10 Marks of Effective Church Plants (1)

10 Marks of Effective Church Plants (1)


According to Ed Stetzer in ‘Planting Missional Churches‘, people in our postmodern culture are open to all sorts of ‘spirituality’. We certainly see this in Niddrie, particularly in our community cafe. People talk about all sorts of things: horoscopes, Ouija boards, tarot cards, spiritists, mediums (still trying to work out the difference between the last two), witches, magic, aliens, mysticism etc.

It can often seem that everybody is open about their ‘spiritual lives’ apart from many believers who seem to shrink from openly espousing their beliefs. Yet, this mishmash of ‘pop culture spirituality’ can give us a real connection point for engaging people in conversation about the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

‘Postmoderns want a spirituality that is applicable to all areas of life, not one that only lasts for an hour on Sunday morning but one they can rely on all week. They eschew a spirituality that doesn’t “work” – bring peace, improve relationships and quality of life’. (p136)

That’s a hard one isn’t it because we have largely reduced the faith to an intellectual series of studies rather than a relationship to live by. What do I mean by that? Christianity Explored or Alpha are great resources for middle class, educated people but they just do not work in our setting. They are too long and too wordy and too structured. About the best thing we have found recently is the ‘SOUL’ DVD produced by Christianity Explored. It is aimed at the teen market but has proved popular amongst some adults in the community. The key for us has been having a little study but then we find the real work gets done in giving a lift home, or to the supermarket or post office or outside the cafe having a quick fag and a 10 minute conversation. It takes more than an ‘event’ – it requires actually engaging with people and getting involved in the mess of their lives. How much of our Christianity in the UK is about that? How many full-time community workers are churches employing? How many people in our churches even have the time to pursue active relationships with people outside of our busy lives and schedules?

People are spiritually hungry and their ears do prick up when they see that the Bible has got some really good things to speak into their lives. But, for us at least, what is most effective is a very steady ‘everyday conversation’ type approach. Is that our avowed ‘strategy’ for reaching Niddrie? Not really. The problem with the ‘postmodern’ is that there doesn’t seem to be a ‘catch all’. Some people like doing DVD studies, some like a buttie and a chat, some will be interested in a topic one day and tell you to get lost the next. The key is being here and being open and intuitive and responsive when the opportunities come.

Now Stetzer goes on to say that ‘people are on a spiritual search and not an intellectual quest…and they are willing to go on that search with us if we are genuine and living a holistic faith’. Nah, mate. That’s a bit hopeful. People are on the run from the living God and once the conversation gets past the nebulous ‘spiritual stuff’ and on to some concrete ‘facts’ (sin fall, wrath, Christ, salvation etc) people start getting jumpy and they want to get off the train! They tend to go so far on the ‘journey’ and then the sinfulness of their hearts kicks in. So, we persevere, striding against the tide, seeking to be ‘counter spiritual’ and we hold out the hope of Christ and the wonder of the gospel and we pray that God by His Holy Spirit would break through the fog and lift the veil. In Niddrie I think we are unashamedly spiritual but I am not sure if it is in the way that is necessarily acceptable to those around us. They think we are odd, they are intrigued by us, they are repelled by us, they are offended by us, they love us, they hate us but at least they know we are here and they know the name of the one we follow.