Q & R: Church planting

This question reminded me how we need to remember that each day, new people are for the first time realizing that some sort of paradigm shift is possible, happening, and needed in their faith. Every day, new people are ready to start on the journey and get involved. A number of friends from the emergent village community have talked about this for years … we need to keep extending the new road farther and farther into new territory, while maintaining onramps for people from many different communities to start the journey from wherever they are, whenever they’re ready. It’s too easy to do one without the other … but both are essential. I’ve inserted a few replies into the email below:

Hi Brian,
Thank God for you, and for other men & women like you!
I realise that you must get 1000’s of emails just like this one, from people just like me, saying that they feel just like Dan Poole!
I also realise how incredibly busy you are so I’ll keep to the point and dispense with the need to provide you with my entire story!

First, thanks for your kind words. And please know that I appreciate every email like yours that I get. It’s so encouraging to see how Dan Poole’s fictional story continues to strike a resonant chord with so many people.

For a number of years, I have felt called by God to church planting; the church I attend has also recognised this so I have attended their seminary and ‘qualified'(!) as a pastor, and the church has tried for a long time to help me bring to fruition the call to church planting. The problem being that I cannot – in good conscience – move forward with a plant, keeping to the ‘party line’, whilst knowing that there is so much more to real (a new kind of-) Christianity than what we currently practice.
My question is this:
I feel like a new kind of Christian but I need to know what a new kind of church looks like… what post-modern worship looks like… what post-modern preaching looks like… the actual day-to-day practicalities of a new kind of church.
I really need to network with other like-minded people; I just need to find them. How did you ever start this journey?

First, you’re fortunate in that fifteen years ago, when this journey was beginning for me, it was really hard to find anyone “safe” to talk to … there was a lot of talk about innovative methodology, but to raise theological questions was somewhat risky. Of course, it’s still risky – but thankfully more and more networks are forming where it’s safe to ask questions, think together, and explore. Let me mention three resources based in the US:
1. As you’ve already discovered, Emergentvillage.com is a great resource. They put together and promote excellent conferences which always build in time for conversation – not just a lecture-listen format. The site can also help you find or form a cohort – a group of people who connect regionally for mutual support, encouragement, exchange of ideas, and development of relationships.
2. A great place for online dialogue is theooze.com. So many people have been helped by the “safe space” and virtual community available there. There are other helpful online communities too … like Questians, for example.
3. When it comes to networking with other church planters, the good news is that a number of denominations are moving forward in supporting church planters like yourself. And some trans-denominational networks are beginning to form to encourage both affiliated and unaffiliated faith communities that are forming. One excellent new network to look into is TransForm.

I have only recently ‘discovered’ your books and feel a sense of elation; I feel like I have come up for air after a long time holding my breath at the bottom of a pool. I have read A new kind of Christian this weekend, and have started on The story we find ourselves in. Next to be read (this week) will be The last word and the word after that and A new kind of Christianity. But are there any other resources you can recommend? I’m looking at the Emergent Village website and Leadership Network’s site, but would really appreciate some pointers… Many thanks in anticipation.

Again, I’m so glad you’ve found the “onramp” to some very encouraging developments. The good news is that there are so many resources – books, blogs, podcasts, etc. If you follow the links above and others on this site through emergent village, questians, transform, etc., you’ll find lots of bloggers who are engaging in the emergent conversation. And soon, you’ll see that you’re not just an observer, but a vital participant with much to offer – as you’ve already done through this email. Thanks!
One last thing … We need thousands of leaders to help lead existing churches through the current paradigm shift. AND we need thousands of leaders to help plant new faith communities. Both are essential, and progress in one helps the other. Among church planters, we need folks who will start churches to help alienated churchgoers … people who will drop out of church unless somebody forms a more open space where they can survive and thrive spiritually. But no less important – more important, in my opinion – we need church planters who will go much farther than most alienated churchgoers would want to go – to meet the “spiritual but not religious” where they are and form faith communities among them, forming authentic disciples or followers of Jesus without needless religious baggage. So I just wanted to say to you and anyone else feeling this call … you’re needed. Fan the flame. Go for it. Don’t let anyone discourage you!