church planting

New podcast: Breaking bread, while listening for hints of Godtalk, in Waffle House America

New podcast: Breaking bread, while listening for hints of Godtalk, in Waffle House America

To put things in country-music terms, this week's Crossroads podcast (click here to listen to that) is about pain, sorrow, alcohol, divorce, blue-collar families, coffee, hard times, opioids and God.

Oh, and waffles.

If you don't live in Waffle House America, let me explain. We are talking about a chain -- in 25 states -- of old-school, Southern-style dinners that serve breakfast 24/7 and attract large numbers of workers and rural folks who don't work normal schedules.

If you want to laugh about the Waffle House world, you can listen to the country-fried tribute song by Stephen Colbert (a native of South Carolina) and alt-country star Sturgill Simpson, entitled, "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Knuckleheads."

But the podcast isn't really about laughter. It's about the complex issues that affect ministry to many hurting people in this slice of the American people.

My chat with host Todd Wilken focused on my "On Religion" column this week -- which is about a United Methodist pastor in Alabama who is doing some interesting things while trying the reach working-class people. His name is Pastor Gary Liederbach and he uses his local Waffle House as his unofficial office on weekday mornings.

This anecdote sets the tone:

One recent morning, Liederbach sat down at the diner’s middle bar, where the line of side-by-side chairs almost requires diners to chat with waitresses and each other. He didn’t see the empty coffee cup of a rough, 50-something regular whom, as a matter of pastoral discretion, he called “Chuck.”
When Chuck came back inside from smoking a cigarette, he lit into Liederbach with a loud F-bomb, blasting him for taking his seat.


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On Easter, this obscure topic made front-page news: Why that's a very good thing

On Easter, this obscure topic made front-page news: Why that's a very good thing

In a GetReligion post last year, I wrote:

"Church-planting" is, of course, a buzzword in Christian circles these days.
Not too many journalists, though, could turn that esoteric subject into the lead story in the Sunday edition of a major metropolitan daily.

In that case, I was talking about award-winning Godbeat veteran Peter Smith of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

But add another religion writer to that elite list: budding star Holly Meyer of The Tennessean.

Meyer's deep dive on a United Methodist church plant in the Nashville area dominated the top two-thirds of her newspaper's front page on Easter Sunday.

Her timely angle:

Providence United Methodist Church has a new beginning this Easter season.
The church began eight years ago with an Easter Sunday service in Mundy Memorial Park in Mt. Juliet. And after holding 389 services in parks, school gyms and the like, Providence will celebrate its first Easter in a new building of its own on South Rutland Road.
It's a key milestone in the history of the congregation, which began as a church plant and has emerged as a leader in the Methodist denomination's nationwide efforts to grow.
“I’m pumped about our building because of what we get to imagine together,” Pastor Jacob Armstrong told the congregation during the final service at West Wilson Middle School.
Members of the church sat on bleachers and folding chairs as the gym's basketball hoops hovered overhead. They listened intently as Armstrong, 35, recounted how Providence's dream to reach those who feel disconnected from God and church manifests itself in overseas charity work, special-needs ministry and more.
“It’s been a great run in the school, guys, hasn’t it? It’s been a great run," Armstrong said. "Celebrate it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But here’s what I don’t want to do — stop dreaming.”
Providence began in 2008 just as the United Methodist Church as a denomination was preparing to launch a program focused on the intentional creation of new churches across the country. But it's not just the Methodists; new Protestant churches nationally are starting faster than old ones are disappearing, Nashville-based LifeWay Research shows.
Denominations are making it a priority, with more than 4,000 new churches launching in 2014 across the nation, said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research and an expert on planting churches.

Count Stetzer among those impressed with Meyer's story. He tweeted to his 186,000 followers:

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Church planting in Boston: Brilliant Alternet satire or, well, something else?

Church planting in Boston: Brilliant Alternet satire or, well, something else?

When I was a lad back in the early 1960s, my father left his work as a Southern Baptist pastor in inner-city Dallas and took a position in North Texas, near the base of the Panhandle, that was often referred to as an "associational missionary." It helps to know that Southern Baptists have regional "associations," as opposed to conferences, presbyteries or dioceses.

One of the primary duties of this associational leader, in addition to serving as a pastor or consultant to the region's pastors, was to direct efforts in what has long been called "church planting." The goal was to figure out logical places to "plant" effective new churches and then help people do precisely that. Click here for a rather mainstream take on this topic, from a middle-of-the-road Protestant flock up in Canada.

There was nothing sneaky or threatening about this work, at least not in Texas a half century ago.

It seems that times have changed, at least in some blue zip codes. Either that, or some journalists simply have zero familiarity with how church leaders think and talk? Yeah, that could be what we are dealing with here.

But maybe not! As several people have noted in emails to me -- including a former GetReligionista known as a wit -- the following Alternet piece may not, as it appears, be a stunningly tone-deaf look at a perfectly normal church topic.

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The Boston Globe shows how to write about church planters

Earlier this month I called a story about a church planter in Brooklyn the worst religion story of the year. I don’t like to write harsh critiques (really, I don’t) but it’s frustrating to have an interesting story mangled by shoddy reporting. While reading that terrible Daily News piece I wondered, “What could this article have done right?”

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The worst religion story of the year

While struggling to find words to adequately describe the worst religion article of the year, I was reminded of a brilliant exchange in an otherwise atrocious movie, Billy Madison.

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