For much of the past 2000 years, the main way the church grew was to plant new churches in previously non-Christian areas. For example, every California 4th grader learns that St. Junipero Serra in 1769 started the process of planting 21 missions up the California coast. Most kids are asked by their schools and parents to visit some or (in our case) all of those missions.
Two hundred years later, the issue is creating missions to currently (or nominally) Christian territories. Beginning in the 1970s, a few Christian pastors in this country took the evangelical (small “e”) command seriously, and began to launch new churches within North America. This is the process that became known as “church planting,” and a considerable amount has since been written about the process.
Evangelical Protestant Church Planting Resources
In terms of both activity and writing, most of the activity of the past 30 years has been by the Evangelical branches of Protestantism. The most active denominations seem to be Baptist, other Reformed, and non-denominational churches.
One of the first books on church planting was the Church Planting Workbook, the first of many books co-authored by Bob Logan. It was then cited by Charles Ridley, the Fuller Seminary psychology professor who in 1988 published How to Select Church Planters. Ridley provided the first research-based system of what we now call “assessment” of potential church planters, including a recommended questionnaire and interview process for assessing candidates
In the succeeding decades, dozens of books, consultancies and training seminars have been offered to help improve the success rate of church planters. As with the earliest efforts, these bring the belief that training (and to some degree the 20th century principles of Taylorist scientific management) improve the success rate of church planters as it would for any other vocation. Among the most prolific authors have been Logan and Ed Stetzer, who writes about church planting for Christianity Today.
In 2009, Stetzer published a 17-page bibliography of church planting books on Christianity Today; Google offers more than a dozen other such bibliographies. Browsing Amazon for popular books published since 2009, the most interesting was Stetzer & Im (2016), the second edition of Stetzer’s earlier Planting Missional Churches.
Books are an essential and inexpensive resource for learning concepts and principles; however, humans learn by doing, and each planting context (unlike arithmetic problems or chemistry experiments) is different. Thus novice church planters — must like novice priests and other apprentices — need to be trained, mentored and coached by those who have done it before. At the same time, there is a heavy overlap between the experts who train, mentor, coach and write books for church planters.
The head of the FiFNA task force, Fr. Chris Culpepper (who launched two church plants in Texas) benefitted from training by Jim Griffith, author of Ten Most Common Mistakes Made by Church New Starts (which I would recommend as an excellent starting point for any church planter.) Griffith has planted five of his own churches, trained Methodist and AMiA planters, and ran a planting workshop for the ACNA-affiliated Episcopal Diocese of Ft. Worth. Griffith offers a series of workshops at his Dallas HQ and other locations (largely across the Southwest).
Another name is Logan, who Stetzer describes as follows
Few realize that before his keen insights and organizational acumen, church planters did not go through assessment, boot camps, and coaching networks. Why did Bob do these things? Because he cares about church planting and church planters. … Bob Logan is the most significant church planting leader in the last 50 years and every church planter needs to be aware of his writings and his toolkit.Settler in particular recommends the Church Planter’s Toolkit as “the most widely known resource in North American church planting today.”
My former rector (now leading church planting for C4SO in Northern California) benefitted from monthly coaching by Logan. With his introduction, I was fortunate to meet the (LA-based) Logan last year, and was struck by the unusual mix of deep wisdom and utter humility that he brings to church planting.
Adapting for the Anglo-Catholic Context
Whether for church planting, liturgy, preaching or teaching, every Anglo-Catholic priest has had to adapt other Protestant resources to fit the Anglo-Catholic perspective on the Christian faith. The reasons for these changes include
- Liturgical worship (for Anglo-Catholics above all others) constrains certain choices of worship, style or infrastructure.
- Biblical. Unlike Mainline Protestants — and like many but not all Evangelical church plants — Biblical authenticity fidelity limits the cultural adaptation of the historic faith
- Catholic. Our interpretation of the Bible and the transmitted faith is shaped by the traditions of the undivided church from the first millennium.
One key difference for Anglo-Catholic (if not all Anglican) church planters is that there is a limit as to how much the medium drives the message. While any church can benefit from modern marketing techniques (have a good website, think about how newcomers comprehend your service), I believe that leaders of young Anglo-Catholic parishes must remember that such technique must be subordinate to belief.
Not evangelical church planting examples of “success” are good role models. In his 2006 book, Stetzer admitted that his initial efforts were not really about Christianity:
When I planted Calvary Christian Church at the age of twenty-one, I must confess that the church was more about me than it was missional and spiritual. When I planted Millcreek Community Church and its daughter churches, we were more attractional than incarnational and not particularly theological or ecclesiological. (Planting Missional Churches, p. 4)One can assume that there are other church planters who share this problem, but are less candid (or self-aware). For any church planter, there is the risk of focusing strictly on organizational success measures (like attendance and income).
Leveraging Anglican Church Planting Resources
Over the last few years, American Anglicans have been developing church planting resources. Anglican 1000 became Always Forward, and now each ACNA diocese is designating a canon for church planting.
The ACNA is also working with Titus Institute for Church Planting to provide consulting and training to Anglican parishes. Meanwhile, the ACNA bishop for Southern California (Bp. Keith Andrews of Diocese of Western Anglicans) has also recommended a CoE book — Mission-Shaped Church — which emphasizes the importance of domestic missionary activity.
However, there are two limitations of these materials. First, although Always Forward promises that it will “help plant gospel-centered, sacramental, missional churches throughout North America,” its view of such churches appears to be entirely Evangelical in its orientation. For example, its nine leaders all represent the Evangelical (or Charismatic) perspective within Anglicanism. For example, a recent blog post on diagnosing church health asks “How will you maintain passionate liturgical worship?”
Second, most of the church planting in the ACNA since its creation in 2006 has been re-planting disaffected Episcopalians into non-TEC pots. While this has been important for the success of the ACNA — and provided essential spiritual homes for Christians who could no longer abide the theological drift of the TEC — such replanting did not produce a net increase in the Body of Christ.
Within the ACNA, Anglo-Catholic church planting is largely confined to those Anglo-Catholic dioceses: the Diocese of Fort Worth, the Missionary Diocese of All Saints, and the dioceses of the Reformed Episcopal Church. Meanwhile, after decades of post-ECUSA maintenance mode, the Continuing Anglican churches are independently developing their own church planting approaches.
Supplementing what is missing from existing Protestant and Anglican resources has been a major goal of this task force.
To some degree, the books and manuals can be adapted by Anglo-Catholics, just as early Anglicans adapted materials by Baptists and Methodists. However, what we feel is missing is providing advice from an Anglo-Catholic perspective, in the form of mentoring and coaching.
The task force has identified potential resources for such advising, and looks forward to working with Anglo-Catholic church planters at any stage in their planting process.
Archbishop’s Council on Mission and Public Affairs. Mission-Shaped Church: Church Planting and Fresh Expressions in a Changing Context. 2nd ed., Church House Publishing, 2009.
Griffith, James. The 10 Most Common Mistakes Made by Church New Starts. Chalice Press, 2008.
Logan, Robert E. and Jeff Rast. Church Planting Workbook. Fuller Institute for Evangelism and Church Growth (1985).
Logan, Robert E. and Steven L. Ogne. Church Planter's Toolkit. Pasadena, CA: ChurchSmart Resources, 1995.
Ridley, Charles R. How to Select Church Planters: A Self-Study Manual for Recruiting, Screening, Interviewing and Evaluating Qualified Church Planters, Fuller Seminary, 1988.
Stetzer, Ed. Planting Missional Churches: Your Guide to Starting Churches that Multiply. B&H Publishing Group, 2006.
Stetzer, Ed and Daniel Im. Planting Missional Churches: Your Guide to Starting Churches that Multiply. 2nd ed., B&H Publishing Group, 2016.
See also Ed Stetzer’s (Christianity Today) 2009 bibliography of church planting books.