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Puritan Porn & Church Planting Fever, part 1

Puritan Porn & Church Planting Fever, Part 1

by Pastor Scott Thomas, Acts 29 Director

 

I received the following email yesterday and felt as though I needed to address this issue globally as we receive a fair number of inquiries from young men with "church planting fever." Unfortunately, the prognosis for this disease, if left unchecked, is a catastrophic ministry experience. The only cure is the gospel. It is administered only to the humble.

 

Please note: I changed the names and locations and dates of the email to protect the author's identity.

 

Scott,

I am under 22 years old; been in ministry for 3 years; Jesus, Piper, Driscoll, and Chandler are my heroes; I'm now at a seminary with about 3 years left on my degree and I've become accustomed to (and enjoy) studying 6-8 hours a day; I feel God has possibly been leading me in the direction of church planting for 2 years now since I started podcasting all of Mark's stuff, and that desire has grown exponentially lately.

This all said, I don't intend to purposefully stay unmarried for my life, but I do not know God's will for whether or not I marry. I probably will end up getting married.

1) The thought of the amount of time sacrificed to have a strong, healthy marriage scares me. When I think of sex, I think of the amount of hours I will lose per week that I could have used to read some John Owen. But I also love kids, would love to have a family, and know the benefits of being married as far as ministry is concerned - Paul's words of marrying just haunt me, because I've heard Mark's schedule, and so much of it is family time - but perhaps he needs that to revitalize him after working such a long week?

2) I have the deepest and utmost respect for the marriage covenant and want to be sure that I, nor she, *ever* seriously considers divorce. I probably would not propose to a girl before having a relationship with her for at least 1.5-2 years.  That being the case, I graduate in less than 3 years with my seminary degree, so I probably will not be married when I graduate.  If I feel God still leading me to Acts 29, then I would like to plant right after graduation, when I will most likely still be single. If I'm going to marry, I would *much* prefer to do it before pastoring in any capacity, but I can't really control that.
 


I sent him the following email:

 

Dear Church Planter,


Here are my random thoughts to your reply. I was stricken in my spirit with your response. I humbly offer these ten suggestions in an attempt to help you understand the will of the Lord.

 

  1. I believe men should be able to integrate the expression of the gospel with life. Your marriage, wife (and hours of sex) DO NOT compete with your ministry. The gospel is lived out through these relationships and not apart from it. A marriage (and marriage bed) is a biblical proclamation of the gospel, specifically the love of the bridegroom/Jesus with the bride/Church. Jesus said that unbelievers would be able to recognize that we are Christians by our love, sacrifice and unity with one another. The marriage and the home is the perfect example. A man's family is not a diversion from the pressures of ministry, as you suggest, but rather, a part of his holistic life ministry, his first flock and the primary credible witness of his character. 

Look for Scott’s suggestions #2-5 tomorrow and #6-10 on Thursday. 

Parts 2 and 3 found: here and here.

 

Full Letter found here in pdf

3 Comments

Zoli Cs.Nagy

on Jan 21, 2009 :: 7:17 am

Hi
I am 20 and also seriously considering planting in urban Budapest, but I am still in college, (not in a seminary). And reading this letter I would post the following advice:
Like they say in Acts 29. Your family (meaning your wife and kids are your first church)
And I have to pray and plan for a godly wife as well as for a succeful church-plant/core.
But in doing all this I have to realize that my personal relationship with Jesus is the very first variable that’s gonna make my family and eventually my churchplant be Spirit filled.
Being an engineering student I am planning things ahead a lot but in the end I just have to let God work out things that only he can.
Hope that helps anyone who struggles with being ”the 20 year old white guy” :-)

Sean Rice

on Jan 22, 2009 :: 5:38 am

Hey,

I don't know if the guy who wrote that letter is reading this, but if he is, I'd like to try to throw some advice his way (and hopefully this helps anyone else who shares the problem that he and I both have):

Some of us really love information. We love applying our minds and learning and planning... everything. Although this sounds like a good set of traits (the portrait of an eager young student waiting to be discipled), it comes with a set of problems that are not strictly limited to pride--although pride could still be a factor, I'm thinking and doing some soul searching on that one.

There's really an addiction to learning and thinking that develops, and it becomes unhealthy because it really comes from a desire-maybe 'compulsion' would be a better word-to try to know everything that can be known about anything. Socializing, sleeping, eating, working, and exercising become "distractions" that you try to cut out. Really, you live in your head, and you increasingly become incapable at anything that involves the outside world. A good picture of this is John Nash in the movie "A Beautiful Mind", minus the schizophrenia (hopefully).

The best solution may be to schedule study, limiting it to certain hours, and then spending the rest of your time with friends or walking outside or praying (if I'm right about this guy, he is probably so busy studying his Bible that he rarely spends any lengthy time praying, although he might throw in a quick one before breakfast or some other kind of activity). But really, if you are this person, community will save your life. You know that being made in the image of a Trinitarian God means that we are meant for community, so go and live it. Often, people like me (and this guy) are so busy studying the Bible that we have no time to live it.

Brian Stock

on Jan 22, 2009 :: 7:23 pm

Scott,

I love your ambition in your letter about Jesus. It sounds like you are crazy enough to be a church planter. But, I have to chuckle at this sentence, my brother: "The thought of the amount of time sacrificed to have a strong, healthy marriage scares me. When I think of sex, I think of the amount of hours I will lose per week that I could have used to read some John Owen." John Owen might have the best book on getting rid of sin, but my relationship with my wife out does the book tenfold (or more!!!) of getting rid of sin in my life. And 'sex with beautiful wife' vs. "dead curly-haired John Owen"... my wife would win every time and twice on Sunday (and I should know b/c I'm taking a four month course on Owen). :-)

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