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November 19, 2016

Planting as Creative Disruption

By Derek Hanna

In marketing, the phrase “creative disruption” is used to describe the effect of breaking patterns in how people think and engage; the disruption of comfortable patterns for whatever end-point marketers desire. I contend that we need to think and talk in terms of creative disruption within in our ministries. Here’s why:

First, the Gospel is by its nature creatively disruptive.

Whether it’s through the conviction of sin (Luke 19:1-10; John 16:8), confronting Christians with their blindspots (Galatians 2:11-21), disrupting through discipline (Hebrews 12:11) or refining us to find contentment in Jesus through the trials of life (Philippians 4:10-13) – the Gospel is constantly working on and in us. God’s Spirit disrupts and displaces those idols that have taken root, puts them back into place in the created order, and in their place seats Christ. None of this is comfortable—some of it is downright painful—but all of it is the work of God to bring about fruit in our lives.

Second, church planting by its nature is creatively disruptive.

You only have to scan through Acts to see that disruption was the norm. The tension between the Grecian & Hebraic Jews caused the formation of a care team (Acts 6:1-7). The persecution which caused the scattering of Christians provided the opportunity for the word to be preached to a wider audience (Acts 8:1-4; 11:19). What’s clearly seen is that while the Gospel brings life and rest, it also has the effect of disrupting our status quo and driving us to a deeper understanding of what Jesus is doing in the world – building a people from every nation, tribe, people and language. But that’s not going to happen unless there’s some disruption.

See, church plants are more amenable to this goal because they are both newly formed and mission-focused. The identity of a church plant forms with those they reach and those who join them. They are not bound (as much) to what came before in their tradition because they are forming their own church culture. Their focus is not maintaining but proclaiming. It’s for this reason that we found in a recent study on Australian church planting that church plants are five times more likely to reach the unchurched than established churches are. There are fresh expressions of the Gospel, new ways of reaching people, refreshed networks and enthusiasm for the work of the Gospelall of which (for better or worse) are observed by the established church.

Thirdly, the idea of creative disruption helps us grapple with growth and multiplication.

Many talk about the lifecycle of a church (or denominations) as birth, growth, maintenance, decline, and death.

In the early days of a church plant there is a strong sense of purpose, mission, intimacy, connection and camaraderie. This will often be associated with the growth period, where creative disruption is happening naturally and happily. The difficult period comes when a plant moves onto a plateau of stability and maintenance, where more programs are focused internally than with mission in mind. At this point, unless there has been a narrative of mission-minded creative disruption, it can be difficult for a church to move to the next growth cyclewhether that be pushing through a growth barrier or planting their next church.

The more I consider it, talk to churches, hear struggles, and feel myself tending towards what’s comfortable for me, I’m convinced that Creative Disruption is something that needs to be sown into the DNA of a church. Spoken about and enjoyed in the growth periods. But actively planned for when stability is reached. Those are the moments of painful and difficult decisions where we decide what our mission is. The establishment of gatherings that focus on serving our needs, or the desire to see as many as possible won for Christ in whatever ways are available to us.

So, how’s creative disruption going in your church?


Derek Hanna

Derek grew up and became a Christian in Sydney, Australia. After studying Computer Science and working in London, he decided to do something he was completely unqualified for, but desperately passionate about, and started working for the Church Missionary Society helping churches talk to youth & children about what God was doing throughout the world and how they could be involved. While doing this, he studied theology at Sydney Missionary & Bible College and then headed up to Brisbane, Australia to work in pastoral ministry. Nine years ago he planted Village Church in Brisbane City, and this year started working with Geneva Push, an Australian church planting network, as the Director of Training. He's been married to Jacqueline for 18 years, they've got three boys who bring them joy and worry in equal measure, and they're all part of Christ Community Church in Brisbane, Australia.


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