"Over the last ten years Acts 29 has emerged from a small band of brothers to over 500 churches around the world."
Acts 29 and its current president, Matt Chandler, have been capturing some headlines lately, and it dawned on us that some of our readers may not be that familiar with this church planting movement. We first heard about it back in 2008 and are still learning the ins and outs seven years later. Some in our readership know much more about Acts 29 than we do, so please chime in with your knowledge and experience.
When we published our series on Countryside Community Church a year and a half ago (links can be found in our previous post), we began with a history of Acts 29. Here is what we shared in that introductory post.
In case you have ever wondered (as we have) how Acts 29 came into existence, here is some interesting information.
How and when did Acts 29 begin? (link)
Acts 29 was founded in 2000 with Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle when it was about 200 in attendance and David Nicholas, a Presbyterian pastor (now retired) of a large church in Boca Raton, Florida. They formed the network to plant qualified, entrepreneurial men who held to a reformed soteriology (salvation) and were willing to engage urban cities with the gospel.
So did Acts 29 begin in 1998 (as Mark Driscoll indicated in the above quote) or in 2000? Inquiring minds want to know…
Somehow your blog queens missed the fact that Mark Driscoll co-founded Acts 29 with Dr. David Nicholas (who died on January 25, 2011). Who was Dr. Nicholas? Here is some pertinent information in the Sun Sentinel at the time of his death.
The Rev. Nicholas died of cardiac arrest at Boca Raton Community Hospital the night of Jan. 25, a day after teaching a seminar for 25 ministers. He was 79.
During his decades at Spanish River, the Rev. Nicholas oversaw the establishment of a lively, contemporary worship style that helped grow weekend attendance to 1,700. The church also launched a counseling center with seven counselors and a school with 560 students.
Under the Rev. Nicholas' supervision, Spanish River fostered 250 churches in 11 countries, plus 40 orphanages in Haiti, Chad and Malawi. After his pastorate, he founded an organization called Church Planting Network to concentrate on forming congregations.
"David's life is marked by great work," said the Rev. Tommy Kiedis, who succeeded him at Spanish River. "His passion was always spreading the message of Jesus around the world."
The Boca Raton Tribune stated the following about Dr. David Nicholas (link):
Dr. Nicholas started the church in 1967 with a small group of people meeting in an empty storefront and continued to serve there for 42 years.
Under Dr. Nicholas’ leadership, SRC planted more than 200 churches in the United States and around the world, according to the SRC website.
Dr. Nicholas also co-founded the Acts 29 Network “He was an incredible supporter of our church and mentor to me and our pastors,” said Chan Kilgore, Acts 29 board member and planter of CrossPointe Church in Orlando.
Pastor Mark Driscoll founded the Acts 29 Network with Dr. Nicholas in 2000. He was influential in starting many current Acts 29 churches, and provided much support for many church planters.
And here is an excerpt from the tribute to Dr. David Nicholas on the Acts 29 website: (link)
Nicholas was influential in starting many current Acts 29 churches, and provided much support for many of our church planters.
“As a young church planter, Dr. David Nicholas was very generous to me with both finances and wisdom,” Driscoll wrote. “I often thank God for the massive investment that he has made in my life and ministry, as well as hundreds of other church planters. Though we miss him, it will be exciting one day in eternity to see the lasting legacy of the fruit of his long and faithful ministry.
I found this comment by Robert (over on another blog) fascinating:
Just FYI: Driscoll did not found Acts 29.
It was founded by a Florida pastor, Dr. David Nicholas, who passed away last year. Dr. Nicholas’ organization helped fund some of Driscoll’s early church-planting activities, and at some point, Driscoll took over the organization from Dr. Nicholas. The history is unclear as to how Driscoll did this, whether it was a friendly or hostile takeover. We will probably never know the truth.
In case you'd like to read more about the co-founder of Acts 29, there was an interview in Christianity Today with Dr. Nicholas shortly before his death.
Mark Driscoll resigns as Acts 29 president in 2012
How fascinating that it was just a little over a year after Dr. Nicholas's death that Mark Driscoll resigned as president of Acts 29. Here is a portion of Driscoll's announcement:
Acts 29 has grown rapidly, now totaling more than 400 churches in the U.S., as well as international church planting involvement. Since then, other qualified men have taken the reins of Acts 29 and run with the vision David and I had years ago.
Recently, I sensed that not all was well in Acts 29. As my concerns grew, I recently resumed the presidency of Acts 29 to work directly with our network captains, most influential pastors, and staff. It seemed to me that some of our relationships, board size and structure, communication, systems, and such were not as effective as we needed, which is to be expected to some degree in a large, complex, fast-growing entrepreneurial network such as ours.
Seeking wise counsel, I asked Darrin Patrick and Matt Chandler to fly to Seattle in order to meet with the executive elders of Mars Hill for a full day to decide a course of action. They graciously did so, and in our time together was a rich, true brotherhood, a renewed and deepened commitment to Acts 29, and a Spirit-lead unity.
Together, we decided, in light of all the complexity we’re facing, that the best thing for Acts 29 going forward would be for Matt Chandler to assume the presidency, move the network offices to Dallas, and select his Acts 29 staff.
In light of this, I want to sincerely thank the people of Mars Hill for investing millions of dollars over the years in Acts 29 and the people of The Village for being willing to house the Acts 29 headquarters.
Matt Chandler Takes the Helm of Acts 29
As I recall, Matt Chandler and his Acts 29 colleagues were low key for quite a while after this transition. Then in August 2014, the Acts 29 leadership made this stunning announcement (see screen shot below):
We believe it is important to share this historical information because as far as we can determine, there is no mention of it on the About Acts 29 page.
The Acts 29 Agenda
The following statement by the president of Acts 29 sums up the mission of Acts 29.
As the video on the About Acts 29 page reveals, they are all about exponential growth. They believe they have a system in place that will ensure their church planting success. In that clip, Chandler focuses on the diversity found in Acts 29 on an individual basis as well as across denominational lines. At the end of the video he encourages established churches to get in the church planting game as well as individual church planters.
Acts 29 Distinctives (link)
Here are the doctrinal distinctives of Acts 29 churches:
1. We are passionate about Gospel centrality.
2. We enthusiastically embrace the sovereignty of God’s grace in saving sinners.
3. We recognize and rest upon the necessity of the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit for all of life and ministry.
4. We are deeply committed to the fundamental spiritual and moral equality of male and female and to men as responsible servant-leaders in the home and church.
5. Acts 29 embraces a missionary understanding of the local church and its role as the primary means by which God chooses to establish his kingdom on earth.
Additionally, we hold to the The Lausanne Covenant Statement of Faith.
Values of Acts 29 Churches (link)
The website also lists the four values for Acts 29. They are:
VALUE #1: CHURCH-PLANTING CHURCHES (We will be a network of church-planting churches).
VALUE #2: HOLINESS AND HUMILITY (We will be known for holiness and humility.)
VALUE #3: A DIVERSE AND GLOBAL COMMUNITY (We will be a radically diverse and global community.)
VALUE #4: PRAYING FOR CONVERSIONS THROUGH EVANGELISM (We will pray for conversions through evangelism.)
Church Planting (link)
That all sounds really great, doesn't it? On the Plant Churches page, there is a short video of Darren Patrick, which I found alarming. Patrick attempts to to instill fear and motivate viewers to look to Acts 29 as the solution to their problems. My immediate question after seeing the video was: Why wasn't he, Chandler, and the other Acts 29 'experts' able to assist their buddy Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church, which has to be one of the worse church planting failures in history!
In this section, Acts 29 reaches out to both church planters and existing churches. At the bottom of this page, applicants can apply to become involved with the Acts 29 Network. The applicant goes through an Assessment Process. Should the existing church or church planter be accepted, they must agree to abide by The Acts 29 Membership Covenant. In this covenant, the leadership is agreeing to provide:
1. Clear Direction
2. Consistent Performance
3. Demonstsrated Concern
4. Modeled Practice
The next part of the covenant is what really caught our attention. (See screen shot below).
(Additional screen shot below)
The financial component definitely bears repeating —
* We agree to allocate at least 9% of general offerings to church planting.
* We agree to invest 1% of general offerings to the Acts 29 Catalyst Fund
We're trying to understand what is meant by this part of the membership covenant…
Note: Each local church determines the allocation of monies for church planting, including denominational agreements and affiliations.
Is The Village Church, for example, giving that 9% of general offerings to the Southern Baptist Convention (for church planting) or to Acts 29 — or is it divided somehow between the two? Does anyone know?
Perhaps one of the draws for member churches is the vast amount of resources and events that Acts 29 has to offer. For those who want to give individually, Acts 29 has provided a way to give online or by check.
As we wrap up this post on church planting a la Acts 29, here is Darrin Patrick explaining what's next for church planting (also featured on The Gospel Coalition website). We are looking forward to monitoring the growth of the Acts 29 church planting movement in the years to come. When will market saturation occur?
With regard to the Christianity Today article mentioned in the previous post, we hope to discuss it next week (that is, if nothing earth shattering occurs….)