Transcription of Aussaat – Talk, Ep. 8

This is only a semi-automatic transcription, so there are definitely errors here! Please listen to the original sound! Due to the post-production, the minutes may not be correct!

Welcome bishop Rick Thorpe that we are very happy and it’s a great pleasure that you’ve came here to us to talk about church planting and research churches and that you help us to know and to understand the things. Thank you for coming.
Ric Thorpe
Thank you. It is really an honor to be with you today.
So. I would just suggest that we start with a prayer. And I would ask you to pray for us for that interview and for the church, for the community.Would you pray for us first?
Ric Thorpe
Yes, I’d be delighted to. Let’s pray.Father, in the name of Jesus, please send your Holy Spirit to be with us in this conversation,but also to be with those who are listening.We pray that you would inspire faithand help us to step into that space that is not about what we think we can do, but what we know you can do. And we pray that you would enlarge our vision that you would help us to see your purposes for us. And we pray that you would stir in our hearts and in our minds new things that you want to do amidst us. And we pray this in Jesus name. Amen.
So the first thing I think is very important to talk about, the first question would be, could you just explain very briefly for those who don’t know the name, whoever never heard about it, what is church planting? What is ressource churches? What does it mean and how does it work?
Ric Thorpe
Yes. So church planting is the starting of new churches in a new place to reach a new group of people in often new ways to the way that they’ve been done in other places. The word church planting doesn’t appear in the Bible, but it is throughout the New Testament in terms of the practice of what goes on. And the word church planting comes from Paul’s description in one Corinthians chapter three, where he says: “I planted a seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.” And he’s talking really about the starting of the church in Corinth and addressing some of the problems that they had. And so church planting is something that has been going on through the centuries in the church. The church that you are a part of was planted once. So someone planted your church. And I often ask people the question, why was that church planted and who planted it and for what reason? And sometimes, how did they do it? And these are questions that we go back to that first purpose and we discover that actually this is something that we need to keep on doing. If they did it then, why are we not still doing it? And we can talk into a little bit of that later on. Resource churches are: It’s a new word that we’re using in England to describe churches that are very similar to what used to be called Minster churches in the medieval times. And these were churches that were established in an area to set up a center of learning and evangelization, where groups of monks were sent out on mission to an area to share the gospel with people. And as new people came to faith and new Christian communities were formed, a monk would then stay with that community and begin to start a church there. And over time, more and more churches were planted from these Minster churches, and those churches began to plant other churches. And the landscape today is a product of those Minster churches. And very simply, because the church has declined so much in recent decades, we are realizing that we can reimagine those Minster churches of old and say we need something like that again, particularly in city centers and town centers where church attendance is even lower than other places. And we need to go back into those city centers and town centers to replant a church that has the capacity to grow itself and then to start replanting into either old churches and bringing them back to life or to go to new places and starting new churches. And so a resource church is very simply a church that is tasked by their bishop to do this again and again and again, to change the mission landscape of a whole area.
Great. You’re quite famous. So if I Google your name, you can find out that you yourself have been sent out and that the question would be: Why? Why did you get sent out? If you said, okay, I want to be sent, could you just tell a bit about that? Why did that happen to you? And a little bit of the story.
Ric Thorpe
Yes. Thank you. So, when I was 25 years old, I was on the staff of a church called Holy Trinity Brompton and it’s a church in central London. It’s the home of the Alpha course, that some people might have heard of that’s kind of gone all around the world. And at Holy Trinity, they were a church that had begun to start revitalizing other dying churches. And what they did, it was quite a large church, it was a thousand or so people, and they would take one of their assistant priests and sent them to a church that was about to close, because there were very few people in it, maybe like 10 / 15 people, and they would sent a group of people with them. So maybe 50 people who would move church from Holy Trinity to another part of London. Sometimes it involved moving house or it actually just meant going to a different church. And that group of 50 was enough to give momentum to starting something new, and it start those churches started to grow. So I saw this and was very inspired by this. And we had a conference in our church about this. And I remember sitting in that conference and I felt God saying to me in in my mind and in my heart, you’re going to do this in the future. And I got really excited about that. I didn’t know what that meant, but in fact, he said, you’re going to plant hundreds. And I thought, I didn’t say that until 20 years later because or 25 years later when that made sense. But I felt this call. And so I went to get ordaines went to theological college and came back to Holy Trinity and served there for nine years as a priest. And then in 2005 the Bishop of London, who’s over all of London churches, said that there’s a church in the East End of London, Holy Trinity Brompton is in the West End, so it’s about 10 miles away inside the city, though, that is about to close. And he said, I don’t want any churches to close under my leadership. And so he had already done this several times with Holy Trinity. So I think ours is like the south 7th or 8th church to do this. We were invited to do it. And we responded to God’s call to move. And so we moved house. We had a small group that met in our home in Holy Trinity, it’s small, there were 30 people, but 20 of them came with us. They moved house. Some people sold their houses to move to the other part of the city. And then we were joined by other people who were traveling a long way to Holy Trinity but from the east of London. And so they joined us on this, what we call the church plant, you could call it church revitalization, bringing new life back to a church or a restart, that’s another name that some people give to it. Or, here’s another word, apostolic partnership. Different people have different words for this. But we went and joined that group of 12 or 15, 12 people it was, and we started new services. We started to take our faith outside the church walls and begin to start encouraging other people to come, come and see. We ran Alpha, which was a course for people who are not Christians to come and explore the Christian faith. And the church quickly began to grow. And over within about five years, we had the chance to do the same thing again to other churches in our daenerys. So that’s like a borough in London, it is like a district, there were 300,000 people in this district. There were about 20 Church of England churches, and this wasn’t planned, but two of them needed to be revitalized in the same week. And I thought they were going to be like a year or two apart, but it turned out they were going to be the same week. So we sent a team of a priest, who was with us, with a group of 20 people to one, and a priest who we recruited to come and join us, and then we sent him and his family with another about ten people. And then we supported them in an ongoing way and those churches began to grow. Then we had the chance to do it again two more times. And so within the ten year period, we had brought one church back to life, and then from us, four other churches brought back to life. And the data is interesting because before we planted in those five churches, there were 55 people going to church. After the planting, ten years later, or actually nine years later, there were 765 people. And so the growth from 55 to 765 in an area that is 45% / 50% Muslim, that’s that borough that we experienced in an extraordinary church growth in quite a poor area, it’s the kind of area in London where you think the church is not going to grow in this place. And yet we saw God doing extraordinary things with us. And so at the same time my role was to I was then brought to start encouraging this across London. I already was beginning to network the churches from Holy Trinity Brompton to say, look, let’s get together and start learning from each other and start encouraging each other to do this more. And so it was almost like starting a fire and putting more and more wood on the fire to make it burn more and bigger and brighter and to keep on fueling that fire. And I have to say that if you are intentional about evangelization and about out starting new churches, then God absolutely honors that because he calls us to do it and you will see fruit from it. And that is my experience. I have seen people coming to faith in ways I never imagined possible. I’ve seen churches that were completely dead coming back to life in ways that I didn’t think were possible. And I’ve seen in the church statistics changing in ways that I never thought was possible. So in our data, you can see the Church of England in general decline over the last hundred years. But there is a new movement of church planting which is growing churches, and it’s going like this. So it is bucking the trend of decline and it is bringing new life. And these churches are not just about growing the church itself. They’re growing deeper in their discipleship and confidence in being Christians. They’re growing in numbers, we’ve talked about, but also they’re growing in their impact on their communities. Because one of the principal ways that they begin to express their faith is by being compassionate with the poor, with the needy, with those around them. And it’s in that activity of giving food or visiting prisons or running community events that they ask the question, would you like to come and experience this church for yourself? And they end up praying for people. They grow in confidence, in praying. And these are unlikely people who are beginning to experience these new kinds of things. And the church begins to grow. It it’s so, so exciting.
Great! What a story! But. Our focus. We wrote a paper that’s the way or a small I call it a little bit I call it a movement. Let’s say it start with the paper. And it’s focusing on church planting. So the first thing that came up, another question, was: Why that way? Why church planting, to support evangelization structurally, but not take the time and transform it from within. Why go to the areas where the church is practically dead? And there are areas where that’s the case. Why go there and just go? Why that way? What is the advantage? What would you say to that?
Ric Thorpe
That’s a great question. So I think there are two reasons I would give for that. The first one is because God calls us to do it and I can talk about that. And the second reason is, because the data shows that we must. So why? So God calls us. So at the end of Matthew’s gospel is a famous verse that says Jesus says to the disciples, go and make disciples of all nations. Baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I’ve commanded you and surely I will be with you to the very end of the age. Matthew 28th verses 19 and 20. So here God is, Jesus is calling his disciples to go from where they are to somewhere else and make new disciples. And in that place to baptize and teach. And he is that they are to teach those people everything he has commanded them. And so one of the things he commanded them was to go and make disciples. So the very disciples that we are making, we need to help them to go and make new disciples. So from this, this is why we are here today. Because someone told someone else, who told someone else, who told someone else all the way through down to probably our parents told us and brought us up in the church or we came to faith as adults, whatever it is. And so we’re here because of Jesus command to the disciples. So this is a key part of growing faith is to obey Jesus command. Now, you’ll notice in that it’s not just about making new disciples, which is evangelization, but it is catechesis, it’s teaching them, but also it is baptizing them. So this is about baptism and teaching happen in the context of church. So if you’re going somewhere else and making disciples and in the context of a new church, effectively that’s starting a new church wherever you go, so it’s not just about making disciples and evangelizing, it’s about starting churches, this verse. And so what does that look like in practice? Well, we can go from where I live just down the road, and meet a group of people who are never going to come to us. We can invite them. We know this, don’t we? I have a practice where I knock on people’s doors and just say, come to a party in our house at Christmas and in the summer. So we get to know our street and we then say, oh, would you like to come to church with us? And a few people do. Not everyone, but a few people do. And they never would if we didn’t invite them. So we’ve made friends with them. We then invite them to church. But there are some people, who I have spiritual conversations with, who would never come to the church. They just say: “Oh, it’s not for me. Thank you.” So church planting reimagines that conversation to say: “Well, if you’re not going to come to us, why don’t we go to you?” So it’s what does church look like for you? And it might be starting in a hub, or it might be starting in a community room, or it might even be starting in their home. And this is how new churches have started all over the world. And our problem in the west is, that we’ve got so fixated on the fact that it needs to be in a church building, and usually an old church building, that we just think, with a priest, and that’s the only way to do it. And yeah, all around the world, it’s being done in different ways. And so that’s the first reason: We’re called to do it. So the second one is the data. In England, between 6% and 8% of people go to church regularly, as in monthly or more. So 90%, let’s say it’s 6%, 94% don’t go to church. So if, and we must do this, we must help the church to grow. So let’s say there was a revival and all the churches doubled in size. That would be amazing. Wouldn’t it be so amazing? So you go from 6% to 12%. So I asked just a very simple question: “What about the 88%?” It’s not that they’re not interested in spiritual things, because all the data shows they are. People are interested in things, but they don’t like the idea of church, so they’re not going to come to us. So we need to go to them and begin to start new churches in ways that they can relate to and begin to start that community in a slightly different way. And the activity of going to start new churches, our experience is we recruit new people who would never come to church. But here’s the interesting thing, is that when you start something like that, it actually begins to revitalize the existing church for two reasons. Either they get excited about that and they go: “Oh, let’s do this more!”, or they get challenged by it and begin to reflect on their own experience and say: “Gosh. I don’t like what’s going on there, but let’s actually commit ourselves to the way we like doing it here and so we end up bringing new life in that way.” And so it’s the command of Jesus to go and make disciples and start new Christian communities. And it is just looking at very simple data and saying: We cannot do it through grit church growth alone. We have to do it through starting new Christian communities. And let me just say something about growing our existing church. We’ve been trying to regrow our churches for decades and we’re not doing it very well. So our experience is there are very few churches that are really good at growing with no other. It’s usually a great leader and over a long period of time they’re investing in church growth activity. And we can talk about that if you like. So the interesting thing about church planting is that straight away, if you don’t grow, you die. So church planters and people who are members of these teams who go on church plants are automatically thinking: “How are we going to grow the church?” And so they’re learning things about how to grow churches that can teach the inherited church or the existing church how to grow. And it is not rocket science, it’s not difficult. But the fact is, we’re not doing those things in the existing churches. So if we want the church to grow, we need to face our fears, face reality and learn. Well, first of all, accept the fact that we don’t know some things that we need to learn and then to start doing things that we haven’t done before and having a go stepping out in faith and beginning to do new things. And we find ourselves doing what church planters know already, which is that we start doing new things in new ways where we are right now. And that begins to bring new life to our existing churches.
So you already talked about it. I mean, the first thing, if you start talking about that, that sounds so easy and elegant and you just have to do it. And in fact, we all know about that, it’s not that easy. The last sentence where I think about that: What about challenges? And if you have to maybe one or two greatest challenges for church planting, what would it be and what is your experience? Where do they come up that two greatest challenges when you try to do church planting?
Ric Thorpe
Yeah, again, great question. So it’s really hard work because it’s costly. You’re leaving for a start, to leave the familiar, to leave the well resourced, to leave friends and family, to go to another place and start something new. This is costly. And so calling is involved in this. And calling happens when a vision is cast and people hear through preaching that this is something that is not as possible, but it’s something that you could be involved in. And so I always say to churches that I want to explore growth and planting. I say it takes a while to, first of all, work out why you want to do it. So being clear about the vision, and then being able to say, where are we going to do this? There’s some mapping that needs to happen. And then preparing yourself through training and through planning. And then actually doing it. And so when you do it, you leave behind all this security and you have to count the cost. But we found, as we preach about it, as we say, please pray, could you be on the team? We recruit someone who actually knows how to do this. And most people don’t really know how to do it, but they’re enthusiastic. And enthusiasm is like 90% of what’s possible because it takes courage to take the first step. And so I would say that the two major challenges are faith and generosity. So faith is saying: I’m going to dare to believe that God is calling me to do something which is impossible.” So I’m going to leave something that I love and go to a place where there’s nothing and start something new. I don’t have the resources to do that, but I can be obedient, and I can do what I can do. So I can plant a seed. My friend can water it, but only God can give the growth. But he cannot grow something that’s not there. He calls us to be partners. He calls us to plant the seed and water it. And this is an extraordinary part of responding to the call of God. We have to call people and say: “Come and be part of this new thing!” We have practical things that we’ve learnt like saying come for one year and then go back to your sending church. We have found that actually that’s enough time to go. “Well, that’s quite a big commitment, but I think I could do that.” But then it’s also long enough for people to go: “I love this, I’m going to stay.” So commit yourself to one year. And actually some people do leave because they’re going back for various reasons but having the faith to take the step is a big deal, but it’s something all of us can do in practice. The second challenge is generosity because the church itself, if you think most churches are trying to bring people in to grow themselves, so it is counterintuitive and countercultural not to gather people, but to give people away to send them. So the church itself, that’s the originator, the, if you like, the resource church, to actually say, we’re going to give away people, and we’re going to give away some money, and we’re going to give away some of our best leaders to do this new thing. It really is costly to be generous. But I often think it is a bit like having children, where a parent wants their children to have the best they can, you know, to have a good start in life. So they’re not going to say: Oh, you’ve got to fight on your own and I’m going to take everything away from you and off you go. A good parent, I think, says, I want to set you up, I want to help you, I want to come and help you find a place. If I can, I’ll put some of my savings into helping you find a place and I’m going to come and visit you and encourage you. If you’re finding things difficult, come back and you can do the washing and have some good food and then you can go back. A good parent will do that, but it’s costly to them. And so church planting is the same, actually. We found that we need to give away our best. The best leader, the one who everything depends on these people. They’re the people we’re going to send. They’re often the people who want to go because they’re excited about the new thing. But the interesting thing is this, that when we give away our best, god always gives us more. 2 Corinthians 9 talks about actually, you know, god grows the storehouse of generosity so that the more you give, the more he gives you to give, and it’s it’s like a virtuous circle, and so sending away your best leaves space for other people to step up and to go. Well, I never thought I could do what they could do, but they’re not here anymore, so I’m going to have a go with that. And suddenly you discover: “My goodness, you’re better than the person who was there before”, or: “More people are able to do that.” And so it brings new life to the sending church, and you’re giving the best possible start for the planted church. So faith and generosity. I phrase them like this: “Aim high, and give it away.” They’re like two values that are really, really important. Let me just give a third thing, which is: Never give up! Perseverance is, tenacity is something that you just got to keep going and things will go wrong. Youm know, I was just thinking about the first car I bought. Actually, the second car I bought was a sports car. And we bought it when I started theological college. It was fantastic until it broke down. It broke down in the middle of France. We’re in the middle of nowhere. It cost us the whole cost of the holiday to have it repaired. Things go wrong. But we would we’ve not bought the car, I look back on that time as being the most fantastic time with this amazing sports car that went wrong sometimes. So never give up. Keep going. Because actually you will see fruit come from what you do.
Thank you. So the time is running. So two last questions. The first is maybe you know the sentence: Dying tiger is the most dangerous? Very briefly. That’s actually one sentence. What about the challenging with the existing structures? Most of them are dying. That’s not different in Germany. Most of them are just dying. So how do they react, even if they are dying? And what’s about your brothers and their Episcopal service, their marbler ships? And probably it’s different in England, but in Germany they want to hold up the structures. What about that, the challenges? And how do you work to convince them? Very briefly. I know that’s a huge question.
Again, a great question. I think you have to have a love for the church. Jesus command at the last supper: “Love one another as I’ve loved you.” So there’s something about loving the existing structures, loving the people who are there and recognizing that change is hard. It’s really hard. And so we need to if we, well, the first thing we need to is just recognize that change is necessary. So there are different ways you can do that. Different models have changed that are possible. Sometimes people talk about the burning platform. So you basically tell people it is so bad that the best thing to do is jump. Or it’s actually know, there’s something creative in change and there’s something that will give us new life if we change. And so it’s more of a positive rather than negative motivation, but change is necessary because if we don’t change, we will die. And actually do we want to be responsible? In heaven, people come up to us and say, oh, you’re part of that generation that let the church die. I don’t want that to happen. So when we acknowledge the reality, we then say, turn to God and say, god, what do you want us to do? So we turn to prayer. We need to say God on our knees: “We need you to renew us, we need you to revitalize us. We need you to send us as you sent other churches in the past.” And from that position we then start saying, okay, so what is the part you want me to play? We say that to God, we say that to our church leaders, we say that to one another. And then we very simply begin to start saying what could I do? And I think there are different people can do different things. Bishops have a key role. They are responsible for the cure of souls for a whole region. They have the power, which they exercise humbly, to appoint priests into new places to bring change and transformation. And so they need to be leaders of that change. And this is my belief. So I challenge our own bishops about this in this country. And I’m not a senior bishop or anything like that, but here’s the reality is: Christendom — which is where Christianity is normal, everyone believes in God, this is the status quo — this is what we have inherited. When we came into when we became priests, this is what we inherited, christendom. The job of a bishop up in Christendom is to keep things going, to make sure the churches are looked after and to build up the faithful and so on. The thing is, Christendom is crumbling in the West. It is a 1500 year period that is beginning to end. And Post-Christendom calls for a different challenge. And the challenge is evangelization, because we are speaking to people who have never heard the gospel — 2nd, 3rd, 4th generation Non-Christian. So the task is not catechesis, it’s evangelization. This is a key thing we need to lean into. We need to accept and realize, and this is something the whole church needs to embrace, and bishops need to particularly embrace that. And hear me straight, this is really hard. I was not recruited for evangelization. I was recruited through my discernment process for a catechesis. And so I realized that I am not equipped as a bishop, and our priests are not equipped to do the task that is now necessary. And so it’s hard for priests, it’s hard for bishops as well. But we need to lean into the challenge that God has set before us, which is a different task perhaps to what we were recruited to. And very simply, I would say, then face the reality, face it with faith. God understands that. He knew that when he called you. And so the challenge then is faith and generosity. So faith is saying: “Okay, I need to step into this new reality. I need to learn new skills. I need to learn not to do everything myself, but to give it away to others in my congregations. And I need to step into new ground, into new space, and have a go. If something goes wrong, it doesn’t matter.” Like any observe an engineer. In order to discover something, you have to try new things again and again and again and again until you discover the new thing. And guess what? People don’t remember all the things you got wrong. They remember that you discovered it. And so we just need to say: Let’s try it! If you don’t work, let’s reflect on it. Let’s try something else. Let’s reflect on it. And when we all do that, it actually becomes quite fun. The pressure is off us and it’s on God. This is your church, Jesus, that you are building, that you’re wanting to help us step into the new challenges of a new generation, equip us, strengthen us, help us to be able to do that.
Great. Thank you. And the very last question is obviously what about those who listen to us and never heard about it, never heard about ressource church, never heard about church planting, never heard your name. What would you say? One thing they can do to grow in knowledge, to keep being interested, where can they look at? Reading your book again, ressource churches is the name., read the book, you find it in the show notes. But but what would you say? Where to look, where to go?
Ric Thorpe
So there are lots of organizations that are doing this, I’m beginning to realize. So you’re very kindly as Catholic speaking to an Anglican. So I really appreciate that. I’m humbled by that. I have learnt more from other denominations than I have from my own. And so look far and wide. Just Google church planting and see where that takes you. We have a center called the Gregory Center, named after Pope Gregory the Great who had a vision for actually Germany as well. But England the reevangelization of our nation and he sent Saint Augustine [of Canterbury] to start the Church of England or to start a whole new mission movement in the church in England. And the Gregory Center basically equips the church to help it to start new churches and to renew existing ones. And we’ve got a whole bunch of stories. We’re leaning into creative ways of doing that. We’re doing it for bishops, for priests, for lay people. Anyone can get involved in this. And so you can find those details at And there might be someone in Germany who says, I’d love to translate some of those resources into our own language and begin to put German stories into the Gregory Center as well. And we’d be delighted with that.
Thank you very much Bishop Thorpe that you came here to talk about very inspirational about that topic that you prayed for us, that you just gave some insights. Very interesting and very great stories about the church planting. Thank you for your time. God bless you and hope you go well and make God use you and your movement to grow his community, that his will be done. Thank you very much Bishop!
Ric Thorpe
Thank you. And I just want to say the same to you. That God would give you courage, that God would inspire you. That you’d start to ask that question: “Who are we not reaching around us?” And could God be calling us to start something new amongst those new people? So God bless you in that journey of discovery and inspire you and bless you.

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