GracePoint as a model of success

Andrew Conard shares his thougths about the demise of GracePoint UMC after the senior pastor led most of the congregation out of the United Methodist Church to start a new congregation. (News story about the closing of GracePoint UMC here.)

I’m too far away from this story to know what really happened or understand it all. I gather some people view this as a sign that sinking a lot of denominational resources into new church plants is a bad idea.

I have a hard time with that argument. It is like arguing that because some kids grow up and move out of the house we should stop having babies. The UMC nurtured and supported this new congregation through is early years. Now the local church has decided it cannot thrive within the framework of the UMC. I regret that, but that is not a sign of failure or wasted investment.

GracePoint UMC was a mission activity. When we spend money to support pastors in Africa, we do not considered it wasted money because we do not get a return on our investment.

The denomination should expect some church plants to fail. It should expect some to thrive. And it should expect some to grow rebellious and strike out on their own. It is the nature of the thing.

It is a good thing to have a denomination bold enough to act even though some of its children will leave the nest and never come back. So much better than a denomination that risks nothing in pursuit of its mission.

5 thoughts on “GracePoint as a model of success

  1. Great points all John. As one of those church planters in the UMC, I can tell you there is much misunderstood and misreported about what goes on behind the scenes in the launch of churches, UMC and otherwise.

    Your connection to supporting new church starts in other countries is a great point – what are our expectations of new church starts?

    Like most I’ve read accounts and even e-mailed the pastor (I did receive a copy of his letter to the congregation). Note that at the turn of the century, the Sr. Pastor at Marietta FUMC (NGa Conference) surrendered his credentials and left with a group to start a new church. We didn’t talk about not appointing pastors to historic FUMCs.

    Before taking the role of church planter on, I had to take on the role of ordained elder – I would agree to go where sent and abide by those who are over my position.

    I’m sure we can find plenty of areas of our church where money is indeed wasted. Church planting – even for the failures and messes – is measured in transformed lives and communities.

  2. Linked to your article on tomorrow’s addition of churchandworld.com, [United Methodist edition]. Hope you will check it out.

  3. Linked to your article on tomorrow’s edition of churchandworld.com, [United Methodist edition]. Hope you will check it out.

  4. I agree with most of your points, John, although I think the analogy with kids growing up and moving out is a little misplaced. As parents, you *want* your children to grow up to become self-sustaining adults and move out of the house… church starts are meant to reach more people Jesus *through* that denomination. A better analogy might be a recently-graduated army platoon suddenly defecting to another country (although that example admittedly seems a little extreme).

    From what I understand of the GracePoint story, I think most of the dismay over what happened was due to the questionable timing of the pastor’s decision to leave the UMC. It came just after GracePoint UMC stopped receiving financial support from the local conference and just prior to GracePoint started paying apportionments back to the conference. I think there are a lot of feelings of betrayal in the UM Church, and understandably so.

    In the end, I think the message to the Church at large should be not that planting new churches is gamble (although it certainly is), but that there is a need to be careful in who they appoint to lead new plants and that a strong, bi-directional relationship needs to be created with them. I think that’s the only way to make sure this kind of exit is repeated as little as possible. Too many hard feelings on both sides to be healthy for the Church as a whole.

  5. K., these are good points. My analogy was intentionally a bit provocative.

    I wonder if the UMC might achieve its mission of making disciples better by intentionally thinking of itself as an incubator for congregations – some of which will leave home and never come back.

    I understand that the timing issue is a troublesome one. Maybe there are some formal ‘contracts’ that can be drawn up to manage such problems.

    I’m not so convinced that it is healthy for the UMC to see churches leaving the UMC as – to use your analogy – traitors.

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