I have an iPhone and all the apps. Can I be a church planter?

I often find myself severely intimidated by the image that comes to mind when I think of a “church planter.”  Now I’m not intimidated because I don’t know as much or don’t read as much (which I know I don’t anyway), but intimidated because I’m a little left of center when it comes to what people think of when the words “church planter” comes to mind.

Why would I say that? Well, we grocery shop at WalMart, buy our clothes at Target (we’ll upgrade to Kohl’s if need be), and use a PC (a Compaq no less). I like Chaco sandals, but not Chuck Taylors. I love to wear basketball shorts in the summer, and I don’t mind throwing on a pair of sweats if I need to run an errand. I am not hip, super creative, or really “urban.” I do not have an iPhone, I dislike coffee, and I have never watched a UFC fight, and I don’t think I ever will.

In other words, I don’t exactly fit the bill.  I’m kind of a nerd.

Last time, I briefly mentioned Mark Driscoll. Pastor Mark, Mars Hill, and Acts29 are really doing awesome things to spread the gospel and plant churches. Don’t get me wrong here: I love Acts29 and would love to partner with them someday if God would have that. But sometimes I think that the people around me who aspire to plant a church (which is a lot different than shepherding a church) want to become a Mars Hillian. That’s not my job. My job is to be me.

Call me crazy, but I don’t think any organization or church is to blame.  For some bizarre reason — and I really don’t know what it is, so feel free to chime in — my generation of Americans (particularly the white, middle-class males who want to be church planters) seem to have created this image of what a church planter should “be.” Look around you. Look around the blogosphere. It’s there. And if you don’t see it, your eyes aren’t opened wide enough.

The good news is that God doesn’t care where you shop or what cell phone you talk on. He doesn’t care if the church planter wears name brand skinny jeans or WalMart sweats. First Samuel 16:7 tell us that God looks at my heart and if that is right before him, the rest doesn’t really matter.

Thoughts on church planting from a guy who doesn’t know anything

I don’t know a lot of things. I’ll be the first to admit. I’d like to think of myself as a well-read, intellectual person. But let’s be honest. I’m average. The good news is that I’m okay with that (most of the time). As a matter of fact, most people are just that. Average. The quicker we actually admit this, we’ll actually start to see the beautiful things that resemble the image of God in our lives, instead of focusing on what we lack.

So when I offer my thoughts on church planting — or, well, really anything on this blog — keep in mind that I’m your average, everyday nobody. If you can log onto the Internet, you can start a blog. Before you know it, a Google search here and there, and thousands of people are reading.

I want to be in pastoral ministry. I want to preach the gospel. It doesn’t have to be to thousands. It might be to tens or hundreds. God decides that anyway. I just want to avail myself to gospel ministry. Christ-centered, Bible-saturated, God-exalting, others-oriented ministry. My wife wants this too. The role is different for her, and she knows that, but she wants what I want: people to meet Jesus and be transformed.

I’ll be honest: in Evangelical churches today, especially Reformed ones, I think “church planting” is a fad. It’s the hip, cool, post-modern thing to do today. All of a sudden (once Mars Hill and Acts29 took off in the early to mid 2000s), all the 25-35 year old men in America wanted to be the next Mark Driscoll. News flash, Mark Driscoll is Mark Driscoll. I am not. You aren’t either.

The funny thing is that the act of “church planting” has been happening since Jesus left the earth after his resurrection. Here’s the skinny: people treasured Christ enough to tell others about him, and those people got saved and gathered with those preached the gospel to them to “do church.”  They not only gathered to “do church,” but they lived to “be the church” in community, that is, they encouraged and exhorted each other. They challenged each other and reminded them of the gospel when temptation and sin arrived. They submitted to those in spiritual authority and taught their children about Jesus. They gave their time, money, energy, and possessions to those in need. They lived by faith and grew in holiness. They suffered when called to do so. When they prospered they counted it as loss. Then these communities grew and spread and other churches popped up.

Paul, James, John, Peter, and the other Apostles played a foundational role in the church spreading. They traveled and preached the gospel. They evangelized non-Christians and discipled and taught believers. They set up local churches and gave instructions for church government. This spreading hasn’t stopped. In fact, it has increased over the centuries thanks to missionaries, like Paul, who left their home countries to tell other peoples about the risen Christ. And it needs to continue. It always needs to continue.

I’m trying to reevaluate why I want to be a “church planter.” Is it because I want to run a super-cool church with an indie-rock feel, and have a sweet website made by the guy sipping Starbucks coffee working a MacBook? Is it because I want to react against the Purpose Driven mega-church model that so many American churches have adopted? Is it because I want to be associated with words like “hip” and “urban” and “missional”? Is it because that’s just what 25 year-old white guys who want to be in ministry?

Or is it because I want to be on a mission to make Jesus famous in a city that desperately needs him?

On the Frontlines: Driscoll in South Africa

A guest post by Andrew Eppes

Before this past weekend I had heard many great things about Mark Driscoll. I had read a couple of his short books available on The Resurgence website. But to hear Mark Driscoll in person is another story. This man is serious about accurately and graphically depicting God’s word.  From the weekend of hearing him speak or preach four times I left very much encouraged and refreshed to reach the lost.

On March 12, Driscoll led what was called a City Celebration. Up to this event in Johannesburg he had done this same sort of event once in Durban and once in Cape Town. During this night Driscoll shares his research of the Via Dolorosa (the Way of Suffering). This 2-hour event was riveting. From my point of view Pastor Mark gave the most vivid description of the gospel I had ever heard due to his intense portrayal of the suffering of Jesus Christ. Here are a few points of His Friday night talk:

  • Crucifixion was not graphically spoken of in the Bible because of its intense and horrific nature.
  • When we share the gospel we need to unpack the death of Jesus and not just say, “He died for my sins.”
  • Martin Luther said, “The cross is the Great Exchange [our sin for Christ’s righteousness].”
  • Driscoll: “This was not a victim but the Victor.”
  • A few responses to the death of Jesus should be: 1. Repentance 2. Restitution 3. Reconciliation.

Over the weekend another trademark theme of Driscoll’s preaching came out: abolish religion. I think up to this point I hadn’t really gone head first in to this topic because I thought I was safe. But the more I listened to Pastor Mark talk about how entangled we are in religion the more the Spirit began to convict my heart. “Religion is like an abusive father…religion ends in pride or despair,” Driscoll said. Quotes like this really helped me analyze where am I simply being religious in my life. We need to be people that are more interested in understanding and studying the character of God and not trying to get get get things from God.

On Sunday, Pastor Mark was the guest preacher at God First Church in Joburg. The topic for Sunday’s message was “Man to Man.” Pastor Mark started his message with turning to scripture about the qualification of Elders in the church. He said that the church needs to have “elder-qualified men” everywhere in the church and that the qualifications of an elder from scripture should be what we as men are striving to be. He said Jesus Christ is our ultimate example of a man who came to earth and took responsibility. People out in this world today are seeking to belong to some group that will give them purpose and worth and Pastor Mark tells us that this is what the church should be: a place to equip men and women to reach out to others and take from the ultimate example of Jesus Christ.

Driscoll listed four main attributes of a real man:

  • A man who loves God (one who is above reproach and likes to lead).
  • A man who loves his family (a man of one wife, submissive children underneath him).
  • A man who manages himself (sober-minded and self-controlled, see 1 Peter 3).
  • A man who loves his city (a man of hospitality, a man well thought of by those outside, see 1 Thess. 4).

Listen to Driscoll’s complete message at God First.

This weekend was a great reminder that as men we have a large responsibility to lead in godly ways and not be timid in the way we depict the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. For those of us who are single, we have that ability to practice leading and aiming to grow daily in our understanding of God through stretching our knowledge of biblical theology.  And for those of us who are married, it’s a reminder that God has not called us to be wimpy and passive in the way we are to lead our wives and families but to be men that take responsibility and exemplify loving our wives and children as Jesus Christ loves His church.

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Andrew is a missionary with Athletes in Action, a division of Campus Crusade for Christ, in Johannesburg.  You can follow his ministry adventure on his blog A Journey to South AfricaIf you are so inclined, you can give to his ministry.

Driscoll in South Africa

My friend Andrew Eppes is a missionary in South Africa with Athletes in Action.  Many of you know that Mark Driscoll is doing a series of messages there right now.  Andrew is going to be ushering and attending one of Pastor Mark Driscoll’s upcoming speaking engagements, and he promised that he would provide an in-depth report from his journal on Driscoll’s message for Beneath the Cross.

Now that I told you all, he has to deliver.  No pressure Andrew, really.