The Unwritten Rules of Church Planting


Yesterday I bumped into a friend in a coffee shop and inevitably our conversation turned towards church planting and even the various whys and hows of church planting ... from house churches to more conventional attractional modes. The conversation burrowed deeper into house church planting (for lack of better terms), At one point he confessed that he worries if he'll somehow ruin his kids as this is significant step in a different direction from being and doing church in a way that he was accustomed to.

The conversation immediately brought to mind Major League Baseball (stay with me). In professional baseball in the US (and Canada ... can't leave you out Blue Jays ... oh, and we need to bring back the Montreal Expos) there are the "unwritten rules of baseball." Yes, there is actually some unwritten rulebook of baseball with rules that must be upheld. For example ... when you hit a home run do not over celebrate. No bat flips nor staring down the pitcher or watching too gleefully as your ball sails over the wall. Absurd? You bet. You see, when a pitcher strikes out a batter he is allowed (according to the unwritten rule book) to yell and fist pump all he wants. However, a batter is to show no emotion when he jacks it out of Fenway.

You see, in church planting we have all sorts of these unwritten rules. Church planting should be done that way. When I ask the question how church planting should be done most often there is a common storyline that gets parroted. Church Planter A moves to City A, works for a year to gather a core, holds interest meetings for local Christians who might be interested in joining him, awkwardly seeks to connect with people far from God, realizes he doesn't have enough funding and time to really do that, and gathers and launches a church with local Christians coming from other churches. Oh, and if he's REALLY cool and trendy (with a strong social media game) then his success in planting exponentially increases.

To deviate from that would be absurd, right? I mean, that's how church planting should be done. That's how funding is given with that in mind and a result the metrics and measurements for success are predicated on that "tried-and-true methodology."

But my question is this ... who wrote this unwritten rulebook of church planting? Who got to decide why this narrative is the defining narrative for church planting? Is there some secret society or high council who meets yearly to update and amend this unwritten rulebook? Do they have secret handshakes and wear robes? You see, there are hundreds ... no, thousands of church planters out there feeling some underlying sense of guilt or shame or second-guessing because (a) they're not really good at that kind of church planting and (b) they're not really wired for nor interested in doing that. But they are church planters.

What do you do?

Throw out the unwritten rulebook and make your own (for you). Besides, since its unwritten you don't have to worry about any copyright violations. Obviously, we are guided by Scripture as there is much to glean from Acts and the Epistles. Apart from biblical imperatives we certainly get this sense that books like Acts are more descriptive than prescriptive. If not we're all in trouble since we're not all doing house churches.

You're free. Be you.