Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Could you start a church?

I think I could start a church. How vain, huh? Of course, it all depends on what kind of church you're talking about! Read this account of someone starting a new church and let me know what you think. It's from the book I've been blogging about recently, 'Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens' by Neil Cole.
While doing some teaching in Japan, I had a dream that Heather, my daughter, started a church... I mentioned it to her just to let her know that she was on my mind and in my dreams while I was away. The next day she said, “Dad, my friends all want to do it!” “Do what?” I asked. “Start a church.” I told her that she would have to do most of the work, and I would coach and lead only a little. She said that was fine. The next day she arranged a house to meet in, picked a night of the week, and found a worship leader; flyers were soon being passed out to friends on campus.
I'd love to know what you think about this as an attitude towards the body of Christ. Is it marvellously adventurous and enterprising to just go for it like this? Or is it far better to gather theologically educated and trained people together, and also to get some oversight from a recognised denomination?

As I'm sure you've guessed, I think it's fantastic that people like Neil Cole's daughter, a school student, can start churches. There are risks with such a messy, almost casual approach to church planting, of course there are. But how wonderful that you don't need years of training in order to be involved in spreading the Kingdom of God like this! This is Cole's conclusion:
I... told them that I think Satan is more intimidated by this little church of fifteen high school kids than by any of those Godzilla-sized churches [that are widespread where Cole and his daughter live]... I showed them why I thought this way: “How many of you think you could start a church like one of those megachurches?” No one raised a hand. I asked, “How many of you think you could start a church like this one?” and all raised their hands. I asked them to look around the room at all the raised hands, and I said with a new-found soberness, “I assure you, Satan is terrified by this.”
I think you'd have raised your hand as well, right?

Post script – the church in China

I think a fascinating example of how Christianity can thrive when church is done in this kind of simple / organic way can be seen with what happened in China under the atheistic regime of Mao Zedong. Here's an extract from an essay I wrote while on my theology course last year:
Mao's Cultural Revolution sought to remove all forms of religion from China, with persecution against Christians including banishment of foreign
missionaries, confiscation of church property, execution or imprisonment
of church leaders and the banning of Christian public meetings.1 Foreign
missionaries were only allowed back in the years following Mao's death in
1976. Here is Hirsch's ['The Forgotten Ways' by Alan Hirsch] account of how their expectations and reality were poles apart:

'They [foreign missionaries and church officials] expected to find the
church decimated and the disciples a weak and battered people. On the
contrary, they discovered that Christianity had flourished beyond all
imagination. The estimates then were about 60 million Christians in
China... And remember, not unlike the early church, these people had
very few Bibles... They had no professional clergy, no official leadership
structures, no central organization, no mass meetings, and yet they grew
like mad.

No comments:

Post a Comment