When I consider the possibility that a church like the one I described in my previous blog post might actually come about, I envisage two separate scenarios, either of which could give rise to such a church. In the first scenario, a church planter takes up residence in the neighborhood or community where the church’s meeting place will likely be located. Over the course of time, the church planter comes to know, and be known by, the community. A basis for trust is established, and gradually a core group forms, eventually achieves “critical mass,” and grows into a vibrant fellowship. The key elements in this scenario, of course, are time and a personality suited to the task of developing a community of faith from the ground up through the cultivation of personal relationships.
In the second scenario, the vision for planting a new church is taken up by a church already in existence. The established church commissions a number of its members who are excited about the prospect of the new church to form the core group for the new church and to devote themselves, for a specified period of time, to the development of the new work. Some, including the founding pastor, actually move to the location of the new church; many would likely commute. Some will become permanent members of the new church; many would likely return to the original “mother” church once the “daughter” church was established and growing. In this scenario, the new church “hits the ground running,” so to speak, and, owing to the positive effect of both people and money from the “mother” church, achieves critical mass, and thus the likelihood of success, much sooner than in the first scenario.
A good friend of mine attends a church in a Columbus suburb which was planted a few years ago following the pattern of scenario two. An evangelical church on the northeast side of the city commissioned a group of its members, many of whom lived on the west side, to establish a church closer to where they live. The mother church also sent one of its pastoral staff to serve as pastor for the new church, and the church was substantially self-supporting from the beginning. The church meets in a high school auditorium and has tripled in size in five years.
I am not a missiologist, but I have been a church member all my life and a servant of the church for most of that time. The scenarios above do not derive from textbooks on church planting or sociology but from life experience and common sense. I don’t know if one of these scenarios is preferable to the other. I do know that both of them can succeed, and both of them can fail. I also know that, of the two, the second is more attractive to me since, at age 61, an introvert by nature, and unemployed for the past three years, it is difficult to believe that scenario one is at all a possibility. For one thing, I currently live thirty miles from the community most often considered the likely location for the new church (Grandview Heights), and I am in no financial position, on my own, to relocate at present.
At the same time, scenario two seems equally unlikely at present, since there is apparently no parish in the Columbus area in a position to own the vision I have summarized here in a tangible or substantive way. Despite that, I am confident I could provide effective leadership for such a venture. I am further confident that, if this vision is from God, He will raise up the support necessary to make it a reality.