The concept of church planting is woven into the fabric of our existence. Church planting isn’t new or creative, but simply a matter of fact. The Apostles, for example, traveled far and wide planting churches. Churches are to be planted to facilitate Word and Sacrament ministries via pastors who have received a rightly ordered call. Although the concept is simple and grounded in scripture, as sinners, we consistently find ways to pervert a perfectly good thing. One of the ways that church planting is being corrupted is that congregations or districts are planting new churches in close proximity to existing congregations. However, the “where” isn’t the only concern. A closer examination reveals that in many cases, Church Growth Movement (CGM) oriented and Contemporary Worship focused plants are being established next to congregations that hold steadfast to the historic LCMS doctrine and practice.
Let’s look at the Mid-South District for example. Rhythm City Church is a district supported and locally sponsored Contemporary Worship/Praise Band plant in Tennessee. The church was planted at the 3rd & Lindsley Bar and Grill located in downtown Nashville. The parent congregation is Our Savior Lutheran located over six miles away. However, it’s worth noting that Concordia Lutheran, established in 1930, is less than two miles away from this new downtown plant.
There is yet another manifestation of church plant that’s springing up throughout the synod. “Satellite Worship Sites” are now being utilized by districts and congregations as a means of outreach. Satellite Worship Sites (SWS) are essentially “storefront parishes” often launched by larger congregations. Here are a few examples. “The Point at the Fort” is a SWS of “The Point” church in Knoxville, TN. As in the previous example, “The Point” is a fair distance away from the mother church (over 6 ½ miles). Yet, “The Point” was planted about 1½ miles from First Lutheran Church that was established in 1869. We can hop out of my district and look at Colorado for another example. “Redeemer Greeley” is a SWS plant of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Fort Collins (13 ½ miles away). However, that area of Greeley is already being faithfully served by the shepherd of Gloria Christi Lutheran Church which was established in 1963.
Let’s mosey on down to Texas. Rev. Bill Woolsey’s “Crosspoint Community Church” has planted a Satellite Worship Site called “EightTen” in Houston, TX. This SWS plant is twelve miles from Woolsey’s “mother church” but just 1½ blocks down the street from St. Andrew Lutheran Church that was established in 1954. Again, the name of the game for “EightTen” is the self-help oriented Church Growth Movement formula being used by the FiveTwo network.
Unfortunately, far too many examples of this troubling practice exist. What would prompt a pastor and congregation to blatantly plant a church or Satellite Worship Site in close proximity to an established parish? The message being sent is certainly clear. The CGM/Contemporary Worship crowd apparently believes that they are filling a missional void created by “old and outdated” doctrine and practices. Frankly, the CGM crowd believes that the congregations that use the historic liturgy and teach in accordance with the Lutheran Confessions are destined for failure. Therefore, they justify their atrocious actions under the missional umbrella that’s currently “all the rage” in the synod. In effect, for many, the Great Commission has been supplanted by the Grand Seeker-Sensitive Mission in which the means found in Matthew 28: 16-20 are marginalized in favor of whatever tactics one desires to employ.
So, what’s the big deal? The big deal is that the LCMS leadership, specifically District Presidents, are again derelict in their duties. Mission focused outreach should be grounded in Word and Sacrament ministry. However, it appears that the majority of new church plants are of the Contemporary Worship/CGM variety. Additionally, the focus should be on areas with no LCMS presence, but instead, some are employing institutionalized cherry-picking of our own pastors and congregations under the pretense of mission. Such planting efforts destroy unity in Doctrine and Practice.