There’s been some comment recently in the press and on social media about church planting. It’s been in the context of the undeniable need for the church to find ways to retell the gospel afresh in our increasingly secular, post-Christian western world. The articles have however highlighted just one particular approach in the UK to such church planting.There are of course many different models for helping to grow the Kingdom of God and one way isn’t necessarily better or worse than another. What matters is that God’s kingdom grows, as both individuals and family groups come into a living experience of friendship with God for themselves.
Paul talks about his own church planting in 1 Corinthians, acknowledging that others are also needed to water the seed; however in the end ‘it is God who gives the growth’. Messy Church is a model of church planting, but not the sort that takes a small group from an already successful church and grafts them into an existing struggling congregation to create something similar to the sending church. Messy Church planting starts with an existing congregation that is already rooted in the local community. The team is drawn from within, often at great sacrificial cost to some who are already involved in the activities of the Sunday church. Messy Church creates a new congregation meeting at new time and in a new way that suits the community it serves.
Messy Church is also unashamedly intergenerational, not serving only one particular social demographic. The presence of children in this newly planted congregation helps rather than hinders because they become a catalyst for attracting new family groups of all shapes and sizes and also, more importantly, keep reminding the adults present that healthy discipleship means becoming like a child.In addition a messy model of church planting is not defined by a particular tradition or churchmanship but takes on the very character of the existing church and its locality so that it can remain faithful to its rural, urban or inner-city context. It is a congregation that is supported and prayed for by the other expression of church that already exists in that place and promotes a co-dependent partnership rather than something brand new which could so easily be seen as a potential threat. However there is no doubt that the Messy Church church planting model isn’t easy, chiefly because it seeks to remain in dialogue with what God is doing and has already been doing in a community, sometimes for generations, and that is hard work at times….but surely right? It is a church planting model that is, you won’t be surprised to hear, inherently messy! Such plants are slower to grow than other models and certainly less easy to measure. However that this messy planting is successful is evidenced by recent research into fresh expressions in the UK which has shown that Messy Church is being particularly effective in reaching people who have never been to a church before and for whom faith in God isn’t yet even something on their horizon.
In the end of course it is God who gives the increase and the fact that his Kingdom is growing is the real test and is what really matters.