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Interested in a URC Near You? A Few Suggestions . . .

Christ%20Reformed%20Church.jpgIn light of my previous post about a Bible study beginning in Las Vegas (with the goal of forming a new URC congregation), several of you left comments, or emailed me personally, about how to go about doing the same thing where you live.

If you are really interested in seeing a URC planted near you, here are a few preliminary steps you may want to take.  Please note, these are my personal suggestions, but hopefully this will get you started and headed in the right way.

1).   Pray about this first!  Pray about this throughout the entire process!

2).  Understand how the URC works when it comes to church-planting.  Unlike other Reformed and Presbyterian denominations, the URC has no official church-planting agency.  You'll have to work with a local congregation.  This means there won't be a home office, or funding, to help you get started.  This is both a good thing and a bad thing. The tough part is that you'll have to do most of the initial planning and organizing yourself.  The good thing is that there is no church bureaucracy to get in the way.  You can go at your own pace, and you don't have to jump through too many unnecessary hoops.

3).  Begin to read and study the Three Forms of Unity, and the church order of the URCNA.  Most URCs have these posted on their website.  Here's our list:  Click here: Christ Reformed Info - The Latest News.  Scroll down to the right under "confessions."  This is our official doctrine and our constitution.  If, after reading and studying this material, you are still interested, then press ahead.  If you have problems with these documents, the URC is not for you.

4).  After realizing that this will take a fair bit of time and energy on your part, pray again!  Do you really want to do this?

5).  This is the critical step.  Begin networking.  Think about people you know (who are not already members of true churches) who may be interested in such a church.  Gather these interested folks together on an informal basis (someone's home is best), talk about a potential church plant, dream about what kind of church you want, and then begin praying together on a regular basis!  Start looking over the various websites of URC churches to help frame your vision for a future church.

6).  Expend your group.  Invite new people, consider running a local newspaper ad looking for interested parties, etc.  You may want to consider setting up an escrow account and ask people to contribute to it.  This will be the seed money needed to go further, and you should agree beforehand that should the church never become viable, the monies will all be returned to those who gave them.

7).  Once you find a core group of interested people, begin a Bible-study devoted to the Three Forms of Unity.  Don't do the bait and switch thing.  Let everyone up front know what your intentions are.   Start inviting additional people, continue the networking, etc.  Make sure that the group prays together, seeking God's will and blessing upon a possible church plant.

8).  Now you come to a decision point.  This has to do with viability.  If your group does not grow, if it flounders, or lacks unity and purpose, then take that as a sign that this is not yet God's will.  But if the group grows, if a sense of unity and purpose develops, and people are truly excited about the prospects of planting a church, then press ahead.  Start keeping an eye out for a place to worship.

9).  When your group gets to 20 or more, and all signs are "go", then contact the nearest URC pastor to you (geographically) and see if their consistory would be willing to oversee the process of your group becoming a church.  That congregation should be willing to assume the responsibility of walking you through the formal steps to getting a pastor, holding worship services, etc.

10).  Realize that this will not happen overnight.  When Mike Horton and I started talking about planting a church which eventually became Christ Reformed, it took nearly two years from the time we began talking, until we held our first service.  And that was with radio support and interest.   But let me tell you . . . it was well worth it!


Reader Comments (13)

Thanks, Kim. Good stuff. And providential!
February 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterZrim
Hmm. Providential, yes.

I'm seeing some odd stuff come from the leadership here lately, complete with "no dissent" vibes. I think someone wants to be a megachurch.

A couple Sundays back, I listened to WHI's "What would Moses do?", then went to church and listened to the eisegisis committed. Nehemiah 1, applied to an impending church building program.

Not sure I'm up to being the point man on a church plant. And what do you do in the mean time?
February 25, 2008 | Unregistered Commenter"lee n. field"
You mean they didn't use Haggai for the building campaign? I suppose that's progress at least <groan>
February 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPB
Regarding #7, are you possibly overemphasizing the Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, and Canons of Dordt?

Most URCs that I've been in operate with a worship service devoted to a biblical text, and a second in which (generally) the Heidelberg Catechism is addressed - if memory serves this is mandated by the URC church order. There, at least it's a roughly 50% split - why do 100% Heidelberg when exploring a church plant? (or am I misinterpreting?)

I'm not a big fan of devoting worship services to the Heidelberg Catechism, although I'd concede that it might make for a good book study outside of worship, and to be dealt with in worship where it happens to intersect with the passage of the day. (There seems to be a slight difference in semantics between a book study and a bible study, although both may be useful).
February 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDave

No, I'm not over emphasizing the Three Forms of Unity. In fact, you are missing the whole point. This is a group of people prayerfully considering planting a URC church. They certainly ought to be studying URC doctrine! We are talking about a small group of people, at the most formative stage, investigating whether or not to form a confessional Reformed church. Of all people, that group needs to know, and be fully committed to those confessions.

The regular preaching of the biblical text on the Lord's Day will come when, Lord willing, they organize and God sends them a preacher.
February 25, 2008 | Registered CommenterKim Riddlebarger
"5)Think about people you know (who are not already members of true churches) who may be interested in such a church. "

So we're not to raid the local PCA. Who are these people? Disgruntled evangelicals?

"Regarding #7, are you possibly overemphasizing the Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, and Canons of Dordt?"

No, I think the point is that unless you're clear from the outset that this is not yet another generic community church, then that's probably what you'll end up with. Note the "no bait and switch" admonition.

February 25, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterlee n. field
definitely providential for us in GRusalem.
February 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRana

You mentioned in #5 that "Think about people you know (who are not already members of true churches) who may be interested in such a church."

Your focus on people who "are not already members of true churches" suggests to me that the sort of people who you seem to desire to attract to the core group are not already receiving exposition of the biblical text.

Sure, the core group should be familiar with and supportive of URC doctrine, but dealing with the confessions INSTEAD OF rather than IN ADDITION TO scripture seems misguided.
February 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDave
I wonder about the description of the "target audience" as "people who are not members of TRUE churches" (emphasis supplied). It doesn't seem that the reliable or responsible way to start off a new church is with the "low hanging fruit" of people elsewhere in Christendom, in denominations or churches with which the Reformed might not be in complete agreement. I know you don't mean this, Kim, but it could be read that way. Heck, some people, and they know who they are, suggest that you can't be Baptist and Reformed, for example!<double grin>
February 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPB
Thanks, Kim, for the helpful advice. I hope to plant a URC in Tucson in the next couple of years so this is very helpful.
February 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Moulson
So why does the URC not include the Westminster Standards as part of your "Forms of Unity"?
February 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPhil Russell
Does the URC have any emphasis on proactively preaching to unreached people groups? The theme seems to be throughout the Bible, but rather missing from the Westminster standards (I'm in a PCA church).
February 27, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAndy

There is a debate within Reformed/Presbyterian churches about whether or not the ordinary worship service, and the preaching which goes on there, is to be conducted primarily for the purpose of evangelism. I come down on the side that it is not. This is when God visits his people, and through word and sacrament renews his covenant promises in Christ.

That said, in the URC it is left up to each consistory (elders and ministers) to conduct evangelism best suited to each congregation--but we are mandated by our church order to it!

By the grace of God, we've seen a number of people come to faith in our congregation. We've focused upon equipping members of our church to share Christ with their neighbors, and that has worked well for us.
February 27, 2008 | Registered CommenterKim Riddlebarger

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