Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Springfield Bible Fellowship

Last night Steve and I were visited by a pastor and his wife who are starting a church plant in town. When we were checking out the area back in May, we ran across their website and were intrigued. We called for information a few weeks ago, and they were excited about our interest and offered to meet with us, so they came over to our apartment last night.

We had a great time--they were very sweet people and I appreciated all that he had to say about his philosophy of ministry and his ideas for a new church. One of the main things that's driving this vision to plant a new church is this couple's belief that 1) your choices for a church in Springfield are either Baptist, or Baptist...or Baptist (not that Baptists are bad--Steve and I have enjoyed a couple of Baptist churches we've visited--but they think non-denominational can be a great thing and there isn't really much of that around here); and 2) there aren't really any churches in the area that feature expositional preaching.

This church plant aims to be centered on in-depth Bible teaching. They'll study a book systematically, feeding the Body meat, not just milk. Rather than preaching on two verses from Nehemiah this week, and then a topical sermon next week jumping from Judges to Romans to 1 John, they'll examine Scripture in its context. They'll seek to apply what the Bible says, instead of coming up with a topic and finding "proof texts" to support your own point. Ever since I heard Mark Dever's teaching on this (check out his organization's website, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church), it's been something I believe in as well--but I've never been a part of a church that teaches this way.

Then, I love his thoughts about worship. Don't get me on my soapbox again; if you've been reading this blog for a while, you know my thoughts on modern worship. (If you don't, you can read them here.) Anyway, I think you lose a lot when you gravitate to either extreme--when you throw out the rich hymns with theology and substance because they're "old and stuffy," or when you refuse to adopt new praise choruses because "we've just never done it that way." This pastor recognizes that and wants to use a variety of music. (One of the great things about a church plant is that you don't have to deal with "but this is the way we've always done it here"!)

Anyway, all that to say I'm excited about what we learned. The idea is still in the very early stages; the pastor was careful to warn us that they're only just beginning and that he is by no means an expert in church planting. The first big step will be a Bible study that's starting in two weeks. Steve and I are still praying about where God would have us plug in and serve, whether in an established church or in this new plant. We'd appreciate your prayers as well. If you've never experienced it, the process of finding a church home can be discouraging and frustrating at times.

Meanwhile, I'm curious--do any of you have firsthand experience with church plants? What are your thoughts? What have you learned?


Kayla said...

My sister Angie has been a part of planting a new brnad new church in Swanton. I think they have been around about 5 years now. She would have a lot to tell you about the goods, bads, and what might work better than other things. If you send me your e-mail address, I can send you hers. This is my e-mail: gulickk@nationwide.com
Good luck. I'll be praying for you.

Natalie said...

The church I attend is a church plant and my experience has been fabulous. It's great because you get to be a key or foundational piece to the beginning of a ministry and what God's doing in a community. There are obviously some difficult aspects--such as few people to do lots of work or a very small congregation to start with or things not done as well as you're used to them being done in a larger or more established church. But, those are small trade-offs to get to actually be a big part of what God's doing. To play a key role. To get to be like family with those you work alongside. To see how God grows you and those beside you as He grows the church. To see how excellence and perfection aren't necessarily the same thing. To be close up to so many lives changing and drawing closer to Jesus and realizing that YOU were somehow chosen to be a part of it all. Yes, all of those things can happen in a more established church (and I've had great, phenomenol times at those as well), but in my experience, it just seems to be richer and more poignant when you know that YOU're part of the foundation of a place...that you get to tangibly help build something from nothing.
I'll definitely be praying for you and Steve--church-hunting does take a while...but God will lead you to where you both belong (where you'll grow the most and be able to be used the most effectively).