Tag Archives: training

Problems with church planting: Forgetting to till the soil

In my last post I discussed the problem of market saturation when it comes to churches, particularly in the south where it is easy to find a church on almost every corner. However in the north the market saturation is less obvious because the problem is not an abundance of church businesses but a lack of market interest in religion in general and Christianity in particular.

This is not to say that market conditions cannot change. However the way in which markets change is through educating the consumer. This is wholly different than simple advertising where the goal is simple brand awareness of a product being offered to solve a known and understood problem and/or need. When companies wanted to introduce the personal computer to the average consumer who has never seen one before, they had to first undertake a campaign of education about computers in general and simultaneously seeding the potential market with a clear vision of the promise of a digital future.

The same thing needs to happen if we want to turn spiritually barren plains into fruitful fields.

Practically, this means a deliberate emphasis on apologetic training and engagement with individuals in markets that have, for a variety of reasons, selected against Christianity.

Before any new businesses can be established, we need to undertake a campaign of educating people of the product (worldview) of Christianity and what it has to offer. In fact, I would argue that such an education campaign needs to be undertaken even in saturated markets like the bible belt. We need to combat false impressions people have developed regarding what church is, what Christianity is all about, and most importantly, who God is and how we can know he exists and sent His Son to come and die for our sins to set us free.

We need to till the soil.

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Where did you go to seminary?

I am often asked where I’ve gone to seminary. Usually after speaking with someone I’ve recently met, and especially when visiting a church.

I fully understand where this question comes from. It is, unfortunately rare to find someone who is well trained Biblically, theologically, philosophically, and apologetically. So when we run across someone who has such specialized training, it is easy to assume they pursued formal education in order to obtain it.

What I want to tell people who ask (and seldom have the chance to do so fully in the span of a few seconds) is that I am nobody special and encourage them by getting them to understand that they can learn and grow just as well as I can and have1.

Stephen at “Chronological Bible Storying Journal – Rural Brazil”, in a post outlining lessons learned regarding discipleship [HT Alan Knox], observed:

Don’t be a Bible scholar. When I first arrived in Brazil, I loved to talk theology and apologetics. This was expected in many pastoral circles in America. Inadvertently, I began to create a dependency on me as the expert and not the Bible. People would not trust themselves to understand the Bible or apply it correctly. (Incidentally, this is an extreme problem in Brazil, even in evangelical churches. It creates a passive and shallow form of Christianity.) I had to change from teaching to asking questions, and guiding discovery. Huge difference.

I believe Stephen is dead-on, here. Which is why I take great joy in telling the people who ask me where I went to seminary: Nowhere, but I am Biblically trained.

If time permits, this answer leads gracefully into the obvious follow-up question of what resources I recommend to them to assist them in their walk.

We may not all have the resources or opportunity to attend seminary, but especially in the 21st century we do all have access to some excellent training material to make us all better biblical scholars.

For anyone interested, here is a list I wrote a while back where you can find some excellent training material.

  1. Not that I’ve learned all there is to learn, mind you, growth and learning is a lifelong commitment. []
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