The desire to plant churches using lay people is not new, but it is finding a renewed emphasis. This is partly because we’ve found that when we primarily go the Bible college/seminary route to find all our church planters, we don’t naturally develop bi-vocational paths to plant churches, which are also necessary for us to reach the world for Christ.
Roland Allen, a well-known Anglican missiologist in the last century, wrote some books on the issues associated with certain models of missiology. The titles give away the point of his books.
His first book was called Missionary Methods, St. Paul’s or Ours. It’s subtle, I know.
He dealt with the idea that missionaries in China, for instance, would send future missionaries off to England to attend college and seminary, then years later they would come back as pastors. By then, they were more English than they were Chinese, so they would say that they were useless for the work.
He also wrote a book called The Case for Voluntary Clergy. Again, subtle.
One more book to consider, from the title alone, is the The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church and the Causes that Hinder it, which suggested that educational attainment and missiological engagement were, at times, inversely proportional.
So, the titles make the case: We need a path to raise up church planters from outside of educational institutions.
Now, to save some time in the twitter conversation that always follows these articles:
- I don’t like using the term laity, as it reinfornces the laity/clergy divide, but I use it here to make this article clear.
- I can’t tell you what everyone considers laity compared to clergy. The case I am making here is for church planters and pastors who are not formally trained (but often receive informal training on the job).
So is formal training good, or bad?
I have four graduate theological degrees. I teach at a graduate theological institution, and I like it when people come and join our program.
So, I am not against education. Not at all. In fact, I believe there is great value in higher education. However, there is a reality that when you create high qualifications and high credentialing, what happens is that you actually get less church planting. This is key for this article.
Here’s where your polity comes in. I’m Baptist, so I come from a group with very low polity. It’s all local church. There’s no credentialing requirements outside of what is set by the local church. Others (LDMS Lutherans, for example) have high credentialing expectations. Some denominations require seminary training or an M.Div. in order to be credentialed.
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Source: Christianity Today