Saturday, April 30, 2016

Launching Large

There is no lack of debate on the topic of church-planting models these days. The Launching large church-planting model could represent a paradigm shift for you. In fact, when you think about attracting a crowd and turning it into a church, you may have negative thoughts. But everywhere Jesus went, He attracted large crowds of people, and all were potential converts for His redemptive plan for their lives. He did not want His followers to lose sight of their purpose, and in Matthew 28:19-20, He gave them the Great Commission, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” We are called to do the same in this generation, and I have found that Launching Large is one of the most effective strategies to fulfill this Commission.

Launching large is not a new methodology but rather the rediscovery of a New Testament church for this generation of church planters. Acts 1 and 2 tells us that the first church went from twelve to 120 believers, then to over 3,000 believers practically overnight. Launching large offers an adaptable framework to guide you through launching and leading the healthy growing church God intended. It is focused on reaching the lost, has simple structures, follows a simple path to maturity and is reproducible no matter what city or culture you are called to reach. After working with thousands of church planters over the past decade, I have confirmed and discovered several truths about Launching large. Read More
The Journey Church in Murray, Kentucky was launched nine years ago this past September, using this approach. It now has three weekly worship gatherings--two on Sunday morning and one on Sunday night. It is also multisite with a second campus in the nearby town of Benton, Kentucky.

Launching large, however, is a resource-intensive approach to church planting. The Journey Church's founding pastor was able to use this approach because a group of existing churches provided him with the seed money to launch large and he had assembled the right-sized church planting team and targeted a large enough segment of the community's population to do so.

As Ron Sylvia points out, launching large is not for everyone. Some church planters are not going have the financial resources, people or community capacity to launch large. The important thing is to plant new churches and to not let our inability to adopt a particular approach discourage us from multiplying new churches.

Recent Podcasts on NewChurches.Com

Episode 60: Multisite, Multiplication, and Rural Implications

Vision, finances, direction, leadership, and other elements that are important for a multisite strategy. Listen Now

Episode 59: Preaching Tips, Series Ideas, and Launch Day

Learn more about preaching, using sermon series’, and what’s unique about preaching on your launch day. Listen Now

Episode 58: Preaching, Campuses, and The Pastor's Presence

Preaching pastors, teaching pastors, campus pastors, senior pastors, and presence. Listen Now

Episode 57: The Issue with Conflict

What happens when you don’t deal with conflict head on? What if you let it fester on your team? Listen Now

Episode 56: Where Should You Plant?

Distance, direction, proximity, and more. Learn a rubric to help you determine where you should plant. Listen Now

Episode 55: Unconventional Service Times

What happens when people don’t want to give up their Sunday mornings? Learn how to reach them with your church. Listen Now

Gender Roles and Planting

One of the best moves I ever made as a young church planter was seeing the game changing possibilities of “recruiting” a godly, mission-minded young lady in our sending church named Abbey. She, along with our three church planting wives, proved to be invaluable assets for our team that moved to Boston to start Redemption Hill Church. Let me give you four reasons why gender diversity is mission critical for your plant followed by four ways to make it happen. Read More

Ten Ways to Grow a Small Group

Small groups matter in the church. Regardless of a church’s size, the small group is a place of teaching, fellowship, prayer, and pastoral care. The adage, “A church must grow smaller as it grows larger” is more than a church growth cliché; it is a principle of Great Commission growth.

Many small groups, though, turn inwardly. Here are some ways to strengthen the outward focus of your church’s small group ministry. Read More

Saturday Lagniappe: "The Church’s Identity Crisis: Why Authenticity Matters" and a Whole Lot More

The Church’s Identity Crisis: Why Authenticity Matters

Stop trying to be a bad version of something else, and be an incredible version of who you are. Read More
One caution: when Pil Cooke talks about looking inward, he is not talking about becoming inward looking.
Satan's Strategies

Here is a kind of security check on Satan’s strategies. Read More

4 Ways the Enemy Pulls Us in Recurrent Sins

Many believers struggle with sins that continue to haunt them, even when they fight hard to gain victory. Satan and his forces delight when Christians keep losing that battle. Perhaps understanding better what the enemy does will help us say “No” to his next attempt to lure us across the sin line.... Read More

The Art of Imperious Ignorance

Michael Ovey addresses the increasingly common practice of expressing disagreement by declaring that Scripture is not clear on a particular matter. Read More

The Difference between Curious Leaders and Caring Leaders

Leaders in large organizations—and leaders in churches over a couple hundred people—cannot possibly care for each individual. The issue is not whether a leader personally invests in each person but rather the default posture and tone of that leader. Read More

Why Pastors Have Few Deep Friends

I’ve heard it so many times that I almost expect it: pastors are lonely. They often minister among people they say they love, but don’t know well. They have few deep friendships. Here are 10 reasons why we struggle with finding friends.... Read More

Four Reasons You Need Weekly Sermon Evaluation

Micah Fries explains how his creation of condensed, digital version of a sermon review form and its use helped his preaching. Read More

Preacher’s Toolkit: How Do I Handle an Unbeliever’s Funeral?

“Preacher’s Toolkit” is a new monthly series that seeks to answer questions related to preaching. Read More

Introducing the "Word Matters" Podcast

Brandon Smith and Trevin have launched a new podcast called Word Matters. Each episode takes a contested or puzzling passage of the Bible, walks through the most common interpretations, and then recommends how to preach or teach the passage effectively. The podcast is sponsored by the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), and we are joined by a number of scholars and pastors to help us wrestle with some of the harder texts of Scripture. Read More

3 Reasons You Should See Going to Church as a Privilege, Not a Chore

Gathering with God’s people is one of the primary ways we are reminded of Jesus’ fidelity to us. Read More

4 Ways Jesus Built Disciples

Rather than mass-producing disciples, Jesus invested in a handful of people, thereby developing committed followers. Read More

Are You Prepared for Your Mission Trip

Summer vacations are not the only trips in view when the last school bell rings and the neighborhood pool opens. For many of you, these things also mean that your summer mission trip is just around the bend. It's good that you begin thinking about it now. You'd be well served not to wait until the week (or night) before to begin preparing for it. So here are some simple ways to get ready, between now and the airport terminal. Read More

Dear Church Planter I Believe in You

Ed Stetzer announces the publication of an updated version of Planting Missional Churches: Your Guide to Starting Churches that Multiply--a definite must read for anyone who is thinking about planting a new church. Read More

9 Things You Should Know About Jehovah’s Witnesses

When he died last week at the age of 57, pop singer Prince was arguably the most famous Jehovah’s Witness in the world. Here are nine things you should know about the obscure religious group that emerged from the Bible Student movement in the late 1870s.... Read More

The Smug Style in American Liberalism

There is a smug style in American liberalism. It has been growing these past decades. It is a way of conducting politics, predicated on the belief that American life is not divided by moral difference or policy divergence — not really — but by the failure of half the country to know what's good for them. Read More
This smugness is also observable in the attitude of the Episcopal Church's liberal elite toward global South Anglicans. The article is lengthy but it is worth reading.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Church Planting Is for All Christians

By Robin G. Jordan

We read in the Acts of the Apostles that the Christian faith was spread by ordinary believers as well as apostles like Paul and Barnabas. We are, however, apt to overlook this fact. The result is often a distorted view of how the Christian faith spreads. Certainly the apostles played an important part in its spread but they often built on a foundation laid by those whose names the New Testament does not record. They watered what others had sown.

North American Anglicans and Episcopalians, accustomed as they are to churches led by seminary-educated, stipendiary clergy are prone to view the planting of new churches as the domain of “experts.” A body of church planting literature emphasizing church planter assessments, church planter boot camps, entrepreneurial church planters, and the like tends to reinforce this view.

Yet across the face of the planet Earth ordinary believers are planting flourishing new churches. While certain characteristics may be desirable in a church planter, the truth is that God uses all kinds of people to plant churches.

A denomination that is serious about fulfilling the Great Commission will shed its preconceived ideas about who should plants new church and how new churches should be planted along with similar ideas about what pattern of congregational life new churches should adopt. A denomination should not let such preconceived ideas become a barrier to its church planting efforts because it does not have the ideal church planter for a new church plant or the resources for a particular method of church planting or a community does not have the demographics for particular expression of Church. Christ has entrusted his Church with the task of making new disciples and one of the best way to form and multiply new disciples is through the planting of new churches.

Church planting is not about reversing the decline of a denomination or beating a rival denomination in a contest over which denomination boasts the largest number of churches. It is not about propagating a particular ideology. Church planting is about offering families and individuals something that the world cannot offer them—fellowship with God not only in this life but for all eternity. It is about creating communities in which the power of God to transform lives is evident to an unbelieving world.

4 Dangers of a Leader’s Echo Chamber

Echo chambers occur when a leader’s ideas are consistently applauded without question. Rarely are the leader’s ideas, decision-making, and actions challenged. And rarely are ideas brought to the table that do not match or reinforce what the leader has already presented.

Leaders must be wary of the echo chamber. It creates a comfortable façade for the leader, craftily hiding that they are in a very dangerous place.

What are the dangers of a leader’s echo chamber? Here are four dangers to consider.... Read More

25 Ways to Become an Instant Pro at Leading Meetings

Respect your team's time and give people the tools to generate ideas effectively.

Whether you're the top of the professional food chain or an employee running your first meeting, it's important to own the meeting. This will let everyone knows who's in charge and who they can turn to with questions or problems.

Here are 25 ways you can own any meeting and be a better leader for your team. Read More

How to Spice Up Bland Sermons

I remember sitting on my couch when it hit me. It was one of those rare moments of clarity amid the dense fog of dejection. I was fretting a bit about my sermon a few hours earlier. I felt like the wife or mom who kept on cooking up the same meals, the same way each week. The balance of spiritual proteins, carbs, and vegetables was not out of whack, but the flavor was. My homiletical seasoning had become flavorless and predictable. In short: my illustrations and word pictures were becoming bland and boring.

It hit me as I sat rubbing my head like I was attempting to coerce a migraine to leave. Jesus commented that “out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Lk. 6.45). What was coming out of my mouth in my sermons was precisely what was filling my mind and heart throughout the week. Read More

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Commissioned to Make Disciples, Not Church Members

By Robin G. Jordan

While this phenomenon is not confined to North American Anglicans and Episcopalians, it has become characteristic of the churches in a number of North American Anglican jurisdictions. Once a new church is up and running, it focuses on its own needs even though it is surrounded by numerous opportunities to multiply new disciples by multiplying itself and planting more new churches. It quickly becomes inward-looking. One hears such excuses as “we’re not big enough,””we can’t spare the people,” “we don’t have the money,” and so on. A tragic statistic is that if a new church does not plant a new church within the first five years after it was planted, it is not likely to plant one any time in its lifetime.

In the Episcopal Church one finds dozens of struggling missions. A number of churches have been a mission for more than a century. Or they became a parish at some point in their existence and then reverted back to being a mission. In some instances they are the wrong kind of church for the community or neighborhood  in which they were planted. In other cases the theological climate in the Episcopal Church has created barriers to their growth.

In a number of instances the demographics of the community or neighborhood in which a church is located have changed. The church is tied too closely to a shrinking population base and to shriveling relationship networks.

But likely as not, most of these missions suffer from a common malady. While they may have experienced numerical growth at various stages in their life cycle, they have not grown in the vital area of disciple multiplication. They have added new church members to their membership rolls but they have not added new disciples.

Church members and disciples are not the same thing. Someone can be a church member, attend church services, hear sermons, pay tithes, receive communion, and not be a disciple. A disciple of Jesus Christ  makes Christ the focus of his life and seeks to please Christ in all areas of his life. He follows Christ’s example and teachings. As he surrenders each area of his life to Christ, his life undergoes a noticeable change. He becomes increasingly more like Christ in his thoughts, words, and actions. He not only evidences a deepening love for his fellow disciples but he also shares the good news of Jesus Christ with others and makes disciples of them. 

This malady besets the Anglican Church of Canada and other North American Anglican jurisdictions, including the Anglican Church in North America. Churches may be multiplying new members but they are not multiplying new disciples. I would hazard that it is the single greatest reason for the waning influence of Christianity in North America and the decline of the various denominations.

Disciples at the local level do not rationalize away their failure to plant new churches and to multiply new disciples. They ask questions like “How can we reach and engage this population segment?” “How can we reach and engage that one?” They are always looking for additional ways to close the gap between their church and their community or neighborhood, to penetrate its relationship networks, and to be salt and light to its people. They are deeply involved in the life of the community or neighborhood, intimately aware of its people’s hopes, aspirations, and dreams. They share in its people’s struggles and minister to them in time of need.

Disciples at the judicatorial level are constantly seeking better ways to mobilize the resources of the judicatory in support of disciple making and church planting. The multiplication of new disciples and new churches is their number one priority. They do all in their power to foster a strong culture of disciple making and church planting in the judicatory.

4 Steps to Generating Church Momentum

As a leader you want to create and capture church momentum. If your church is slowly growing, struggling or just plain stuck, there is a process that can help you get moving and get growing.

Here’s a process you can adapt for you and your church. It doesn’t take months of study and meetings to get started. A few weeks of prayer, honest conversation and planning and you are off and running. It’s not a race, but it does have an intentional start line. Read More

Two Common Hiring Mistakes Churches Make

Every hire is a risk. Every time I have hired someone or have been hired, there was a risk involved. Some argue that proven track records eliminate the risk, but in reality a great history only minimizes the risk. Even when hiring someone who has a proven track record, it is hard to separate the individual’s performance from the organization’s performance. For example, we have seen great assistant coaches hired to be head coaches with dismal results. And sometimes when the coach returns to an assistant role, he is unable to reclaim the “mojo” he once had. In those cases, clearly it was the system around him at his former school that lifted his performance above his capacity. Thus, the hire was a risk, as all hires are.

The risk in hiring can be minimized, but it can’t be eliminated. To help you minimize the risk in your staff hires, below are two of the most common hiring mistakes you must avoid making in church ministry. Read More

10 Great Commission Thoughts to Challenge You Today

Five times in the New Testament, Jesus gave us a command about taking the gospel to the world (Matt 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:45-47, John 20:21, Acts 1:8). Think about Jesus’ words and the thoughts below today, and pray about your role in this task. Read More

Evangelism or “Elevator Pitch”?

The offer of salvation isn't a sales pitch.

What's the distinction between evangelism and an elevator pitch? If you look at how we actually do evangelism, can you see a real difference in practice?

Is it true most methods of evangelism are little more than elevator pitches? Do you recoil at the suggestion? Most people I know would object. Why?

Elevator pitches are typically associated with business marketers. Perhaps, you think of smarmy salespersons who simply want to sell you a pile of goods with no genuine interest in your well being. What if we project the same impression when sharing the gospel? Regardless of intention, we should be alarmed by this possibility. Read More

Islam Today

Whenever I teach on Islam, whether at seminary or in a church, I invariably get asked questions that begin like this: “What would a Muslim think about…?” My standard response is another question: “Which Muslim?”

Imagine someone asking a parallel question: “What would a Christian think about such-and-such?” Well, what kind of Christian? A conservative Presbyterian or Southern Baptist? A liberal Methodist? A Pentecostal? A Coptic? A member of an Acts 29 church plant in Seattle or a fundamentalist Baptist church in the Deep South? A pastor, a scholar, or a layman? An American, a Norwegian, a Ukrainian, a Syrian, a Rwandan, or a Malaysian? I’m sure you see the point.

In reality, there’s as much diversity in the Muslim world as there is in the Christian world. Just as we wouldn’t want non-Christians to pigeonhole us with a “one size fits all” view of Christianity, we should acknowledge and respond appropriately to the plurality of perspectives, traditions, and practices that exist among contemporary Muslims. In this article, we’ll survey some major points of diversity found in Islam today and consider the implications for how we engage with Muslims. Read More

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Five Reasons Why the Large Single Site Church Is Declining

One of the largely unspoken phenomenon of the past decade has been the decline in large churches located at only one site. Most of the large church growth today is taking place at multisite churches.

For clarity, I define a large church as a congregation with an average weekly worship attendance of 1,000 or more. In this article, I focus on just those churches located at one site. Larger churches with multiple sites have largely avoided this issue. They are growing more through multiple sites than larger services.

So why are we hearing more about the decline of these churches? Allow me to offer five reasons. Read More

Photo credit: Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara

Are Allah and Yahweh the Same?

It it is argued, there are many roads that lead to God. They may be different routes but they all end up in the same place—with God Himself. That is, the differing roads indicate no difference in the God who is found. Read More

10 Ways to Use Electronic Media to Strengthen Your Church

I know the combination of “electronic media” and “church” may make little sense to some readers, but I want to encourage you to use the tools available to us to grow God’s church. Whether it’s Skype or FaceTime or some other means, here are some options to consider.... Read More

On the Net:: "7 Default Zones Every Leader Should Implement" and More

7 Default Zones Every Leader Should Implement

If you consistently have to make the same type decisions as a leader, think through which way over time has proven to be best. This becomes your default zone. Read More

Dissertations that are Needed Today

Work to add to the body of human knowledge. Read More

The Major Money Problems of Church Planters vs. Other Pastors

Salaries are low enough that 1 in 3 pastors have considered quitting. Yet most still say they are satisfied. Read More

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Great Commission Church Planting

By Robin G. Jordan

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts.1:8

In my article, “Sacramental Church Planting: An Assessment,” I question the giving of such prominence to the celebration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper that their celebration conceals and obscures the importance of other aspects of the common life of a new congregation. The giving of prominence to their celebration also conveys the message that they are far more important in the economy of salvation than they actually are. The Prayer Book Catechism recognizes the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper “as generally necessary to salvation.” This is an important qualification. In The Tutorial Prayer Book for theTeacher, the Student, and the General Reader Charles Neil and J. M.Willoughby explain:
The expression ‘as generally necessary to salvation’ does not mean that “they are universally and in all cases absolutely necessary (for then none would be saved without receiving them); but that as a general rule (allowing for exceptions, e.g., the thief on the cross) they are requisite. This interpretation harmonizes with the words of the Second Exhortation in the Office of Adult Baptism: ‘Whereby ye may perceive the great necessity of this sacrament where it may be had’; and also with the rubric in the Communion of the Sick, ‘But if any by reason the extremity of sickness,’ etc. (p. 419)
The premise of the article, “Sacramental Church Planting” that the celebration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper should shape the pattern of the common life of a new congregation makes a particular form of sacramental piety and even a particular theology of the sacraments the principal determinant of how the members of the new congregation should live their life together. What the author of this article does is create a hierarchy of Christ’s commands in order of obedience with observance of the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper at the top and obedience to Christ’s other commands ranked below their observance. Such a ranking of Christ’s commands, however, is not reconcilable with what is written in the New Testament. Christ in his teaching emphasizes faith, repentance, obedience to God, forgiveness of others, compassion toward others, the proclamation of the message of salvation, and the like. So do the apostles in their teaching.

In arguing for the giving of such prominence to the celebration of the sacraments, the author appears to be overcompensating for the attitude toward the observance of the Lord’s Supper that he encountered on his visit to a particular new church plant. I have never encountered a similar attitude toward the observance of the Lord’ Supper on any of my own visits to non-Anglican churches. The communion elements may have been received while seated and grape juice may have been used instead of wine but the ordinance was observed with appropriate solemnity. The presiding minister invited only believers to participate and then after a period of self-examination.

In reaction to one extreme the author is championing another extreme—an extreme which would have detrimental effects upon the efforts of his denomination to reach and engage unreached and unengaged population groups on the North American mission field if what he is championing is widely adopted in that denomination.

The practice of weekly communion in Anglican and Episcopal Churches is traceable to the influence of the liturgical movement in the United States and the influence of the parish communion movement in the United Kingdom. It has had both intentional and unintentional side effects. It fostered in Anglican and Episcopal churches the view that they were not fully Christ’s Church if they did not have weekly communion. It came at a time when Anglican and Episcopal churches were experiencing a decline in members and baptisms and their congregations and their population bases were shrinking. A growing number of churches could not afford the stipend of a full-time priest and were required to share a priest with one or more other churches. This contributed to their feelings of inferiority and to their perception of themselves as being something less than Christ’s Church. The result was attitudes about the clergy and themselves that were really not consonant with the teaching of the Bible and which increased their vulnerability to false teaching. Accepting the ministry of a priest who fell short in a number of areas became the tradeoff for having weekly communion. This in turn affected their public image in the community and added to their woes. A number of churches were forced to close their doors.

The Bible does not teach that weekly communion is necessary to being Christ’s Church. Nor do the historic Anglican formularies, including the two Books of Homilies. The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the Anglican Church’s confession of faith, identifies three marks of the visible Church, a congregation of the faithful, the preaching of the pure word of God, and the administration of the sacraments according to Christ’s ordinance, and infers a fourth mark—the exercise of church discipline. The Articles do not prescribe how often the sacraments are to be administered and only require their administration by someone who is “lawfully called and sent.” Historically the Anglican Church has limited the administration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper to presbyters and bishops. It does, however, have a history of lay baptism. The requirement that only minister may administer the sacrament of Baptism is a later addition to The Book of Common Prayer and was a concession to the Puritans who objected to the practice of midwives baptizing newborn infants in private homes. The Bible, however, does not prohibit lay baptism.

To be fully Christ’s Church a congregation needs to have a vital faith, to hear the preaching of the pure word of God, to observe the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and discipline its members when their correction is necessary. It does not need to have a full-time seminary educated, stipendiary priest or a weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper. Rather the Articles’ definition of the visible Church permits a variety of expressions of Church and a variety of patterns of congregational life. A congregation of twenty-five or less people gathered around God’s Word on a convenient evening in a private home is as much Christ’s Church as a congregation of five hundred or more people gathered around the Word on Sunday morning in their own worship center. Their size and their circumstances may differ and with these variables their congregational dynamics. However, they both are the Body of Christ.

When our Lord entrusted the disciples as representatives of future generations of his followers with the Great Commission, he did not instruct them to promote a particular expression of Church or pattern of congregational life. What he basically told them was to multiply themselves, to make more disciples in ever widening circles to the very ends of the earth. The multiplication of disciples was to be the chief focus of his Church—its central activity. If anything is to serve as the primary determinant of how the members of a congregation live their lives together, it is this activity.  

In the Great Commission baptizing and instructing are subsidiary to disciple making. Integral to the Great Commission is going—outward-directed movement and engagement. This is further emphasized in our Lord’s words that the disciples and hence all of his followers would be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. They were expected to bring the good news of salvation to others, not to passively wait for seekers after salvation to come to them. They are promised the Holy Spirit to empower them and assured of Christ’s presence with them to the end of the age. This promise and assurance were made not just to them but also to future generations of his disciples.

The kind of church planting in which we are expected to engage is not sacramental church planting but Great Commission church planting. We are expected to plant new congregations that have a strong culture of disciple-making and which are devoted to multiplying disciples. Christianity at its heart is a disciple-making movement. The multiplication of disciples is the task that we have been divinely appointed. It is not optional. It is not just for a few more zealous Christians. It is for all who name themselves followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Regrettably we are tempted to substitute other activities for this task both as individuals and as congregations—activities that are more appealing and less challenging than leaving our comfort zones, meeting new people, forming relationships, and having spiritual conversations, all of which are necessary steps in disciple making. Multiplying disciples requires us to walk by faith and not by sight, to place ourselves wholly in Christ’s hands and to fully trust Christ and his promises.

Disciple making involves risk taking. It may involve disapproval, rejection, enmity, physical suffering, and death. It is the way of the Cross. Yet at the same time it offers great rewards. Among these rewards is witnessing God at work in hearts, minds, and lives, transforming people before our very eyes.

Christ has tasked his whole Church with making disciples, not just one segment of the Church. It is a responsibility that all members of a congregation share. God may gift some members of the congregation to lead and equip the rest of the congregation as its elders. However, the task of making disciples is not theirs alone.

While disciple making may involve working individually with one or more people, it is not a solitary task. It is something that we do as the Body of Christ. Christ gifts his whole Church for the task. How the Holy Spirit manifests himself in our lives is for that purpose. When seen in this light, disciple making is not as daunting as it may first appear.

Disciple making does not require a congregation of a particular size. It does not require that a congregation gather in a particular setting. What it does require are disciples of Jesus Christ who have a genuine commitment to multiply themselves.

Envision a North American mission field in which every community, every neighborhood, and every relationship network is the focus of one or more groups of disciples who are reaching and engaging the unreached and unengaged people in that community, neighborhood, or relationship network. Great Commission church planting is all about forming, equipping, and multiplying such groups. 

On the Net: "Reviving a Dying Church" and More

Reviving a Dying Church

Thirty years ago I began my first pastorate. It was a dying church -- dead really. Today we would call it a "legacy church plant." Read More

Seven Church Facility Trends – Rainer on Leadership #219 [Podcast]

On today’s podcast Thom Rainer and Jonathan Howe discuss seven relevant trends that churches are facing when it comes to facilities. From the shift to smaller gathering spaces to what types of spaces are being built, facility trends are changing where and how local churches gather. Read More

The Least Attended Church Gathering

God has ordered things in His church in such a way that prayer is one of the foremost means by which He gives His people spiritual power and vitality for the advancement of His Kingdom through the preaching of the Gospel and the carrying out of deeds of love and mercy. So why does the church in the Western world fail so miserably at coming to the throne of grace in order to receive the grace and mercy needed on a daily and weekly basis (Heb. 4:16)? I would offer the following 4 reasons.... Read More

Why Christ Our “First Love” Transforms Our Witness

Love for Christ is evangelism's compelling force. Read More

Monday, April 25, 2016

5 Future Trends of Church Planting

Church planting trends for now and the future

Thom Rainer has stated, “Trend prediction is both an art and a science.” The science is the data and the art is the practice. And by putting the two together we can see current trends and predict future movement.

With culture seemingly changing at the speed of light, church planters (and those who train and support them) cannot be over-aware of the trends new churches will face. Here are five things we are seeing now and will continue to see as we move further along in the 21st century post-Christian America.

Each trend has a brief caution—not to indicate that I do not affirm much of the trends—but to acknowledge possible unintended side effects to consider. Read More

Photo: Aoi, or hollyhock

On the Net: "Give Us Eyes for the Lonely" and More

Give Us Eyes for the Lonely

As the church gathers this weekend, try to look around with the eyes of Christ. You may be amazed at what you see. Read More

The Gospel of Sovereign Grace

One New Testament book that especially emphasizes God’s astounding sovereign grace is Paul’s letter to the Romans. Read More

Seven Reasons Why You Should Believe in Total Depravity

Here are 7 reasons why the doctrine of Total Depravity (TD) is not a lie but rather a liberating truth. Read More

3 Ways to Keep Your Church Focused on Evangelism

Keeping a church focused on evangelism is similar to running a marathon. Read More

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sacramental Church Planting: An Assessment

By Robin G. Jordan

While doing a Google search on the ACNA Diocese of Pittsburgh’s bishop-elect, the Rev. Jim Hobby, I visited the ACNA Church Planting Initiative website and read an article on its blog entitled, “Sacramental Church Planting.” The basic premise of the article was that the observance of the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper should shape the way in which a new congregation lives its common life. The author of the article claimed that this premise was consistent with an Anglican understanding of the dominical sacraments. I, however, found his particular view of the dominical sacraments more in tune with an unreformed Catholic understanding of the sacraments than a reformed Anglican one. It gives such prominence to the dominical sacraments that they overshadow other important aspects of a new congregation's common life. It suffers from a number of other major defects.

A careful reading of the Holy Scriptures does not support this particular view of the dominical sacraments. Rather it supports the view that faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to God’s Word should be shaping the common life of a new congregation, not its observance of the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Through the teaching of the Holy Scriptures God establishes the pattern of its life together as a new community of believers and seekers. Observing the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper play a part in that pattern as does spreading the gospel, making new disciples of Jesus Christ, teaching and practicing what he commanded, and building each other up in the Christian faith and way of life. Their observance, however, is only part of the pattern, not the shaper of that pattern.

The visible church does not exist to celebrate the sacraments. It exists to go into the world and to proclaim the good news to all people groups and to invite their members to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and to become his devoted followers, living their lives in accordance with his commands and emulating his obedience to God in every aspect of their lives. It exists to form seekers into believers and believers into disciples, to encourage and support them in their often faltering steps toward spiritual maturity in Christ, to equip them for the work of ministry, to represent Christ in the world, and to embody God’s love for his fallen creation.

One of Christ’s commands is to baptize new believers. Another is to commemorate and proclaim his saving death in the observance of the Lord’s Supper. These commands, however, are not his only commands. He enjoins us to love God and those around us with our whole being. He likewise enjoins us to love each other. Our love for others must extend even to those who hate and despise us. He further commands us to serve him in the last and the least—the poor, the hungry, the destitute, the prisoner, the captive, and the refugee. He also enjoins us to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth and to fulfill his commission to spread the gospel and make disciples of all nations.

In his teaching Christ emphasizes that God does not desire sacrifices from us, a reference to the animal sacrifices offered in the Temple in Jerusalem, but rather that we show mercy toward our fellow human beings and in doing so, emulate the forgiveness and kindness that God shows toward us. By extension this includes the reiteration or representation of Christ’s own offering of himself on the cross for the sins of the whole world or the pleading of that offering in our observances of the Lord’s Supper.

In the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, which comprise the Anglican Church’s confession of faith and form along with The Book of Common Prayer and Ordinal of 1662 its longstanding doctrinal and worship standard, in its definition of the visible church, the order in which the three marks, or defining characteristics, of the visible church are listed is significant. A congregation of the faithful is listed first, then the preaching of the pure Word of God, and last of all the due ministration of the sacraments according to Christ’s ordinance.

The 1662 Ordinal emphasizes the centrality of the ministry of the Word to the ministry of deacon, presbyter, and bishop. It is not only evident from the Exhortation and the Examination in the 1662 Ordination Services but also from the presentation of new deacons with the New Testament and new presbyters and bishops with the Bible that these ministers are viewed first and foremost as ministers of God’s Word. As in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the administration of the sacraments is listed last in the order of importance.

The listing of the administration of sacraments last is consistent with the reformed Anglican understanding of the sacraments as signs and tokens that make visible or tangible the promises and truths of God’s Word. They are effectual signs because through them God accomplishes that which he purposes. As Isaiah 55:11 tells us, “my word that comes from my mouth will not return to me empty, but it will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I send it to do.” Through these signs God works invisibly in us, invigorating, confirming, and strengthening our faith. It is by faith that we feed spiritually upon Christ in our innermost being, appropriating the benefits of his saving work. This spiritual feeding is not confined to our observances of the Lord’s Supper but occurs in the daily life of the believer.

As well as being not consonant with the teaching of the Holy Scriptures, the concept of “sacramental church planting” is defective in number of other ways. In the Anglican Church sacramentalism historically has evidenced a strong tendency to go hand in hand with clericalicism, sacerdotalism, and other unreformed Catholic teaching and practices that have no basis in Scripture nor are in line with its teaching. It also associated with a particular ambiance that is pre-Reformation and Medieval in its origins and which in a number of its aspects is not reconcilable to biblical teaching.  

Integral to the concept of “sacramental church planting” is the organization of new congregations around the sacramental ministry of an ordained priest. This suffers from a number of drawbacks as an organizational principle for new congregations. It imposes a limit on the number of new congregations that a judicatory is able to plant, a limit determined by the number of priests that it can train, ordain, and deploy. It is also likely to influence what segment of the population that the priest-church planter targets. There will be a strong temptation to focus on families and individuals, who come from a church background, are baptized, and have a history of church attendance. There will also be a strong temptation to adopt an attractional approach rather than a missional one, relying heavily on a particular ambiance as a major attraction and focusing on those families and individuals drawn to that ambiance. Likewise there will be a strong temptation to focus upon a more affluent segment of the population, which has the financial resources to pay the priest’s salary and expenses, to purchase land, to construct a church building, and to provide the clerical and church ornaments that comprise an integral part of the same ambiance.

Historically the use of this organizational principle accounts to large extent for the slow growth of the Episcopal Church when compared with the growth of other North American denominations. Its heavy reliance upon a particular ambiance also account for its slow growth. The segment of the population that was drawn to this ambiance was far smaller than the segment of the population that was not. Another factor limiting its growth was its need for an affluent financial base. Together these factors help to explain why the Episcopal Church at its height was confined to a relatively small segment of the population.

Among the drawbacks of this organizational principle for new congregations is that they grow slowly except in communities that are themselves enjoying rapid growth. If the priest moves on to another church, retires, or otherwise leaves, they are apt to become immobilized or even fall apart. Their members tend to drift away. They are far less resilient than new congregations organized around the proclamation and exposition of God’s Word.

New congregations organized around the sacramental ministry of an ordained priest also tend to become spiritually immature congregations whose members are consumers of a product or service (e.g., Holy Communion, pastoral care, etc.) rather than disciples of Jesus Christ. When the source of these consumables—the priest—leaves and another priest does not immediately take his place, their members tend to go in search of another church to provide them with these consumables. This accounts for a large part for their fragility.

The concept of “sacramental church planting” does not encourage members of a new congregation to fulfill their role as a royal priesthood, a holy nation, whom God has called out of darkness into his marvelous light to proclaim his wonderful deeds. It encourages their over-dependence upon the ministry of one person while minimizing or ignoring the ministry to which God calls each member of a new congregation through his distribution of the manifestations of the Holy Spirit. In this regard it cannot be viewed as faithful to the Great Commission. Christ promised to send the Holy Spirit to the whole Church, not a segment of it. The Spirit-empowered witness to Christ to which all believers are called extends not only to every member of the Body of Christ but also to every aspect of their life together as Christ’s Body.

In new congregations that are effectively reaching and engaging the unchurched a large segment of the congregation is likely to consist of unbaptized seekers who are exploring the Christian faith and way of life and who have not yet accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord and turned to him in faith and repentance. A weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper will have no meaning for them at this stage in their faith journey.

Historically the Anglican Church has considered the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper as a sacrament for believers. The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion takes the Reformed position that only those who have a vital faith in Jesus Christ and receive the sacrament in a worthy manner benefit from receiving it. This means that only those individuals who have shown evidence of faith in Christ and repentance from sin and made a public declaration of faith and repentance in baptism may be admitted to the Lord's Table. The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion do not accept the Lutheran view that the sacrament itself confers faith or the Wesleyan view that it is a converting ordinance. For this reason it is preferable to observe the Lord’s Supper less frequently than weekly, at least at the main worship gatherings of the new congregation, at those gatherings which unbaptized seekers are most likely to attend. As the apostle Paul pointed to the attention of the church in Rome, "faith comes from what is heard and what is heard comes through the message about Christ."   The preaching of God's Word is the medium through which God effectually calls those whom he has predestined for eternal life. 

If the Anglican Church in North America is serious about reaching the unreached people groups of North America and beyond, it needs to base its denominational church planting strategy on the whole council of God as revealed in the Holy Scriptures and the realities of the mission field. Its main concern should not be the celebration of the sacraments but the salvation of souls and the formation of new believers into devoted followers of Jesus Christ.  

Leadership and Church Size Dynamics: How Strategy Changes with Growth [PDF]

A church’s functional style, its strengths and weaknesses, and the roles of its lay and staff leaders will change dramatically as its size changes.

One of the most common reasons for pastoral leadership mistakes is blindness to the significance of church size. Size has an enormous impact on how a church functions. There is a “size culture” that profoundly affects how decisions are made, how relationships flow, how effectiveness is evaluated, and what ministers, staff, and lay leaders do.

We tend to think of the chief differences between churches mainly in denominational or theological terms, but that underestimates the impact of size on how a church operates. The difference between how churches of 100 and 1,000 function may be much greater than the difference between a Presbyterian and a Baptist church of the same size. The staff person who goes from a church of 400 to a church of 2,000 is in many ways making a far greater change than if he or she moved from one denomination to another.

A large church is not simply a bigger version of a small church. The difference in communication, community formation, and decision-making processes are so great that the leadership skills required in each are of almost completely different orders. Read Online or Download

Photo credit: Church of the Apostles, Raleigh NC

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Ten Tips for Leading Church Well

Our regular gatherings should aspire to be rich (Col 3:16)—a rich feeding together on the word of God in song, prayer, praise and preaching. Practically speaking, the person who leads church can have a massive influence, for good or for ill, on the experience. Like an orchestra conductor, a leader can determine the difference between whether the parts come together in a beautiful, edifying whole, or dissolve into a chaotic mess. Here’s what we tell our service leaders to aim for on a Sunday. Read More

Saturday Lagniappe: "3 Tips for Leading a Volunteer-Led Church" and More

3 Tips for Leading a Volunteer-Led Church

One of the greatest challenges of church leaders is leading volunteers. A greater challenge still, is being a leading volunteers who are leading volunteers (or in my case, being a volunteer who is leading volunteers that are leading volunteers – I feel like I’m in Inception!). Read More

6 Symptoms of Church Ministry Silos

And ways to help cure this type of disunity. Read More

6 Essentials for Everyone in Church Leadership

What is a pastor like? What does a pastor do? This is something that matters for pastors (obviously!) but also for every church member. Many a pastor has been crushed by church members expecting more of him, or different things from him, than God does. And on the other hand, many a church has been compromised because a pastor did less than, or different things from, what God requires of a church leader. Read More

How to Get and Keep Men in Small Groups

Some men just don’t like small groups. I can’t blame them. Those of us who write about and train people to lead groups are guilty of asking a group leader to create an environment that would drive a man’s man to clean the house before attending a small group meeting. Read More

'How Do We Get Millennials to Attend Church?' Why that is the wrong question

People are more complex than a generational trend after all. Rather than trying to get people to come and listen to us, let's find ways we can listen to them. What if they even told us why they won't come to church? Are we prepared to hear their honest answers, or will we hide behind generational stereotypes? Read More

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Four DNA Elements You Must Understand About Your Church

Every local church is one of a kind. Each one is unique. There are an estimated 350,000 churches in the United States. They are all distinct and unlike any other.

You can find churches with similarities based on common beliefs or methods, but no church is exactly alike. There are churches with similar architecture, race, methods, and programs, but none of these are exactly the same. Every church has its own DNA.

These elements are what often draw people to the church. They are also what lead people away. Pastors, elders, and staff members should understand these elements. Potential church leaders and members should also know them.

To understand a church you have to know its DNA, and there are four DNA elements found in every church. I will lay out each element and highlight its implications for the church. Read More

On the Net: "Is it Ever Legitimate to Complain to God or to Express Anger to God?"

Is it Ever Legitimate to Complain to God or to Express Anger to God?

We need to notice not just the complaints the biblical saints sometimes make, but the responses God gives. Read More

Take Time To Linger Outside the Church Door

n churches as in neighborhoods, sometimes the front lawn is the best place to build community. Read More

What Makes Pentecostals Such Effective Mobilizers?

Pentecostal Christians more effectively mobilize people for mission than any other group on the planet. Why is that? Read More

Theological Education as a Partner in the Mission

The influence of theological institutions should be directional. Read More

T4G Talks [Video]

Most of the Together for the Gospel 2016 talks are online. Watch Now

Communique from the April 2016 GAFCON Primates Meeting

Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, Primate of the Anglican Church of All Nigeria, has been elected the new chairman of the GAFCON Primates Council. Archbishop Okoh chaired the GAFCON Theological Resource Group meetings that prepared Being Faithful: The Shape of Historic Anglicanism Today - A Commentary on the Jerusalem Statement and The Way, the Truth, and the Life - Theological Resources for a Pilgrimage to a Global Anglican Future. Read More

Photo: Bullet train, Nozomi, Japan

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Why the ACNA Needs a Strong Evangelical - Anglican Loyalist Wing

I recognize that a number of ACNA churches are making a concerted effort to reach and engage a broad segment of the unchurched population of North America as I recognize that a number of ACNA churches are faithful to the Holy Scriptures and the historic Anglican formularies and stand in the heritage of the English Reformation and the Elizabethan Settlement.  However, I do not believe that this segment of the Anglican Church in North America is representative of the denomination as a whole. Rather it is representative of one wing of the ACNA. 

What I do see in a number of denominational institutions is the presence of a strong Catholic Revivalist influence and a commensurate lack of appreciation for the realities of the North American mission field and the needs of congregations and missional communities on that mission field. The Catholic Revivalist wing of the Anglican Church in North America is more concerned with the promotion of its particular ideology than it is with the spread of the gospel and the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Its past evangelism and church planting efforts have been driven by a desire to propagate its ideology and to proselytize new converts to that ideology. It preaches “a different gospel” from the gospel of the New Testament.

For the time being this ACNA wing is content to convert the denomination to its ideology by occupying the place of power in the Anglican Church in North America and determining the content of the denomination’s key formularies—its canons, its catechism, and its Prayer Book. It seeks to influence by these means the thinking of the clergy and congregations in the denomination and gradually convert them to its opinions by the expedient of denying them any alternative way of thinking.

In a sense the Catholic Revivalist wing of the Anglican Church in North America is parasitic. It grows by converting the clergy and congregations of new and existing churches to its opinions. 

Its own church planting efforts are confined largely to that segment of the population that is open to unreformed Catholic teaching and practices, typically married couples in which one spouse is a Roman Catholic, individuals with a Roman Catholic or Anglo-Catholic background, and individuals who are attracted to the particular ambience of its church buildings and its church services and its claims of continuity with the past. These married couples and individuals are more accurately described as dechurched or lightly churched than they are as unchurched. They have a history of exposure to some form of the Christian faith and of past church attendance. 

The churches this wing plants generally do not have a strong culture of evangelism and church planting. One is likely to find their churches in the more populated areas of Canada and the United States within driving distance of neighborhoods in which the residents are educated, affluent, and upper middle class. The housing is new and upscale. 

These demographics characterize this wing’s largest constituency. This wing is more concerned with attracting an affluent enough congregation to support the sacramental ministry of one or more priests, to purchase land, to construct a neo-Gothic two-room church building, and to recreate the ambiance that characterizes its churches than it is with making disciples of all people groups in obedience to Christ’s command. 

Historically churches of this ideological stripe have been concentrated in cities, larger towns, commercial centers, transportation hubs, and county seats of a region. Here in western Kentucky they are usually found in communities that also have one or more Roman Catholic churches either in the community or in an adjacent community.

When one considers these characteristics along with the decline of the North American Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Churches, Continuing Anglican Churches, and other unreformed Catholic denominations with a similar if not identical ideology to the Catholic Revivalist wing, one cannot help but experience concern over its occupation of the place of power in the Anglican Church in North America if one has a serious commitment to the spread of the gospel and the fulfillment of the Great Commission. This wing of the ACNA is clearly the wrong wing of the denomination to provide leadership to the denomination in its efforts to carry out these aims. 

While this wing may have a place in a denomination committed to a policy of comprehension, it should not be the place of power. A strong evangelical - Anglican Loyalist wing is needed to counterbalance and even negate its influence. 

By "Anglican Loyalist" I mean Anglicans who adhere to the teaching of the Bible and the doctrine of the historic Anglican formularies and regard historic Anglicanism as sufficiently catholic. 

Naturally the Catholic Revivalist wing will oppose the development of such a wing since the interests of that wing are contrary to its own. It also will see the wing as a rival for hegemony in the ACNA. 

The challenge is how to develop a strong evangelical - Anglican Loyalist wing when the Catholic Revivalist wing has ensconced itself in the denomination’s place of power, is entrenching its views, and marginalizing those who do not agree with them.

A strong evangelical - Anglican Loyalist wing is needed to energize the Anglican Church in North America for the work of evangelizing the unchurched and planting new churches. Due to its particular focuses it is the best wing to develop a catechism for new believers consistent with the teaching of the Bible and the doctrine of the historic Anglican formularies. It is also the best segment of the denomination to develop a Prayer Book flexible enough for use on the North American mission field, a Prayer Book whose rites in their doctrine and practices are consistent with biblical teaching and Anglican formulary doctrine. Under its leadership the denomination would have a much better chance of developing a far stronger culture of evangelism and church planting than it presently has.

The present occupants of the place of power in the ACNA are not the right folks to lead the denomination in the twenty-first century and to enable it to realize its full potential as an orthodox alternative Anglican province to the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church. In addition to the reasons already given, they are not orthodox from a historic Anglican perspective. They are insufficiently biblical, protestant, reformed, and evangelical. 

In today’s post-Christian era North America needs vibrant evangelical - Anglican Loyalist congregations and missional communities to reach and engage its unchurched population and to collaborate with other orthodox Anglican provinces in reaching unreached people groups everywhere.  For such congregations and missional communities to flourish, the denomination needs vibrant evangelical - Anglican Loyalist leadership. 

The Soft Prosperity Gospel

What do you think of when you read the words prosperity gospel? Odds are that your stomach turns a bit as you think about the preachers on television who speak to very large crowds and appeal to even more people in their books. Queasiness is the reaction one should have to the brand of Christianity trumpeted by prosperity preachers. This is because the prosperity gospel is not a gospel at all but rather a damnable perversion of the true gospel. Its preachers herald a message of self-improvement that runs painfully contrary to several key biblical realities. They minimize the purpose of suffering, discourage self-denial, and make the Christian life about the accumulation of stuff. To do this they turn Jesus from the self-giving, sin-atoning, wrath-satisfying, guilt-removing Savior into an eager butler who fetches all of our desires and gives us our best life now.

The prosperity gospel shrinks the gospel down to an unfiltered pursuit of our desires. It shifts the message from the spiritual to the materialistic. Let’s be clear about this: the prosperity gospel is about us rather than God.

This is nothing new. Many have tried to avoid the clear instructions of Jesus that are forever etched on the doorpost of the church: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Jesus’ call to discipleship is a call to deny self. It’s a costly call that expects and embraces suffering. Read More

Image: Jacques Tissot's The Rich Young Man

Two Leadership Insights from Two Theologians

I recently was honored to facilitate a discussion on Theology and Leadership at a Southern Seminary alumni luncheon with two seminary professors and theologians: Dr. Bruce Ware and Dr. Tom Schreiner. As facilitator, I chose a few doctrines and asked Dr. Ware and Dr. Schreiner how a proper understanding of these doctrines should impact how one leads. The whole conversation was great, and I learned a lot. But two insights impacted me the most. Read More

Six Components of a Strategic Church Communications Plan

In a post last month here at, I wrote about the four reasons your church needs a communications plan. I also promised to follow up this month with a post on the components of a church communications plan.

While this paradigm may not fit every church, you can use it as you develop your plans for informing your congregants and promoting events or initiatives in your church. These six components, if identified and executed well, can dramatically improve the effectiveness of your church’s communication. Read More

10 Problems in Church Foyers

In my home church, we called the primary interior entrance to the worship center “the vestibule.” Others call it the “narthex,” the “foyer,” or “lobby.” Whatever we may call this entranceway to a church building and the worship center – which I will call “foyer” for consistency – here are some of the problems we’ve seen in years of church consulting. Use this list to evaluate your church foyer. Read More

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Why ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach?

By Robin G. Jordan

While I understand why the various GAFCON Primates might send greetings to the newly organized New Zealand chapter of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, I must question the Anglican Church League’s singling out of ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach from the other Primates in its article on that development. Why not mention the other Primates who sent their greetings, assuming that they also sent them to the newly-organized New Zealand chapter? Mentioning Archbishop Iliud Wabukala is understandable as he is GAFCON Primates Council Chairman and Bishop Richard Condie as he is chairman of FCA Australia. But why ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach? Has he become the poster child for GAFCON and the FCA?

The Anglican Church in North America is far from a sterling example of what the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans claims to stand for in the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration. A number of its leaders espouse an ideology that is at variance with the positions that the FCA takes in the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration, in particular, its position on the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, historic Anglicanism’s confession of faith. Unlike the FCA, they do not believe that “the doctrinal foundation of Anglicanism” which defines Anglicans’ core identity as Anglicans, is expressed in the words of Canon A5 of the Church of England. They are not committed to this standard nor do they join with the FCA in calling Anglicans to reaffirm and return to it.

In the Jerusalem Declaration the first GAFCON conference and the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans identify as a tenet of orthodoxy underpinning Anglican identity the upholding of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion “as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglican’s today.  In its authoritative commentary on the Jerusalem Declaration, Being Faithful: The Shape of Historic Anglicanism Today, the GAFCON Theological Resource Group takes the position that acceptance of their authority “is constitutive of Anglican identity.”

The Anglican Church in North America in its governing documents, its ordinal, its catechism, and its rites of Admission of Catechumens, Baptism, the Holy Eucharist, and confirmation, and its position statement on the use of blessed oils repeatedly rejects the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion and The Book of Common Prayer as historic Anglicanism’s longstanding standard of doctrine and worship. It mandates and sanctions unreformed Catholic teaching and practices that conflict with this standard and the biblical and Reformation theology of historic Anglicanism.

ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach is on record as having voted in favor of the endorsement of the ordinal and the other formularies and their unreformed Catholic teaching and practices by the ACNA College of Bishops. He is also on record as describing Anglicanism as “confessional” because it subscribes to the three so-called Catholic creeds—a viewpoint that embodies a revisionist understanding of Anglican confessionalism.

Highlighting Archbishop Beach’s greetings to the newly-organized New Zealand FCA chapter sends the wrong message. It implies that the Anglican Church in North America and Archbishop Beach are on the same track as the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans when in actuality the ACNA is on a different track—a track of its own that leads away from the principles of doctrine and worship laid out in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion and The Book of Common Prayer.

As Archbishop Wabukala has himself pointed out on several occasions, a primary aim of GAFCON and the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans is to restore the Bible and the gospel to the heart of the Anglican Church. Such a restoration requires the restoration of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion to a central place in the faith and life of that Church. The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, as the GAFCON Theological Resource Group points out in Being Faithful: The Shape of Historic Anglicanism Today, derive their authority from the Holy Scriptures. Their authority is the authority of the Bible. They do not bind the conscience any more than the Bible does. As J. I. Packer points out in The Thirty-Nine Articles: Their Place and Use Today, the Articles embody what historically is the Anglican understanding of the gospel. Among their main functions is to safeguard the truth of the gospel and to prevent it from being lost again.

The Anglican Church in North America in its repeated rejection of historic Anglicanism’s longstanding doctrinal and worship standard is rejecting the authority of the Bible as well as the authority of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion and the Anglican understanding of the gospel embodied in the Articles. As well as embracing the error and superstition of church tradition in place of the truth of God’s Word, it is espousing what the apostle Paul described as “a different gospel.” The ACNA’s acceptance of a traditional view of marriage and human sexuality and the doctrine of the so-called Catholic creeds do not go far enough in offsetting this serious deficiency.

The Anglican Church League is supposedly committed to defending and maintaining the protestant, reformed, and evangelical character of the Anglican Church. If it is genuine in this commitment, the ACL should not even indirectly be holding up the Anglican Church in North America as a model for FCA chapters to emulate.

While Archbishop Beach’s video greeting may be entirely innocent—a show of solidarity with the newly-organized New Zealand FCA chapter, it does raise a number of questions about the genuineness of Archbishop Beach’s motivations due to the past actions of ACNA leaders and other factors. It is admittedly the twenty-first century and video greetings are not out of the ordinary. At the same time I believe that these factors merit our attention in seeking to understand the Anglican Church in North America and the actions of its Archbishop.

Was Archbishop Beach following in the footsteps of his predecessor and seeking to keep the Anglican Church in North America in the limelight, as the focus of public attention?

Was Archbishop Beach seeking to foster the impression that the ACNA is stalwart in its support of the FCA when the ACNA is doctrinally at variance with the FCA in a number of key areas Whatever its leaders may say, its formularies, its governing documents, its ordinal, its catechism, and its rites of Admission of Catechumens, Baptism, the Holy Eucharist, and confirmation, and its position statement on the use of blessed oils, tells a different story.

Where the ACNA differs with the FCA falls into the realm of primary matters as well as into the realm of secondary ones. They involve matters on which Anglicans cannot agree to disagree. These differences are significant ones. They cannot be dismissed lightly. In its formularies the ACNA not only takes positions that put it at odds with other GAFCON member provinces and the FCA but also show a lack of tolerance toward the views of legitimate conservative schools of Anglican thought on the same issues, particular the school of thought that is closest to the English Reformers in its thinking. It makes no room for these views in its formularies. Its catechism is unreformed Catholic in its teaching in such important areas as the Holy Spirit, the order of salvation, justification, sanctification, and the sacraments. Its rites of Admission of Catechumens, Baptism, the Holy Eucharist, confirmation, and ordination and its position statement on the use of blessed oils embody unreformed Catholic doctrines and practices. While it is possible to make the various ACNA rites more unreformed Catholic, it is not similarly possible to do the reverse—to make them more protestant, reformed, and evangelical.  A Catholic Revivalist bias is also discernible in its constitution and canons. The US chapter of the FCA is little more than a puppet of the ACNA, espousing its doctrinal positions, and supporting its leaders’ agenda.

Was Archbishop Beach seeking to establish a greater leadership role for the ACNA in the GAFCON movement and the FCA? As I have pointed out in previous articles, the leaders of the Anglican Church in North America, like their liberal counterparts in the Episcopal Church, are not satisfied with playing second fiddle to the global South Primates. One of the notions circulating in the ACNA is the belief that in the ACNA three major traditions are converging—Catholicism, evangelicalism, and Pentecostalism—and that the ACNA represents the future shape of Anglicanism. ACNA leaders see the ACNA as spearheading a reform movement in the Anglican Church—“a new reformation.” Unlike the Protestant Reformation, however this new reformation is not a spiritual movement to restore the Bible and the gospel to their rightful place at the heart of the Church.

This vision of the Anglican Church is tied closely to that of Catholic Revivalists in the ACNA. They are seeking to reshape the Anglican Church on the model of the supposedly undivided Church of early High Middle Ages in the eleventh century before the East-West Schism exposed the cracks in the Church. Those pushing this vision of the Anglican Church see this period of Church history as a golden age of Christianity. They ignore the fact that the Church has experienced divisions over doctrine ad practice since New Testament times. The existence or even widespread acceptance of a doctrine or practice in an early period in Church history does not guarantee that the doctrine or practice is apostolic. Indeed claiming the apostolicity of a doctrine or practice on this basis can be a form of humanism.

ACNA leaders share with their liberal counterparts in the Episcopal Church a sense of manifest destiny. This is the sense that they are destined to lead the global Anglican community. They cannot imagine Americans not in a leadership role, shaping the future of the Anglican Church.

The problem with this viewpoint is that the US Church historically has represented a deviant tradition in the Anglican Church. Among the characteristics of this tradition are an influential High Church and after the 1830s Anglo-Catholic wing, a Prayer Book influenced by the Scottish Usager Non-Jurors, no history of clerical subscription to the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, and the loss of its conservative evangelical wing in the 1870s. While this tradition has fragmented into a number of sub-traditions, all of these sub-traditions depart from historic Anglicanism. Rather than reaffirming and returning to what the FCA believes is the doctrinal foundation of Anglicanism, the Anglican Church in North America as a jurisdiction in its formularies has become another sub-tradition of this tradition. For the former Episcopalians in the ACNA, this may represent continuity with the past but it is a past from which the ACNA needs to distance itself as it has distanced itself from the present situation in the Episcopal Church.

The Anglican Church in North America needs to rediscover or perhaps more accurately discover for the first time what it means to be an Anglican Church at its best—to be a church that is faithful to the Bible, the historic Anglican formularies, and to its protestant, reformed, and evangelical heritage; is shaped by the English Reformation and the Elizabethan Settlement, is on fire for the gospel; is fulfilling the Great Commission; is empowered by the Holy Spirit; and is living its common life in accordance with God’s Word. The ACNA needs to become the kind of church that has a lasting positive impact upon the lives and the eternities of a broad segment of the unchurched population of North America and beyond. The first step the ACNA can take in this direction is to abandon its policy of exclusion of the teaching and practices of authentic historic Anglicanism from its formularies and to provide a generous space for biblical Anglicanism’s teaching and practices in these formularies.