Saturday, May 01, 2010

Wondering About Church Planting in Sovereign Grace Ministries?

Dave Harvey has started a series of posts on church planting in Sovereign Grace Ministries. In classic Dave Harvey style he communciated some of the thinking on church planting in SGM. Here are some excerpts.

It can be awkward, but only sometimes. It happens in certain conversations with other church-planting guys whenever the topic turns to vision for the future. Usually it goes something like this.
Church-planting guy (not me): So how many churches would you Sovereign Grace guys like to plant over the next ten years?
Me: Mumble, mumble, mumble… (sounds of me stuffing chips in my mouth to avoid answering)
Church-planting guy: We’re believing God for thousands of churches planted over the next few months. We’re calling it maniacal multiplication. So how many churches do you guys have right now?
Me (having no more chips to protect me): About 80, or maybe it’s 90—I forget exactly.
CPG: Wow, that’s great. How long have you guys been planting?
Me: Since “We Are the World” came out.
CPG: Wow, that’s incredible.
Me: The first one.
CPG (doing math in his head): Oh…I’ll pray for you dude.
End of conversation. Awkward.
Let me say something at the outset here. First of all, I am so grateful that there are church-planting groups who love the Savior and love the lost so much that they are willing to take the risks and send men so that many gospel-preaching churches can be planted quickly. That’s bigtime faith! And make no mistake, it’s being hurled at a bigtime need. I have no doubt God will bless those efforts. But as much as I’d like to see Sovereign Grace churches so widely and thickly planted that you couldn’t spit from a freeway without hitting one, that isn’t what God is calling us to. At least for now.

When it came to church planting, what mattered to us was that real, solid, gospel-loving, local churches would bloom. Churches that had shared values, relational connection with each other, and common purpose. We didn’t want to plant churches and walk away from them, or have them walk away from us. We call ourselves a family of churches because that’s what we’ve been. We wanted to build slow and plant slow because we wanted every church to apply the gospel and be a healthy contributor to the mission of church planting for years to come. We’ve made tons of mistakes along the way, but that’s what we’ve tried to do.

I highly recommend you read the first installment and stay tuned.

2 comments:

Steve said...

You might find the following blogs of interest about C.J. Mahaney and the group he leads, Sovereign Grace Ministries:

www.sgmsurvivors.com
www.sgmrefuge.com

They tell another side. Hope this helps.

Paul F. Buckley said...

Steve,

I actually have visited your blogs before and I have read them extensively.

I am a bit concerned that you contacted me the way you have. It seems a bit of a gossip campaign.

While I firmly believe that any genuine abuses must be dealt with thoroughly and honestly and while I do not doubt that there are some real offenses and some real hurts in the stories on these web sites, I have a hard time seeing how running a blog airing almost any and every perceived offense helps. I also have a hard time seeing how this honors Christ and his Kingdom.

I have spoken at length on the phone with a gentleman from these blogs and would be glad to do so again. As far as it concerns our church I would be willing to do whatever is necessary on my part to ensure peace and the integrity of the church. I don't believe having an open airing of grievances helps. Not that I am hesitant to deal with them, I just don't think it serves the truth or the kingdom best to merely air one side of the story before everyone else. Usually one-sided stories, no matter who they're from, lack the proper balance and accountabilty to best serve the truth.

I hope this makes sense. I also hope you know that should you have any offense about King of Grace church we have an open door policy and a clear appeal and accountabilty procedure. This is our best attempt to live honestly before God and others and honor the biblical processes of reconciliation. I think you would find the same in many Sovereign Grace Churches, despite the implication by many of the comments on the web site that seem to indict the entire family of churches.

Please also recognize that your web sites are hurting people by the doubt they spread about a largely good and effective Christ-honoring ministry. Your web sites are set up to draw a lot of attention. Some of that attention is from folks investigating the claims of Christ or just starting out their walk with God. Some of these folks might choose not to continue their journey because of the doubt sown by some of the malicious postings.

Certainly there are mistakes, certainly there are real sins, certainly Sovereign Grace Ministries needs to grow. But we are not a evil monolithic group taking direct orders from some absolute despot who weaves diabolical plans from his powerful headquarters. We are a family of autonomous churches joined in friendship and a common theology committed to the centrality of Christ and his gospel of grace, the key understandings of scripture clarified by the reformers, seeking to walk in the broad and continuous ministry of the Holy Spirit. Our leadership team seeks to lead us by encouragement and example. There is no pressure to conform to heavy-handed centralized control. I have never seen this. Come visit our church, come ask any of our leaders, come and sit with our folks and see if you see anything like what you are talking about.

I do not doubt there might be some things you would disagree with. I do not doubt your convictions on polity or Calvinism or something else might differ with ours. That is to be expected among Christians. What I would expect is a common love for the Savior, his people and his purposes along with a healthy respect for honest but not essential differences.

Some of the recent posts are very disturbing. The accusations made are staggering and very hurtful. As far as I can tell they are unfounded and based on too much gross speculation and believing the worst. I don’t often see the benefit-of-the-doubt given. I don’t see much love and forgiveness. I don’t see much mercy or kindness. Is this what a Christian web site is like? Is this really honoring Christ? I don’t think so. Please help me see otherwise.

Give me a call and we can talk. Or come by and visit.

Paul