Say No to Ministry Porn

The title of this post is going to bring all kinds of strange traffic from the search engines.

One of the things I appreciated about last week's Global Church Advancement conference is that there were no big names, except of course for Ed Stetzer, who warned us against chasing after big names.

Steve Childers, founder and president of GCA, explained why they don't bring in the big names. He wants to avoid what he calls ministry porn. His definition of porn goes something like this (I wish I could remember the exact wording):

porn - an unrealistic depiction of something that doesn't exist that robs you of what you already have that's good and beautiful

I love it. It's a good definition of porn in general, and it certainly applies to the ministry as well.

It reminds me of what Eugene Peterson writes about ecclesiastical pornography:

Parish glamorization is ecclesiastical pornography — taking photographs (skillfully airbrushed) or drawing pictures of congregations that are without spot or wrinkle, the shapes that a few parishes have for a few short years. These provocatively posed pictures are devoid of personal relationships. The pictures excite a lust for domination, for gratification, for uninvolved and impersonal spirituality.

So alluring. So empty. God save us all from ministry porn.

Why You Should Attend #GCA2014

I've spent the week in Orlando. Yes, that itself is nice since I am from Toronto, which has dipped well below the freezing mark this week. The highlight of the week has not been the weather, though. It has been the very helpful, practical teaching of the Global Church Advancement Conference, a training event for church planters.

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If you haven't heard of Global Church Advancement, you're not alone. It's not as well known as some of the bigger conferences out there. I wish I had received this training earlier, but I've received it now, and I'm grateful. They run an annual training event that gives you the nuts and bolts of what needs to take place in planting or revitalizing a church.

Here's why I think this is such an important event:

It's theological. I love that this is more than a pragmatic, inspirational conference. I've had my fill of those. This is a group that clearly gets the gospel and how it applies to life and ministry. Everything is grounded in Scripture, and it's also soaked in the beauty and the power of the gospel.

It's practical. I don't think I've ever attended a more practical conference. I'm walking away with a very good understanding of what needs to take place next in order to plant a church. They don't just impose a model; they help you understand the key decisions and steps that need to take place to plant a church faithfully in your context.

It's visionary. I love the quote that appears at the beginning of every module:

Do not pray only for your own spiritual renewal. Pray for a springtime of the Spirit which will enrich the church and the world, an awakening for which all earlier renewal movements have been only rehearsals. (Richard Lovelace)

That's a much bigger endgame than just planting a church.

Steve Childers says that he wants to save us from having puny goals, like merely having a large church. He's much more concerned with a vision for God's glory, expressed through church planting but extending that visibly expresses the Kingdom. The mission is not to have a great church, he says, but to have a great community as the world is changed by the transforming power of the gospel.

I'm grateful that someone (Adam Sinnett) told me about this conference. I'm going home with a much clearer picture of what has to happen next as we plant Liberty Grace Church.

If you are a church planter, or you are investigating church planting, or if you are interested in helping to revitalize a church, then I strongly urge you to consider attending next year's conference (January 28-31). It's one of the most helpful conferences I can imagine for anyone who is involved in church planting or revitalization. Check out the blog by Steve Childers, follow him on Twitter, or read more about GCA at their website.