It’s my privilege today to interview Jenny Andison on church planting. Jenny is the Archbishop’s Officer for Mission for the Diocese of Toronto and is responsible for promoting missional ministry and fresh expressions of church in Canada’s largest diocese. She is also in charge of Church Development at St. Paul’s Bloor Street in Toronto, and is one of the organizers of the Vital Church Planting Conference in Toronto.
I’ve learned lots from Jenny, and I’m grateful that she was willing to answer my questions.
You’re on staff in an established church, and you work with church planters. I love that. How can established churches and church plants help each other?
Established churches can help church planters in lots of ways.
- They can pray for them…so important and necessary….we pray regularly for Ryan Sim here at St.Paul’s as he plants his congregation in Ajax.
- They can be a safe place to land in the start up phase…welcoming the planter and his/her family to worship and community.
- They can potentially give office space to the planter in the early days and sharing human resources as well. A retired member of an established Anglican congregation is giving two hours a week to help do the books for an Anglican church plant in another part of the city.
- The established church at the denominational level can also support the applaud the church planter even when things don’t go according to plan. People like Bishops etc. can reframe any sense of “failure” that the planter (and their family) may face and can secure their future in ministry.
What’s unique about church planting in Canada?
I am not sure what is unique about church planting in Canada but I do know what makes it challenging. Unlike the UK we have no memory of the established church to potentially build on in healthy way (this of course can also be a blessing for us). In the UK church planters have much more access because of the established church to things like hospitals and schools in a way that is not possible in Canada. In the USA, much church planting is often “church gathering”…..creating new opportunities for the churched and lightly dechurched to gather and be potentially more effectively discipled. Canada has a larger percentage of non-churched people than the USA. Much church planting in Canada now (especially in urban centers) needs to consist of primary evangelism, something that most Christians in Canada have almost no experience in. In Canada we have the challenge of vast physical distance (it’s the second largest country in the world) and so church planters in some parts of the country (rural and the North) can feel incredibly isolated.
What kinds of things can we learn from Anglican history that will help us plant churches today?
The Anglican church is arguably the second most effective church planting movement in history, second only to the Roman Catholic church. We have churches in almost every country on the planet. At our best, the Anglican church was able to effectively pass along historic Christianity (the dominical sacraments, Old Testament and New Testament, the Creeds, and the historic episcopate) and allow for these things to be inculturated well into the local context. And at our best, leadership was very quickly handed over to local new converts. The strength of the Anglican church in the developing world is testimony to this missional past. At our best, Anglican history shows how you take the bare essentials (Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral) with you on mission and leave the rest behind. Church planters need to travel lightly and Anglicans in the past have shown us how to do this. Church planters need to remember the absolute essentials of the faith that cannot be discarded and then be willing to re-examine everything else we know about “church”.
I remember you comparing church planters to thoroughbreds. What did you mean?
Church planters are women and men who not only have all the training and passions of leaders serving inherited congregations but they also need to be entrepreneurial and willing to take thoughtful risks. They need to be like Jesuits….taking the “monastery within them” as they travel to distant lands (like the condos downtown!), often travelling alone like the early Jesuits did…to Japan for example. Church planters also need more support in the field than clergy serving inherited congregations because they are serving on the edge, they are serving in the unknown, with often no road maps in front of them.
If you could instill one quality in church planters, what would that be?
One quality in church planters….Christian character. Reflecting continually on the character of God in their lives.