A Conversation with North America's Church Planting Director
A Conversation with ACNA’s Church Planting Canon, Dan Alger
Why should we plant churches?
The most significant reason for a diocese to plant and keep planting churches is that a church plant is the best way to reach the unchurched. Here are the statistics. In church plants, 80% of growth happens through the unchurched. After a church reaches ten years old, eighty percent of their growth is through transfer from other churches. This has been proven again and again. If we want to reach the lost, we can’t hunker down in our own comfort. We have to sacrifice and risk and put our resources on the line in order to plant and reach those who need it most.
What is the secret of what makes a great church planter?
The problem with much of the modern church planting movement is that it focuses on big personalities and charisma and not on a missional heart which... on making disciples. The gift of the GAFCON movement is that we are focused on holiness. So often you see leaders who have risen to the heights of church structures and have started with pragmatism and pride rather than holiness and humility. The fall from the heights of ego can be devastating. Holiness is our hallmark and that which grounds us in Christ.
The most important thing we need to remember is that church planting is all about relationship. A shepherd’s heart is always more important than being an entrepreneur. And when we plant our churches, because as Anglicans we are sacramental, we plant liturgical churches where the focus is on a heart of worship, honoring God instead of focusing on getting needs met as can be the case in other church planting movements.
There are a lot of sexy church plants in the ACNA including a large, beautiful church in Austin, Texas full of unchurched hipsters complete with all the smells and bells. I love what they’re doing. But honestly? My favorite church planters are the unsung heroes who share Christ with one and one and one and disciple a whole church of 100 people.
What is the largest challenge people face while church planting in the US?
“The major challenge of church planting in the U.S. is that there’s a loss of community surrounding many of our locations. In the suburbs there’s no strong central geographical identity. People drive into the city. Neighbors don’t know each other. This means that people have a strong skepticism of those around them. When this is the case, you may have the privilege of sharing Christ with one person but there’s no community that comes along with them. Remember how when the jailor was saved, he brought along with him a whole family? In disconnected communities, there is no larger group with which to grow the church.
The community used to be anchored by the church. The goal of today’s church should be to become the heart of community once again.
But truly our most substantial challenge for church planting in the ACNA is that we desperately need more church planters. There is no clear pipeline as yet. There are many locations that are asking for an Anglican church and we have no planter to send to them.
In the Anglican movement, we can hide behind a focus on morality instead of mission. Our Gafcon motto is “Proclaiming Christ faithfully to the Nations” but we have to remember, the call is not just to be faithful, it is to proclaim Christ in mission. Yes, we as Gafcon need to clarify the gospel, but we are motivated and set free by the work of mission.