"At Grace Church, there are three things and ONLY three things that I do: I meet with the staff/apprentices, I preach about 70% of the time, and I lead a small group in my home."
Church planting . . . it's definitely in vogue in 21st century Christendom. Ed Stetzer, who has worked full-time at LifeWay since 2007 (and continues to do so), is trying his hand at planting another church. You may recall that a previous attempt failed. Now he's at it again – this time in Hendersonville, Tennessee. The church website gives all the right reasons for planting a church – in the Bible Belt no less (see below).
Why a New Church in Hendersonville?
Whereas many churches in the area are effectively engaging in the Great Commission, statistics are still concerning.
Less than 20% of the county’s population attends a Christian church on any given weekend. (American Church Research Project)
The percentage of population growth far exceeds the growth of church attendance.
There are more than 40,000 people in a three mile range of Grace Church’s plant site. This number is projected to be 42,000 people by 2014.
There are over 56,000 people in a four mile range of Grace Church’s plant site. This number is projected to be 59,000 people by 2014.
Hendersonville’s population is nearly 61,000 people. 48,000 people in Hendersonville do not attend church on a given weekend.
There is a great need in Hendersonville for a new church to reach the 48,000 unchurched people in our community.
That's all fine and good, but Stetzer has stipulated what he will and will not do in a series of articles recently published by Christianity Today. Here are "Four Fence Posts" that Stetzer believes will lead to a healthy ministry:
- Recognize your role in the church
- Pursue personal health
- Guard your flock even from other Christians
- Know your boundaries
Stetzer goes on to explain his approach to ministry this way:
"When you establish these four fence posts – recognizing your role in the church, pursuing personal health, guarding your flock, and knowing what you can and cannot do – you will enable and encourage growth in yourself and your church. Without these four, you will more than likely experience ministry burn out and hinder the development of those under your care and the church as a whole."
He then describes more specifically what he will and will not do:
"At Grace Church, there are three things and ONLY three things that I do: I meet with the staff/apprentices, I preach about 70% of the time, and I lead a small group in my home.
One of the benefits this boundary has brought to our church is that we are very clearly not a pastor-centered church. I'm very upfront with my role to my church. I explain I can't do funerals, visits, phone calls, or meetings. This leaves the door wide open for our congregation to see areas of leadership where they are needed, and to respond accordingly."
Reaching the lost is a highly commendable goal, but one has to wonder whether those who attend Grace Church will be accepting of these limited pastoral roles. And will they be empathetic when Stetzer explains that he cannot do a family funeral or make a hospital visit? Perhaps he has limited his responsibilities because of another trend – bi-vocational pastors. Since Stetzer works full-time for LifeWay, maybe his salary from the church plant is considerably less than it would be if he were a full-time pastor.
It will be interesting to observe whether this becomes a trend, especially in the Southern Baptist Convention. What are your thoughts?
Lydia's Corner: 2 Chronicles 19:1-20:37 Romans 10:14-11:12 Psalm 21:1-13 Proverbs 20:4-6