Session: Elders & the Local Church
One of the sessions Steve Timmis led at the Total Church conference centered around the challenge to plant missional churches and develop leaders fast enough to plant additional churches. The Crowded House, Timmis' said, like many churches is leader hungry. One of the Achilles heels of house church movement is the need for a higher leader ratio. In fact, this same inability to find good leaders is a common rationale behind video venues or large churches. In this, Timmis quoted Darrin Patrick (who is defending video venue strategy) who struggled finding people to plant churches (in the 250 people range) in his city:
One reason it didn’t work was that we couldn’t find enough planters with a heart for our area who could plant a self-governing, self-supporting self-reproducing church….I believe that there are few guys with the calling and requisite skill set to plant a reproducing incarnational/attractional church. This is evidenced by the 70% failure rate in church plants. I saw this in our own context as we simply couldn’t find the guys with the calling and skill- set to give people to. Now, this has not stopped us from planting locally as we just sent out an elder and people to plant about 45 minutes out in the burbs. We have another intern who hopefully will plant in the next two years. My point is that if your church is experiencing growth like ours, you cannot plant fast enough, chiefly because of the lack of called, qualified, church planters.
Read full post: Darrin Responds at Bob Hyatt
Timmis, upon reflection asked is the problem we face the leaders or the types of churches we are planting? When he examined Paul's missionary journey, Paul traveled through cities where people converted. Paul returned in under two years and more likely after a couple months to appoint elders. Timmis surmised that the problem then cannot be our leaders but the types of churches we are planting and the leader requirement necessary to run them.
Is is because of our Western idea of church that we seek leaders who can create reproducible, incarnational/attractional churches that grow to 250+ in order to split and start over again? Where do we read these requirement of elders in Timothy & Titus, asked Timmis. These are two conclusions Timmis came to:
1. We need to re-think leadership in the local church. Much of our leadership shortage stems from wrong assumptions. Churches can appoint elders, who fulfill all that is required in Timothy & Titus. This means we select elders by the grace evidenced in their life, not by the attractional qualities they hold. How many of these guys are in your church right now?
2. Church Planters have a unique set of gifting that are best served planting churches. (Timmis called church planters 'apostles') Since there are fewer of these 'initiators/gatherers' they ought to do more missional church planting (often done in a team setting where people travel with them) to plant churches. The skills these 'apostolic leaders' possess include: Visionary, Creative, Adaptable, Productive, Impatient – always wanting to move things forward, self-starters and a bit of a maverick. These skills serve the planter well to create new works, but often these skills make them poor leaders of established churches.
Throughout the conversation, Timmis stressed that he was 'thinking out loud' and hadn't firmed up on these conclusions. But I post this because these ideas are something we all will need to think through as we seek to change cities by the power of the gospel.