In the natural world of nature, beasts grow by dropping seeds or sprogs, or by sending roots through the dark earth. I am not sure that I believe in magical storks or pink pudgy babies falling from stars, so I am left with this clumsy biological fact. And it works. Just look out of the window - life everywhere, all born of an older life elsewhere.
Now that I have earned a PhD in the natural sciences, I can make a pronouncement or two about the life of the church.
I live in the heartlands of what is affectionately known as Aitchteebee - a super-church in the City that gave birth to that rarely seen thing, the Alpha Course. You speak to Christians around here, you fast discover that a great number of churches in this part of the world are Aitchteebee Plants. Frankly, they are almost without exception successful, growing and thriving places - and good for them. Someone has to be.
Sometimes, I lose heart. I lose heart because as a catholic kind of Christian, it feels (even if it only a feeling) that our 'end' of things is well into terminal decline, with half our people leaving to be what they would now term as 'proper Catholics'. This means that there are precisely eight Anglo-Catholic priests in the whole of Britain, and so I lose heart when I see my brothers and sisters of the evangelical wing having it away with new churches, world-famous nurture courses and growth beyond all measure.
In trying to work out why this is, I have to ask what might be going on. Is evangelicalism the only expression of faith supported by God? Nope. Is it about money? Possibly. Is the whole world evangelical except for the eight of us who like to faun over thuribles for a living? Nope. So what is it then?
It has to be a heart to church plant. Like every organic being in the whole of God's creation (and we could argue that a perfect model exists for us right there), big things emit little baby things that grow into the next big things. Yet we Anglo-Catholics just don't seem to want to bother. The sad thing is, we are easy transplants - all we need is a Mass Set, and a Bible and we are a liturgical body. I do not believe that my friends in the evangelical wing of the church have the only successful plant-model - they simply have the only plant-model (and cash, which helps, of course).
I know that there are successful catholic communities that could plant a church (and if any of us simply waited for enough cash then we would get nowhere fast). I am not advocating a fight-back on the part of the catholics, because I believe that the world needs all of us. But it needs us by balance. For this to happen, people like me could learn a lesson from those who seem to know better, to look beyond the stylistic issues (or even celebrate the differences) and get on and grow as nature intended.