Lots of buzz around Ed Young Jr's Church Pirates video...
So many issues here...
I get what Ed is saying. I'm in no way in favor of people being divisive, leading a group of people away from a church community against the wishes of the rest of the community and/or the elders.
But that being said, there are a number of things about this that really bother me.
Mostly that Ed's philosophy here, in addition to being somewhat incoherent at the end, is so far from what is needed and actually works that I really question his contention that he's in favor of church planting. Seems like Ed has fallen into the mentality of most large church guys- "We love church planting... over THERE." Where is "over there"?
Anywhere but within driving distance of my church.
Specifically, some things in this are just (to quote Ed) "totally whack."
1. Church plants need to happen far from the place where the planter began in ministry.
Really? What we're asking for is that church planters learn how to do ministry, put down roots, get to know people in a certain area and then... leave? Go someplace where they know few or no people, are out of touch with the local culture and events and then have to learn all that from the ground up?
Please. The best place to plant a church is where you are at, where you know people and people know you.
I recognize that certain people are called to plant churches in totally new frontiers and reach unreached people. Absolutely.
But if the choice is between me planting a church in my home town or being forced by the insecurity of other leaders to plant a church a couple of hours away in unfamiliar territory, let me do it where I know the lay of the land and can get through the learning curve to effectiveness much, much quicker.
That may be more personally threatening to established leaders, but it feels a lot more like kingdom thinking to me.
2. The people belong to the pastor. Anything else is sheep stealing.
Yeah... I'm as protective as the next guy or gal of evergreen people. I don't want anyone hurting them, messing with them, leading them into either wrong teaching or wrong action... but- I hold them with an open hand. They belong to Jesus, not me. They are adults and can make real, reasonable choices in terms of where they are going to be best used in the Mission Dei. I may look big picture for both them and the community as a whole and then work behind the scenes to encourage someone to either stay or go, but that's because I believe it's what's best in that particular case.
But when it comes down to it- evergreen people are a gift to the community- we're stewards of each other. And if they genuinely connect with a leader different than me, well... that's good, actually. More on that in a minute.
3. You know church pirates who took 20 years to "make their moves."
You've got to be kidding me.
So let me get this straight- these guys found some big healthy church, got on staff, and stealthily waited 20 years before hatching their nefarious scheme. The Manchurian Pastor, as it were.
Could it be that these guys found themselves needing to strike out and start something new... but weren't given permission? Could what you call piracy have been a mixture of frustration caused by a number of different things in the original church, failure in the leadership to see apostolic gifting and impulses in emerging leaders, and failure of those emerging leaders to handle their frustration in a non-divisive manner?
Look, as I said- I get what Ed is saying. There are divisive and non divisive ways of doing this. But my contention is that the best way to avoid the divisive version of church planting is to build it into the DNA of your community and to give permission.
One of my pitches to people I want to come and plant churches out of evergreen is this: Come, work your way into leadership in our community, start pastoring people, build a community out of "my" community, and when you, they and us (the elders) feel like it's the right time, we'll bless you and send you off.
Sounds just like Ed's description of Church Pirates, but with a couple of crucial differences...
In our model, we're not only expecting this to happen, but inviting it. And by inviting it, every thing becomes above board. No one feels the need to go underground and "sheep steal" when the elders of a community are in fact encouraging them to be people's pastor, to love them, shepherd them and when the time is right, launch out with them.
I think Ed is speaking from a place of pain. I wish the solution was a simple as he thinks, that is, coming up with a catchy phrase like "church pirates" and talking about it on the internet.
The real solution is for established leaders to change the way they view emerging leaders and to quit doing leadership in such a way that young men and women feel like they have to wrestle the baton out of the hands of a previous generation just to do what they feel like God is calling them to do.
A better solution to the problem that Ed is flailing at here is a permission giving ethos that gives mentoring, a place to grow in leadership and skills and can then ask for (and get) patience out of emerging leaders that might not be as ready as they think.
In my mind, that's a win on all sides.