Wineskins Part 3

This is part three of a lively discussion on church planting. It started when I came out and admitted I don’t believe in church planting.

Yesterday a commenter framed this discussion with the terms ‘appointed’ and ‘anointed’

That is to say, the traditional church could be guilty of trusting itself more than the leading of God’s Spirit. Trusting and preserving certain ideas, methods, paradigms and personalities. Despising the new, different or challenging.

The last thing I want to do is to make this into a ‘liberal or conservative’ argument, so that dichotomy is not where I shall leave this discussion.

The commenter prefaced this thought with the notion of entitlement.

Those who are the church’s appointed authorities are understood to have the final say on all matters. Degrees and professional recommendations replace prayerful discernment and communal recognition as the foundation of a vocational calling. Those who beat the system become the guardians of it and those who failed are dismissed.

And so one particular type of person will inevitably be preferred by what can be a highly academic selection process. Such a person may have invested many years and thousands of pounds to pursue what they believed was a calling from God. They may have exhaustingly lept through every hoop, trying their hardest to show their church authorities that they have what it takes to be a minister.

After such an exhausting effort it it natural that a new minister would become very guarded of his position and how he got there. Perhaps a sense of ‘If I did it, you should too.’

Yet is it not true that God calls all kinds of people to all kinds of roles in his Church? 

As Paul wrote:

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. (1 Corinthians 12:27-31a)

It is tragic that sometimes those with a unique calling do not find a place to serve in the traditional church.

It is, as we have discussed, a great loss.

In Paul’s day – yes, even within the first generation of leadership – there were those who raised the issue of credentials with the Apostle. His famous proclamation of his substantial credentials (Phil. 3:2-6) ends in humble confession of the Gospel:

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. (Phil. 3:7-8)

It would be very easy to say to the higher ups in the church hierarchies that they all needed to remember the Gospel. It is more necessary that we hear these words for ourselves.

It is easy to blame a system that has not worked for us, or to be disappointed with people who impeded our ministry. However, did we honestly think we were entitled to ministry any more than they?

In every church community there are credentials which are held up to be the measure of a minister:

Speaking in tongues.

Not speaking in tongues.

Being a winsome speaker.

Compassionate listener.

Passionate leader.

Visionary shepherd.

Degree from a certain school.

Not having anything to do with another school.

Using the BCP.

Not using the BCP.

It’s a moving target.

Yet for Paul, Christ-centeredness was the measure.

Can we all admit that both sides of the debate often miss this most fundamental of foundations?

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5 Comments

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  1. “Can we all admit that both sides of the debate often miss this most fundamental of foundations?”

    First, I would have to say that I am sure that there are a lot more than two sides to this debate. Then I would have to say that admitting this all around would be a great start to finding unity in the faith.

    Keep pressing on!

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    • You are quite right, there are many different experiences and perspectives. By ‘two sides’ I think specifically of the division between those invested in the established systems and those breaking away from them.

      As I see it, this is one way the difference between the ‘appointed’ and ‘anointed’ is visible.

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      • so in your view of things at present Ian, how long does ‘anointed’ leadership last?

        Only roughly: so kind of one year, one decade, one lifetime type of estimate…..I do have my own views but would like to hear yours?

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  2. Can we all admit that both sides of the debate often miss this most fundamental of foundations?
    yes we can

    you didn’t mention women preachers/pastors/priests (tongue in cheek) – sorry chose not to resist that one (grin)

    Ian, what is your definition of a church plant?

    If the Anglican church in the UK puts a new church in a new housing estate. Are you against that? And why?

    if the local church recognises that there is a need for services to be held in the local primary school for example are you against that? and why?

    if a group of Sunday attendees start meeting on a weekday for discipleship – and that attracts the non-churched. Are you against the group welcoming them and discipling them because they ‘don’t get’ what happens on a Sunday morning overthe road (or becuase they can’t attend there cos of their job etc) . and why?

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