Chagrin and liminality….

I have said often that I thrive on change. It is really life giving to find myself in that ‘in between’ space, which is full of possibility. This is one of the reasons I resonate so positively with the name Threshold which pictures that liminal space, the place of letting go of the old and venturing into a future ripe with Kingdom potential. This future is necessarily unknown but we trust it is better, no that it is good, because by faith we know He leads us.

   In light of my oft repeated claim I find myself somewhat chagrined at my attitude toward the uncertainties which face Taylor College. I have decided that I will embrace this place of liminality and follow Him. I do not know how we will emerge but I am excited about the possibilities. For the last few years I have felt like we were building a ship while at sea and now I am presented with the opportunity to do so in port. I will get the opportunity to be a part of a reshaping of how we equip evangelists for 21st Century mission in the Western World. I believe much of what I have already written will be important in this venture.

     One of the areas which Threshold has identified as key is that of “New Ministry Initiatives” or Church Planting. The difficulty with the term ‘church planting’ is that it is so easily misunderstood  to mean starting something which will eventually have four  walls and a steeple. This is not what we mean; instead we are interested in the creation of worshipping communities with a determined focus on the mission of God, extending His Kingdom of justice and peace. The early church provides a model with its disinterest in buildings but keen interest in ‘the work’ of planting churches. I believe there are four models of church planting which we can learn from Acts.

1)    The Dandelion Model

During the first persecution the apostles stayed in Jerusalem while others scattered. Where they went they shared their excitement about Jesus and communities of faith sprang up. Apostles visited and encouraged these new mission outposts.

In this model the ‘Apostolic Leaders’ stay out of the mission except to encourage. Persecution scattered the multiplying church in the same way wind scatters the seed of the dandelion! We see little of this model today in the West, though the tremendous growth in China falls under this heading. In the West our learned ecclesiology hinders this spontaneous growth. Perhaps if all our professional ministers were expelled we might know China’s level of evangelism?

2)    The Itinerant Planter Model

   Paul provides the clearest model of this and Roland Allen in his book “St. Paul’s Missionary Methods or Ours?” makes the case. Paul in a very short time preaches Christ, establishes a ‘baby’ church and moves on. He only returns occasionally. He entrusts the continuing health of the Church to God and the locals. There are few recognized Itinerant Church Planters and again they do not fit easily in most institutional church ecclesiology. Threshold Ministries sees itself as a part of the answer to this dilemma. Our formation must reflect this (see below).

3)    Training School Model

     In Ephesus Paul seems to have rented ‘The Hall of Tyrannus’ and there for five hours a day for two years trained: Titus (from Antioch), Timothy (from Lystra), Gaius (from Derbe), Aristarchus (from Thessalonica), Secundus (from Thessalonica), Sopotor (from Berea), Tychicus (from Ephesus), and Trophimus (from Ephesus). These students went on to use the itinerant model to plant churches throughout the region. We see Taylor following after this model.

4)    The Roman Model

   In Romans chapter 16 Paul addresses 26 people many of whom he seems to have sent to Rome for the very purpose of planting a church. They go to Rome from churches Paul already planted. In Romans 15 Paul states that he will not build on another person’s foundation but makes clear that he is looking forward to coming to Rome. He obviously sees this plant as one of his own, as he mentors and instructs from a distance.

Again I want to re-iterate that we do not seek to necessarily plant churches which erect spire laden buildings but make no mistake our New Ministry Initiatives is all about Church Planting! Exciting isn’t it?


2 comments on “Chagrin and liminality….

  1. Thanks for this Reed. As one of those itinerant church planters I had begun feeling a little discouraged after coming up against a continuing series of walls and set backs. I started making moves toward going back to school in order to get a degree in theology so that I could “move forward” in my ministry. The waiting was beginning to get me down; I was ready to succumb to the worldly standard that says you require a university degree for any type of leadership role in the ecclesiastical heirarchy. But a few days ago I was restored to sanity and realized that I need to stay put in order to see God’s plan for this community unfold. I reminded myself that God can and will provide for all of my needs. And since I made that decision I have witnessed his hand at work. I’m blessed to have a small team of people who are willing to go out into the highways and byways under God’s leading and direction, and He’s been bringing to us the ones who are lost and in need of His care. Paul is a powerful role model of persistence and overcoming hardship as he single-mindedly pursued and carried out the will of God no matter – what road blocks and crises he encountered. He helped God through the Holy Spirit to equip the body of Christ to go out and make disciples and plant churches, and I aspire to be more like him – and more like my Lord, of course. May the Lord continue to bless you and inspire you as you wait.

  2. Reed,
    Keep the focus and God will make the way! Never doubt the work that you do at Taylor and through Uptown Ministries. I believe that God is developing a “new work” today, and the institutional church is critically in need of what you guys have to offer as a model of “doing the stuff of Jesus” empowered by the Holy Spirit! Just keep on keeping on. We’ll miss being with you on Deer Island!
    Blessings for today and always,

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