Is this Mission Impossible?

“It’s too hard, I can’t do it!”

“But you haven’t even tried!”

“That’s because it’s impossible!”

Ever had that kind of conversation? The person you are speaking with absolutely refuses to even try to do something because it seems too difficult. While they are usually frustrating, those conversations can become amusing when the person begins to assert that something other people have done or are doing is impossible. I remember being told by one of my sons that peddling a bike simply cannot be done, while his sister was peddling her own bike in circles around him.

I remember hearing a presentation quite some time ago from an expert in church planting who insisted that if you are going to plant a new church, it simply has to be what is called seeker-sensitive and resemble the surrounding culture more than anything else. He maintained that you can’t start successful old-school, conservative, Presbyterian churches in our society it is impossible because people will not accept all the change and counter-cultural baggage that happens in such a church. In fact one big name in the PCA has essentially written a highly influential essay saying the same thing. In a consumer culture, we are told, people will insist on having only that which they are comfortable with. Well guys, I’ve been involved in two “impossible” Old-School church plants, one in Pennsylvania and one in North Carolina and both of them still exist after many years and continue to grow and thrive by God’s grace so apparently the impossible is possible after all.

It’s not impossible to ride bikes or plant old school Presbyterian churches, it just seems too difficult to even start, and therefore we upgrade our assessment to the level of impossibility and reconcile ourselves to not doing it. When you do that though, the problem isn’t the task, the problem is you.

Planting Old School churches is a little like the conquest of Canaan, the task seems impossible, the alien and hostile culture insurmountable, and compromise the only solution. We should be willing to admit that if we advance in our own power we will indeed fail, but if we proceed in the name of the Lord, clinging to His promises, and obeying His commands He will bless our endeavors. He is not fickle, He doesn’t change, if He has called us to “Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it” and promised blessing to those who will do so, those promises are still good. The problem is not with the promises or power behind them, the problem is that like the Israelites over time we have become pragmatists and have ceased to believe that such things are possible.

“In spite of our professions, we are in fact barely supernaturalists. Again and again our Lord has to remind us that God is not the prisoner of human odds, that his promises are at least as real as the iron plating on Canaanite Chariots, but that we will see little of His power until we venture out into the way of obedience, until we trust his promise enough to walk in it.” – Dale Ralph Davis.

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About Andrew Webb

I was converted out of paganism and the occult in 1993 and while I was initially Charismatic/Arminian in my theology, I became Reformed and Presbyterian through bible study and the influence of ministries like RC Sproul's. After teaching in local bible studies, and taking seminary courses part time, I began to feel called to the ministry in 1997. I was Ordained as an RE at Christ Covenant PCA in Hatboro, PA in 2000 and as a TE by Central Carolina Presbytery in 2001 when I was called to be the Organizing Pastor/Church Planter for Providence PCA Mission, Cross Creek PCA's church plant in Fayetteville, NC (home to Ft. Bragg and Pope Airforce Base). In 2005 when the Providence PCA Particularized I was blessed to be called by the congregation to be their Pastor
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3 Responses to Is this Mission Impossible?

  1. Mark Koller says:

    What a great encouragement this website is! I too have heard the impossibilities of planting “old School” churches in our culture. We decided to do it anyway since I have other income outside of the church. It has been a difficult road for us, but we have a handful of families upon which to build if God desires for us to grow.

    One question, who is the pastor who wrote the essay you mentioned in the article above?

    Thank you for beginning this blog. There is a great void of material out there to help those who plant churches of this nature.

    Mark Koller, Providence Church of Conway, AR

  2. Andrew Webb says:

    Hi Mark,

    Glad you are enjoying the website.

    Regarding your question, to tell the truth, I don’t want to pick any fights with particular pastors on the blog at the moment, I’m more interested in critiquing and offering an alternative to the prevailing philosophy of Reformed church planting.

    So, as far as the Pastor in question is concerned lets just say he’s a big name, and he gets invited to plenty of conferences and writes resources on modern church planting. Someday when we are established enough to get polemical, I’ll interact directly with his paper.

  3. Rev. Webb,

    Can you point me to good resources on church planting?

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