Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Thursday's Always Forward church planting panel

From Thursday-Saturday, the ACNA church planting effort Always Forward is hosting their 2016 conference near Denver. It has four tracks: church planters, potential church planters, churches that sponsor church plants, and others (such as dioceses) that help church plants. As with the earlier Anglican 1000, it promises to be a major event for those ACNA members involved in church planting.

One session will be broadcast live on Thursday morning, courtesy of C4SO, ACNA’s non-geographical evangelical diocese. According to a blog posting by Rev. David Roseberry (a church planting consultant who until recently was rector of Christ Church Plano), C4SO is conducting a weekly webinar on church planting every Thursday, and this week’s conference session will be part of that series.

The panel discussion is called “What I Wish I’d Known Before I Planted” and will feature various church planters from the conference. As with the other C4SO webinars, it starts at Thursday 8:30am PT, 9:30 MT, 10:30 CT, and 11:30 ET. (Joining the webinar may require installing Adobe software so participants should plan to join early).

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The heart of an Anglican church planter

Fr. Chris Culpepper gave his personal testimony last month of how and why church planting is doing God’s work in 21st century America. He spoke at the 28th annual assembly of Forward in Faith North America; his 42-minute talk on July 21 was recorded by Anglican TV and is now available to watch on their Facebook page.

Fr. Culpepper is the head of the FiFNA church planting task force, and the most experienced planter in the Diocese of Ft. Worth. He first quoted Proverbs 29:18: “where there is no vision, the people perish,” and then summarized his thesis: “I think church planting … is at its core bringing the Kingdom of God to a place where it does not now exist.”

“A Desk and a Phone”

He highlighted two phases of his journey towards planting churches. The first phase came in a series of jobs that he described as “a desk and a phone.” The latter story began as a young adult (as a lapsed Episcopalian) leading a UT Austin fraternity, and then a job in real estate sales. He returned to the Church at his home church — St. Andrew’s (Ft. Worth) — as youth minister for five years.

From this, he concluded “It became pretty obvious to me that church planting was where my heart really was,” attending church planting conferences and workshops before attending Nashotah House from 2002-2005.

From meeting other church planters, he drew two conclusions. His first was that “They possess one innate quality about them and it’s a certain dissatisfaction with the status quo and a desire to do something about it.”

The second is that church planters are driven by the Great Commission: “we want to see that taken to every pocket and every nook and every cranny and every territory where the kingdom of God is not — because we have a burning passion for the salvation of souls.”

“Giving Birth”
Fr. Chris Culpepper at the FiFNA Assembly
Photo from Anglican.TV

The second phase of his journey he termed “giving birth”, because it’s one thing to have a vision to plant churches, but another thing to put it on the ground.

Upon his ordination, Fr. Culpepper started as the curate at a TEC parish, until that congregation decided to stay in TEC while almost all of the Diocese of Ft. Worth left to join ACNA. He decided to leave that church and turn his attention to church planting, and was fortunate to find financial support from his bishop (and some former parishioners).

In 2008 he began to assemble a group in Ft. Worth, and by early 2009 they were meeting monthly; in the fall of 2009 Christ the Redeemer Ft Worth began meeting weekly. Fr. Culpepper credited both coaching and other resources for his successful efforts to transition from an assistant priest to head of a new church plant.

Before CTR was fully launched, a group from Waco asked Bp. Iker to plant a church there. So Fr. Culpepper made the three hour round-trip monthly (later biweekly) to meet with the Anglican faithful. As part of the effort, some trips to Waco became a family road trip with his wife and their two pre-teen children.

Today the Diocese of Ft. Worth has two healthy church plants. Christ the Redeemer has an average Sunday attendance of 120 and a budget of half a million dollars. In Waco, he grew the mission to 75 people meeting biweekly; in 2014, Christ Church Waco called Fr. Lee Nelson to be their first full-time vicar, and they began weekly Sunday worship in the Fall of 2015.

As Fr. Culpepper said, “this is what God has managed to accomplish by his grace. … when we continue to make people the priority, through prayer God makes the provision possible.”

Planting for the 21st Century

He called church planters and other clergy and laity to recognize the new reality of reaching the unchurched. Even in Texas, “long gone [are the times] that we can paint our doors red and hope people will fall into them.” He noted that none of the youth that he ministered at St. Andrews were attending Christ the Redeemer (7 miles away).

Nor can Anglo-Catholics assume that faithful Christians from other congregations will “find their way to Canterbury Trail.” Instead, it’s up to the Anglican churches to fight to be noticed by those who need to learn about the historic catholic faith. And when they get noticed, to have a message about the substance of that faith that will win in the marketplace of churches.”

At the same time, limited resources can help with spiritual formation. Even the most Anglo-Catholic of church plants has to gradually phase in key liturgical elements (such as acolyte robes) as funds permit. At the same time, the introduction of new elements provides an opportunity for teaching the congregation. ”It’s like picking up these incredible things that had been hidden in the dirt, and dusting them off and making them new again. People have this incredible fresh perspective on things that happen when you plant churches,” he said.

Going Forward

The goal of the FiFNA task force is to augment the resources that are out there. Anglo-Catholic church planters can’t afford to re-invent the wheel, but instead must learn from what has been done before. That notably includes the ACNA’s Always Forward, and its own efforts to compile and disseminate best practice.

He noted that his own efforts were supported by a non-denominational church planting coach who had planted five churches of his own, and coached more than 100 others. While “every church has its context, [there] are abiding principles that are the same.”