‘Settled’ Pastor v ‘Itchy’ Planter

‘Settled’ Pastor v ‘Itchy’ Planter

I have moved around a few churches in my 12 years in pastoral ministry. My first ministry saw explosive growth in the youth ministry but ended badly when I resigned my position. My next church in inner city Birmingham was an altogether happier affair and I have great memories of my time there. My time in Brazil was equally enjoyable and we saw amazing growth and the development of a brand new church in one of the poorest areas of Sao Luis, northern Brasil. Now we have been in Niddrie for 4 years, which has been the longest time I have been anywhere. I stayed in my previous places anywhere from 2-3 years and moved on when I felt the time was right. I have always had itchy feet. I read the NT and I read of Paul and his missionary journeys, establishing churches in place to place. Sometimes he stayed for a time and sometimes he didn’t.

Now, I have always felt like a bit of an anomaly. Almost like I am doing something wrong for moving on so often, or for having this burning desire to be challenged in ‘harder’ places. It is almost as if it is something I need to ‘grow out of’. I suppose it hasn’t helped over the years by several so called ‘settled pastors’ and ‘mature Christians’ who have felt it was their duty to try and ‘educate’ me into being ‘more stable’ or more ‘settled’. To ‘put down roots’ or ‘to see a job through’. I have usually kept my own counsel, pondered the advice and gone on to do my own thing! I recall being advised at every turn by well meaning people who have felt that every move I have made in ministry as being ‘too soon’ or ‘ill advised’ and yet, mercifully, God has been gracious to us and blessed us with fruitfulness wherever we have been. Don’t get me wrong. I am a man who listens to advice from Godly counsellors (whom I respect) but sometimes I have just known it was right to move on without being able to defend myself biblically or with clear scriptural guidance. Not a foolproof system granted and maybe there is a theological system out there that I am unaware of that deals with this process better than I have to date. But, sometimes, you know when you know.

Now I have felt urged to write this largely due to a new book I am reading by Ed Stetzer. It is called ‘Planting Missional Churches’ and I am reading it slowly so as to digest it better. In one of his early chapters I have come across a section on church planting models and ‘types of church planters’. I have found this section to be both enlightening and very encouraging. He talks of Apostolic Planters, Founding Pastors and the ‘Entrepeneurial Planter’ and it is the latter ‘type’ that resonated with me at a deep level. Consider this:

‘The entrepreneurial planter is usually an innovative and enthusiastic person who continually seeks a new challenge. That sometimes involves moving on to a new church plant every few years, but that’s not usually the plan at the beginning!….Sometimes he does stay but is always starting new ministries, outreaches and programmes to keep the challenge alive….This person can often be viewed as unable to stay long term.’ (p69).

He goes on to say that one of the biggest problems facing these types of individuals is ‘validation’ from ‘settled’ pastors for appearing to be erratic and unsettled. At this point, if I could have, I would have grabbed this bloke and kissed him! When I showed Miriam (my wife) this part of the book she just smiled knowingly.

Now of course, there are many weaknesses with the entrepreneurial planting approach. It can appear ‘scattergun’ and unorganised but it can also be edgy and unafraid to push boundaries. It can be messy but can make great strides. It can be error strewn but it can have a great impact. Of course, settled pastors can take the time to grow stronger, long term congregations. But they can also get comfortable and lazy and just end up in maintenance mode. I think what I find most encouraging is that, for Ed at least, there seems to be a legitimate seat at the church planting for table’ entrepreneurs’.

Many UK churches are performing poorly in areas like Niddrie. What we need more than ever is young men (and women) unafraid to push the boundaries and left unshackled by ‘models’ and ‘plans’ and ‘strategies’. Let the entrepreneur have his day and then come in and settle things down (but not too much).