Month: March 2009

Great Missiology from George Patterson

PlantR recently hosted two church planting practitioners who have worked all over the world in contributing to church planting movements–George Patterson and Tony Dale. Both contributors enriched our understanding of church planting and movements. This post will focus on Patterson.

Dr. George Patterson is Adjunct Professor of Intercultural Studies at Western Seminary and possesses 35 years of missions experience. At age 76, he is lively, insightful, and pastoral. It was a remarkable privilege to spend time with him. Making light of academics, his stated goal was to “easify church planting.” Patterson’s interactive discussion revolved around a 6 pointed star diagram that depicts seven non-negotiables in church planting movements.


This diagram helpfully brought together the elements of evangelism, worship. organizational structure, financial support, reproducible growth, leadership training all under the rule of Christ. As we worked our way around these points, Patterson provided refreshing, field-based stories and missiological insights. Instead of commenting on each one, I will offer a few of his insights here. We hope to get a U-tube video up soon.

Rabbit and the Elephant

Patterson pointed out there are three main types of churches—rabbits, elephants, and rabi-phants. Rabbit churches are small churches that reproduce quickly. If rabbits were killed as quickly they would quickly outweigh all the elephants in the world. Elephant churches are big churches that have longer gestation periods and reproduce much more slowly, but they are powerful. All too often the rabits and elephants compete instead of partner. A rabiphant church combines elements of a traditional, larger church with smaller missional units of non-tradtional missional churches. He averred that we need all three. This is often not the message we hear from micro/organic/house church voices, so that was refreshing.


When asked what impedes reproducibility, Patterson offered a variety of insights:

When the sun rises and sets on the pulpit. Quoting from Jonathan Edwards, he  remarked: “A churches greatest weakness is invariably its greatest weakness taken to excess.” Pulpit can strangle mission and evangelistic reproducibility.

Pastoral training by apprenticeship not seminary. Noting that this practice has been effective throughout church history. He was quick to point out that seminary is not the problem, but the way students respond to formal education conditions them for churches that are not highly reproducible, low in cost, and missional.

A group small enough to do the one-anothering and fast reproduction is typically too small to be the church. Small groups cannot have all the gifts of Ephesians 4, nor can they sustain reproducibility. Therefore, the small groups need to rely on one another. There need to be strong relationships between small groups and lots of interaction in order to promote healthy, missional churches.

Is Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder?

It has been said that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” That the beauty of a person or thing is not intrinsic to that person or thing, but is determined by the person who views it. That beauty is subjective, relative, referential. What you find beautiful, I may find ugly but neither of us are right. What matters is that you like it, you take pleasure in it, and if you like it, it may be deemed as beautiful. It’s simply a matter of personal taste. I like Bach, you like Brittney.

Basis for Beauty

But does personal taste actually determine beauty? Is beauty really just a matter of taste, what you like, what pleases you, or does it possess more objective qualities? In his scintillating and illuminating book The Evidential Power of Beauty, Thomas Dubay offers a definition of beauty in line with Science: “the beautiful is that which has unity, harmony, proportion, wholeness, and radiance.” During South by Southwest I saw M. Ward at the PASTE showcase. He opened his set with a 10 minute instrumental, during which he manipulated five strings, a guitar, volume, and silence that evoked an eruption of applause. His songs contain proportion, unity, harmony. Then, I drove down the street to hear a raging metal band screaming at the top of their lungs as they shouted and played indiscernible notes. Very little proportion, unity, and harmony. Which is more beautiful?

Morality of Beauty

It was Plato that described the opposite of beauty as the unpleasantness of seeing a body with one long leg excessively. A disproportionate, asymmetrical person. They say that leading actors must typically have proportionate, symmetrical facial features. Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson, regardless of how short they are, they are still considered beautiful, in part, due to the symmetry of their faces. Is beauty, then, not merely a matter of taste, but a matter of symmetry? Of Science? What then are we to do with Tom Cruise’s Scientologist judgment against fellow beauty Brooke Shields, who took medication for her post-partum depression? And what of Gibson’s drunkenness and anti-Semitism? Is there not a moral component to beauty? We should admire a person of great personal beauty, not merely based on their form but also on their substance. Personal beauty extends well beyond possessing physical symmetry. Beauty is moral. It is a virtue, an image of goodness as well as an image of proportion. And we still recognize this kind of beauty. We celebrate the music of Amy Winehouse but bemoan her drug addicted lifestyle. Fans roar when Barry Bonds hits a homerun, while jeering at the sight of his performance-enhanced head. A beautiful performance necessitates honesty, integrity, no cheating. Even a dishonest person appreciates honesty, but appreciation for morality does not require cultivation of morals. However, just because we can recognize the moral component of beauty does not mean that we are, in fact, beautiful.

How do you think Beauty should be defined? Eye of the Beholder? Scientifically? Morally? Why?

For more thinking on Beauty:

New: Austin City Life Website

Check out our new church website. 99% of the photos are taken by our own people. Feel free to give us some feedback.

In the coming weeks we will be adding new sermon archiving features, fresh content, and new pictures. The plan is to keep the site fresh with content, resources, and images. Notice the blog feed at the bottom of the homepage.

Shout out to Dave Cummings, Hollie Meador, and Jesse Lovelace for their work on this.