When does it need to be July 4, 1776 for you as a church planter?
People will separate from their denomination over changes in views on secondary issues like baptism, the way a church is governed, and the like. Normally, the old and new denomination-folk would all agree that the change in view calls for a change in ecclesiastical alignment. If you’ve become a baptist, you join a baptist denomination.
A MISSIONAL SCHISMATIC?
What would folk call someone who, on the other hand, had a significant change in conviction and calling with respect to mission, and left the denomination to go to a different church body that shared his new conviction?
Maybe you wouldn’t call him a schismatic, but you probably wouldn’t praise his integrity like you would if he changed his view on baptism and moved on.
A PROPOSAL FOR FRONTIER EXPEDITIONS
Here’s my proposal: Church planters are missional pioneers. Their church plants are a community living as a missional outpost on the missional frontier, at a significant distance from the denominational mainland.
Can a missional expedition be sponsored and chartered by a ‘mother country’? Can a church plant be a ‘colony’ of the mother denomination? Sure! When there’s alignment in vision, collaboration in strategy and tactics, and partnership in financing the expedition, it only makes sense to go under the banner of a historical, ecclesiastical body and identity. That’s my relationship to my presbytery and denomination. I’m supremely thankful for it, and hopeful for the future of our synergistic missional partnership.
But what if the church planter is called to pioneer a missional outpost, and the denomination does not confirm this call? Maybe the church planter got it wrong. But maybe the denomination did. Is this a July 4th, 1776 impasse?
What would I have done, for example, if my denomination did not confirm my calling at all? Or what will I do if, one day, my denomination radically shifts the focus of its energies and the channeling of its resources away from the missional frontier and toward the maintenance of its own legacy institutions? What if the body became coldly inhospitable to missional pioneers like myself?
WHEN JULY 4 ROLLS AROUND
Is our loyalty first and foremost to our denominations, or to the kingdom of God? I think we all know the answer to that. When our denominations are engaged in strategic kingdom partnerships with us as missional pioneers, there’s no reason to separate. But when our denominations prohibit us from pursuing the work of the kingdom to which we are called, they have lost the gospel impulse for mission, and thus betray an intolerable nonchalance with respect to the gospel itself.
Then, there may need to be a July 4, 1776.
What do you think? Is separating over secondary theological matters tolerable, while separating over missiology intolerable? What would be your July 4, 1776? Pose the question on Twitter here.