The curse of parish boundaries

Johnwesley Fathersgrave-1 We launched our first church plant with an interest meeting for people who wanted to join the team. A leader from another church in the area crashed the meeting to complain that we were starting a new church in “their area”. As the church grew over the years we moved from building to building for Sunday gatherings. Every time we relocated a different church complained that we were entering “their area”. Who says Baptists don’t have parish boundaries?

A friend of mine has planted an Anglican church where there are other struggling churches in area. The local bishop is incensed and wants to keep them out. He can’t afford to keep all the existing churches running in “his area” and is blocking their attempts to be recognized as an Anglican church. Despite the fact that they are all Anglicans, their planter is an Anglican priest, and they don’t want any money from the Bishop. All this in a country where the Anglican church is in serious decline.

A Pentecostal denomination has a “10 kilometre rule”. You can’t plant another church of that denomination within 10 kilometres of existing church. You can find tens of thousands of people unreached by a church of any persuasion in that 10 kilometer radius. Who says Pentecostals don’t have parishes?

In an Australian outback city of 20,000 a denomination looked at planting a second church but decided against it because they didn’t want to have two churches in “competition” in the same town. Starbucks, McDonalds, Safeway, Shell—even the local schools, libraries and sporting clubs have a different view. They “plant” their operations everywhere and give people a choice. But they’re worldly and not as smart as church leaders who provide 20,000 people with one option. Take it or leave it.

When John Wesley proclaimed, “The world is my parish!” he was telling the institutional church of the day, “You can’t keep me out. I don’t recognise your parish boundaries.” So when the local priest prevented him preaching to the masses in the church his father once led, Wesley went outside and stood on his father’s tombstone and preached to thousands who heard him gladly.

Pharisees love parish boundaries. They love control. The love to protect their turf. They love uniformity. That’s why Jesus had so much trouble with them.

Movements know no boundaries. They are people committed to a common cause. Controlling territory is not on the agenda. The cause is.

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