Church Planting for Atheists


With the recent hoopla of the new phenomenon of “Atheist churches” popping up in Europe and America, and their very first apparent “schism”, I wanted to offer my (free) professional consulting on how this could be a prime opportunity for “Atheist Church Planting.”

We in the church know how schism can oftentimes be pre-empted or ratified by an intentional redirecting of congregational energies towards positive and constructive outcomes as opposed to negative and destructive ones; that “planting” (or establishing) new congregations is a good way out of such situations in staving off congregational discontent, funneling energies towards more constructive means, and ultimately producing more missional Christians – in your case I’m not sure what that would be – but your version of a people called & sent, who perceive a divine sense of vocation and mission.

So allow for a bit of advice from people who have been at it for 2000 years; you could use a little coaching:

First, you want to evaluate the nature of this “schism” – is it a difference in teaching or in values? Are you hard atheists, or soft atheists? Have agnostics infiltrated your ranks and polluted the minds of your flock? Is it over the need to have drums and guitars in your sing-alongs, or are there people who prefer the solemn liturgy of humanism? Or is the conflict less content-oriented and more about a breakdown in the emotional process / relationship system somewhere? Can you find the means to reconcile and if not, to forgive and to bless?

Second, you’ll need to come up with a plan. How many healthy people, couples, families do you have? You should have upwards of at least 30 to 50 people to produce a beginning critical mass, and it’s important not to plant with angry, bitter people. Can you do that? Because no one likes an angry church, and an angry church cannot retain people for long. It may be evidence of emotional carry-over from the previous congregation. For churches birthed in reaction stay plagued with the toxicity of unreconciled emotional processes. So if you can birth a new, non-reactive atheist church plant, then more power to you.

Third: How are you going to fund this thing? Do you have a way to motivate people to tithe in atheism? Perhaps an appeal that their contribution “goes to a worthy cause” – but the problem with this is we’ve often found such givings come with demands, i.e., “returns on their investment” and this makes for rather selfish giving. You see, the secret in the Christian church is we often preach giving as an antidote to selfishness, not as party to it. If you can find a way to prompt unselfish, generous, and consistent giving, then do it.

Fourth: Wait for the right time. A wise coach once told me, “It’s about the right pastor, in the right place, at the right time.” If those pieces are in place, it births synergy; are you the right shepherd for your people? Do they sense your care, patience, love, forbearance, long-suffering? Are you a forgiving person that can stay decades – 10, 20, 30 years with your congregation? Are you in the right place where you are recognized as prominent within the community, looked up to as a person with integrity, not only well-connected but well-respected and loved? Is the timing right, or will this new plant disrupt the stasis around you? Are there presently other projects you can partner with?

Fifth. If you’ve gotten this far, can you launch well? Methinks you can, from the catchy ad campaigns; it really gets a lot of attention. Once you launch, it should double or triple your critical mass, and you’ve got the beginnings of a church. But the longevity and the depth of the church really depends on how well you worked the first four steps above; because if you haven’t then, well, you’ll have yet another schism on your hands.

God-bless Self-bless and good luck.

Published by Wayne Park

Asian-American clergyman thinking about issues of faith, place, race and culture-making in the vast city of Houston, TX

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