LOS ANGELES, CA – A New Book Exposes Church Planting Underbelly and Challenges Readers To Reimagine Church. At the turn of the year, one pastor believes it’s time to change the way we start new churches. The book is Deconstructing Church Planting, by Nick Warnes. Warnes is the executive director of Cyclical INC, a nonprofit that helps Christian leaders start new initiatives, including churches.
Churches around the world are struggling to stay open after waves of COVID-19 have left their pews and budgets empty. In North America, there is a layered history of planting and growing many churches en masse. But according to Warnes, people who start new churches should think twice before reaching for conventional protocols.
“Starting churches in the West has devolved into a colonizing equation, reinforcing industrial paradigms,” says Warnes, a church starter himself. He is concerned that the way churches were planted in the late twentieth centuries have led to the dire situation churches are in now: churches are unable to adapt and flex to changing contexts.
As neighborhoods and communities have grown more diverse, many mainline churches have not, leaving a cultural gap. Though he takes this disconnect very seriously, Warnes is not pessimistic.
“I want to critique the broader system of church starting in North America in order to point to a more hopeful future,” says Warnes, a resident of Los Angeles, California.
Warnes is not the only one bothered by the current status quo. “We’ve long had an inkling that colonial and industrial-age church planting philosophies don’t work in our current century,” says Rev. Katie Nakamura Rengers, the staff officer for church planting in the Episcopal Church. “Nick deconstructs the adventure of starting new faith communities in a way that invites us to ask what’s truly at the heart of a community of people who chooses to follow Jesus together.”
Since starting his own church in Atwater Village in 2009, Warnes founded Cyclical INC and now serves 1,200 “faithful innovators” around the world who are starting churches and other ministries. “Faithful innovators are Christian leaders who believe that God’s love for the world is inspiring faithful innovation through the church. They are creating the future of the church today,” says Warnes.
In his book, Warnes deconstructs the current way churches are started, which he claims borrows more from Henry Ford and the assembly line than Jesus. Next, the book lays out a new framework for starting churches based on the biological life cycle. Finally, the book concludes with several chapters from church starters who share their experience of starting a church.
“Warnes calls for a new season of ecclesiastical experimentation that turns away from the mechanistic and modernist approach of church planting in decades past, and recovers the necessary missional emphasis on divine agency at work in the church and world,” says Dr. Ross Lockhart, Dean of St. Andrew’s Hall in Vancouver. Lockhart is the founding director of the Centre for Missional Leadership.
In the end, the book hopes to encourage new leaders to step up and start new kinds of churches.
“This is a book for anyone who has experienced the call to plant a church but hesitated because they felt like they didn’t fit the mold,” says Jen de Combe, the associate secretary for Canadian Ministries in the Presbyterian Church in Canada.
As churches head into a new year, many of them will face the prospect of closing. Warnes challenges us to rethink this as an opportunity to bravely innovate: “When churches reach the end of their lifecycle, who will start the new churches, and what kinds of churches will they start?”
Download the first chapter of Deconstructing Church Planting for free at cyclicalpublishing.com/deconstructing-church-planting. To learn more about Cyclical INC, visit cyclicalinc.com.
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