Recently, I’ve been curious about the historic place of “preaching stations” and their relevance for modern missions. It could just be me, but there seems to be little discussion or usage of the construct in “church planting” efforts. Not sure of the reason for this. Maybe it’s because of the subdued place of preaching as the prime vehicle for conversion – at least within broader evangelicalism. I fear that within Reformed circles, it may reflect church planting that engages more in picking up Calvinist proselytes (at best) or bald sheep-stealing (at worst). That is, church growth that aims not so much at the lost community as an ever-recycling Christian one. Within my own more conservative orbit, I think it’s employed as a downgrade for a weakening or dying congregation.
Whatever the case may be, historically and in the contemporary situation, I’m liking what I read from Chalmers on the topic:
“I should not hold it wise to rush precipitately on the formation of a parish church, till a preaching station, upheld by household assiduities, had been tried and found to be successful. Such a preaching station is the germ of the future church, as the missionary is of the future clergyman; but not till the germ had so far germinated, would we venture on a full parochial apparatus for any locality whatever.”
First, preaching stations are forward-moving Gospel efforts, in the direction of full-fledged congregations. They are missionary endeavors. Second, they operate in the right order with respect to sacraments. Word first; then assuming reception, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Throw the Gospel net far and wide, but keep the sacraments out of the equation until there are “fruits worthy of repentance.” Third, aggressive, territorial household visitation as an indispensable adjunct to the preaching station.