Reformed Baptist Fellowship

Mike McKinley and D.A. Carson regarding church planting

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on August 24, 2009 at 12:25 pm

Mark Dever asks church planter Mike McKinley about the travails of planting and why we should plant churches WITHOUT a vision statement.  Listen here


Western evangelicalism tends to run through cycles of fads. At the moment, books are pouring off the presses telling us how to plan for success, how “vision” consists in clearly articulated “ministry goals,” how the knowledge of detailed profiles of our communities constitutes the key to successful outreach. I am not for a moment suggesting that there is nothing to be learned from such studies. But after a while one may perhaps be excused for marveling how many churches were planted by Paul and Whitefield and Wesley and Stanway and Judson without enjoying these advantages. Of course all of us need to understand the people to whom we minister, and all of us can benefit from small doses of such literature. But massive doses sooner or later dilute the gospel. Ever so subtly, we start to think that success more critically depends on thoughtful sociological analysis than on the gospel; Barna becomes more important than the Bible. We depend on plans, programs, vision statements—but somewhere along the way we have succumbed to the temptation to displace the foolishness of the cross with the wisdom of strategic planning.  Again, I insist, my position is not a thinly veiled plea for obscurantism, for seat-of-the-pants ministry that plans nothing.  Rather, I fear that the cross, without ever being disowned, is constantly in danger of being dismissed from the central place it must enjoy, by relatively peripheral insights that take on far too much weight. Whenever the periphery is in danger of displacing the center, we are not far removed from idolatry. (pp. 25–26) – D.A. Carson’s The Cross and Christian Ministry

  1. Carson writes:
    But after a while one may perhaps be excused for marveling how many churches were planted by Paul and Whitefield and Wesley and Stanway and Judson without enjoying these advantages. Of course all of us need to understand the people to whom we minister, and all of us can benefit from small doses of such literature. But massive doses sooner or later dilute the gospel. Ever so subtly, we start to think that success more critically depends on thoughtful sociological analysis than on the gospel; Barna becomes more important than the Bible. We depend on plans, programs, vision statements—but somewhere along the way we have succumbed to the temptation to displace the foolishness of the cross with the wisdom of strategic planning.

    Amen Carson. The key to church planting has always been in the Bible. Paul never depended on plans or vision statements. He was purely guided by the Holy Spirit. Success should NOT be governed by numbers but by obedience. Check out Isaiah and Jeremiah; they had lousy numbers and no one wanted to hear them! And yet God commanded them to preach to a godless society and so they did even if the numbers didn’t show it! God is the author of numbers, not men. Our responsibility is the obedience to preach the Gospel no matter what the results.

    This summer I had the opportunity to hear a sermon given by this American at the School of Theology at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, who was sent by his church (somewhere down south), to the UK to plant churches some years ago. For several years, there was no fruit to speak of, despite all efforts. Sunday in and Sunday out, there was only his wife to preach to. Granted his efforts some might call old fashion, and not updated to the latest well known methods of evangelism (yes, he was not contextualizing). At one point, a local even told him that his approach is not going to work and that he should start bringing in rock music to his worship to attract folks. Still he felt convicted that this is not the way to bring in the elect. He stuck to singing hymns, and putting the emphasis to preaching the Bible. Eventually children started attending his Sunday school. Faithfully he preached the word, and one by one the Lord brought conversion among the children. Parents had started to notice the change in their children’s behavior and therefore started to attend the church to figure out what this preacher was doing. Soon enough the Lord converted the parents. 🙂 I believe now the church is hitting over 100 and growing but it took years … I think it was a drought of 7 years before all of this happened and all in the mercy and timing of the Lord. And sometimes it might not happen but it doesn’t mean failure. God called us to faithfulness and not necessarily to be the hottest preacher that’s bringing in large numbers. God alone determines the numbers. And sometimes the lack of numbers is a JUDGMENT ON THE SOCIETY and not in the methodology of the preacher or church planter (as certainly was the case for Isaiah and Jeremiah).

    I’m guessing this story must have been heard by Dr. Masters and so invited this fellow to speak at the School of Theology. He was such an encouragement to many, especially to if you’ve experience what seems to be a hardening in Britain.

  2. Carson is absolutely right about the fads that blow through. Every young up and coming aspirant to ministry wants to plant a church. No doubt some of this is good and some not so good. Knowing DA however I do not believe he was in any way encouraging us to glory in our smallness or see that as a mark of faithfulness. The issue he was making is that the most important thing for the church to be concerned about is the proclamation and living out of the gospel. Tragically it seems that many even in Reformed circles no longer see that as important or actually do it. A recovery of gospel preaching and gospel living will enjoy the power of God from on high and in time blessing with Christ adding to His church. Shame on us if we settle for no growth in our assemblies ! The whole tenure in this gospel millenium until the little season is forward, growth, addition, Christ seeing of the travail of His soul !!!

  3. Robert,

    I am not sure what circles you go round in, but it seems to me that Reformed churches are suffering from moppet critiques that delight in making over-generalizations.

    Truly, are you in a position to declare that “many” of our churches no longer are involved in or care about the gospel? How can you possibly know this?

  4. If you do not know what circles I ‘go around in’ David how can you know if I am in a position to say what I have said? I think if you actually READ my post you will see you have misquoted me.

    I did NOT say ‘many of our churches’, I DID SAY ‘many even in Reformed circles’ please realize that is not EXACTLY the same thing.

    As someone whose church has hosted the PCRT Conference these past three years and spoken to many who attend, as one who sits on the board of two Reformed Baptist seminaries and talk to all the brothers serving there, as one who preaches in various other parts of the country, as one who reads blogs and articles and communicates with various parts of the country, chairs a local Reformed pastors fraternal I would respectfully say I am in some measure in a position to make such a comment as I make and NOT as you accuse me of making.

    Sorry to respond strongly David but it really irks me when men on blogs carelessly misrepresent things.

    Warmest regards

    RB

  5. Robert,

    What is about some Reformed Baptist seminaries that seem to be always slamming Reformed churches?

    Here is what you wrote above “Tragically it seems that many even in Reformed circles no longer see that as important or actually do it.”

    Do it? What is it that many in Reformed circles are negligent in?

    “proclamation and living out of the gospel”

    “it really irks me when men on blogs carelessly misrepresent things.”

    You know brother, I know exactly how you feel.

  6. Brother we seem to be on two different plains here. What are you talking about in terms of Reformed Baptist seminaries? That one has missed me completely.

    Have you ever been to England David? Have you ever been to Scotland David? You will see what happens when Reformed churches stop preaching and living the gospel. Have you ever been to Europe to see what remains in France, Switzerland and Germany? I have preached in two of those three on more than one occasion and know good men in France. Believe my brother this is no straw man.

    In America there are signs and evidences of decline that need addressing, whilst thankfully there are also evidences of real renewal and reformation in other places for which I rejoice.

    Carson’s emphasis is the right one I believe. Alas those who think they stand need to take heed lest they fall.

    There are many in URC, PCA, PCUSA and even dare I have the audacity to say it, in RB and Calvinistic Baptist circles that have become preoccupied with fads on the one hand and distinctives on the other at the detriment of the gospel in their lives decline has and is occurring. I will cite examples if you need them.

    Brother why are you so contentious? It is not really something to debate but rather to own and address. It is not something to get all defensive about either. Let judgment begin at the house of God and let us continue to walk humbly and serve the Lord.

    How widely travelled and connected are you to get all defensive about this? I see you are in Toledo, I have only ever driven through. Is the work there thriving with gospel blessing? I pray that it is. Would you say that in many places works are thriving or not? I would be very happy to hear from you about that. What is the extent of your experience? I would be more than happy to learn from you.

    Warmest regards

    RB

  7. 1. I think David actually read Briggs’ post. 🙂
    2. Robert, you said, “The issue he [i.e., Carson] was making is that the most important thing for the church to be concerned about is the proclamation and living out of the gospel. Tragically it seems that many even in Reformed circles no longer see that as important or actually do it.” Assuming this to be the case, then they have ceased to be either Reformed or a church. Is that what you are saying? If they are not proclaiming the gospel and living it out, what are they doing? Is this a case of rhetorical over-kill or am I mis-understanding you? BTW, I did read your post. 🙂
    3. Robert said, “A recovery of gospel preaching and gospel living will enjoy the power of God from on high and in time blessing with Christ adding to His church.” I agree, but will also go a bit further. I think all preaching needs to be Christ-centered preaching. We must allow our biblical hermeneutic to drive our weekly homiletic. If the flow of redemptive history is Christo-centric and Christo-climactic, then our sermons should reflect this every time we preach; yes, every time we preach.

    Rich B.

  8. My simple little comment was simply an observation of the larger ‘Reformed world’, I was not intending to have to get into a long discussion on what constitutes Reformed, agreement on that seems rather elusive nowadays don;t you think? i am too busy to discuss it endlessly on a blog, we all know in general terms what Reformed means, at least those of us who are 1689ers?

    I was simply seeking to affirm DA Carson’s comment and remind whoever might read this blog that we have not got it all down when it comes to being gospel centred and gospel practicing churches. Orthodoxy that does not translate into orthopraxy is decline and danger, we need to be aware of that. Let’s face it Rich we even find it hard to be magnanimous an charitable to each other on a website, gospel living? I rest my case.

  9. BTW Rich are you a professor at one of these Reformed Baptist seminaries David refers to? 🙂

  10. Just so everyone knows, Rob and I are good friends. I am not sure if David meant MCTS by his comments. DC? I am the first to admit that I have not done all I could to be a faithful gospel preacher and gospel liver. I just thought your comments needed a little qulification – that’s all. This medium is not always the best.

    Have a great Lord’s Day!

  11. Fair comment Rich, I am a greenhorn blogger and Iam reminded why.

    Blessings tomorrow too brother, preach the good news of our triumphant King!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: