poor and who are destitute.
  • God comes alongside us and gives us hope for a better future.
  • God's big story is about bringing hope to the world.
  • We are hope givers.

Diversity In Unity

  • God is about diversity, but also harmony and unity.
  • We work with lots of different cultures and groups, and something is wrong when all churches look the same.
  • We embrace diversity but we need to find unity within it - we are not at all talking about division.

Life-Giving

  • God breathed life into the first humans.
  • We are about reverence for life, and against things that destroy.

Sabbath

  • The seventh day of creation is the crowning moment of creation.
  • In the first six days he is busy doing things, but now he basks in the glory of what he has made.

Where Does Church Planting Fit?

  • We are about forming communities of creativity, hospitality, friendship, hope, diversity, life, sabbath.
  • This raises church planting from strategy/growth to joining in God's big story.
  • Church planting is not about church planting, it's about joining in God's big story.

Q&A

1. How did you get involved in church planting, and what changed your perspective?

  • Trevor grew up as an atheist. When he was converted as a young man he wanted to share the story of God with others.
  • He did some theological training then went into a church in Scotland that was looking to plant a new church.
  • They wanted to pay someone to share God's story with people. This sounded perfect! Trevor threw himself full into it.
  • He began to start thinking about what he was actually trying to achieve. 
  • He realised he didn't want to be about a denominational brand or just bums on seats but partnering wiht god - this transformed the church plant from discouragement to a vibrant community. 

2. Can you give an example of how this understanding makes a church plant look different?

  • In Trevor's initial church plant he copied the forms of church he had grown up in. But he realised that this didn't fit the culture he was planting into.
  • The most recent plant is particularly aimed at Muslims. It has looked like building relationships and hospitality in that community and blessing their children by doing some teaching in a Muslim school.
  • Finding a way to keep and evangelical core and yet engage across cultures. This looked like studying Islam and even attending a few services at Mosques to understand the culture. It also involved training by people who know more about the issues.
  • One of the connection points in the school was through art.

3. How many communities have you been involved in creating? Are they different from each other?

  • They are interconnected and share values, but they are all very different from each other.
  • There is some sharing of resources/people.
  • They have their own form, name and identity. 

4. How do you identify and train the people you build these communities with?

  • Trevor finds them, or sometimes God mysteriously brings them along.
  • Sometimes it is as an answer to prayer.
  • Beg and borrow people.
  • A common trait of pioneers is that you can get other people to come with you.
  • If you are starting something and you don't have this gift, find somebody who does who can work with you.
  • Don't be afraid to make the 'big ask'.

5. How do you draw older people into leadership?

  • Trevor does have a particular heart for coaching the next generation.
  • With older adults they are often ideal candidates to mentor/coach younger leaders.
  • There is, of course, also the need for older adults to be actively involved in God's mission.
  • We are looking to see people deployed wherever they fit best. 

6. Tell us a bit about how a typical community meets.

  • They are all contextualised.
  • In a Manchester suburb there is a cafe church meeting in Costa Coffee.
  • In the UK, the directors are Christians. They offer support to people setting up Christian communities.
  • Trevor brought together a couple of young leaders and a few people and they started asking what it would look like to plant something there.
  • Acoustic music is natural in a coffee shop, so they did some Live events, open mic nights, etc.
  • Cafe church - with a quiz around tables, interview, thought for day, a couple of Christian sings, a prayer and then an invitation to Conversations at Costa.
  • Tuesday nights - conversations at Costa about God.
  • Service time is Sunday afternoon.
  • Call the Thought For the Day 'Tuning Into Life'.
  • You don't need money to start communities, you just need vision, heart and gut.

7. When you start communities, how do you bring people along with you?

  • The communities are interconnected relationally, and people come along through this to help out and build a core.
  • The core then bring friends along. 
  • It's usually word of mouth, or specific interest in a theme of the community. 
  • In each community there is a place to explore discipleship.
  • The process of bringing people through is Contact, Nurture, Develop

8. Can you recommend any further resources?