By J. D. Payne
I recently spoke with a church-planting leader for a particular denomination. As we talked over coffee, he inquired about the direction of our church when it comes to church planting. My response was to describe our future missionary labors in terms like we read about in Acts 13-14; 16; 20; 1 Thess. 1:2-10; and Titus 1:5. He responded with much surprise as if my thoughts were coming from an unusual source.
Unfortunately, over the years, I have found myself surprising many people during similar conversations.
What does it reveal about our missiology and biblical convictions whenever we think it is strange to advocate that those first century church planting teams have something to teach us? What does it reveal about our Kingdom stewardship when we view such an advocate as being peculiar? Do we not recognize a problem exists whenever we label a church planter as being innovative, creative, or unusual for following a Pauline model?
Granted, not everything we read in the Bible is prescriptive. However, I believe our brother Paul and his example should be on a pedestal for us to consider. He was a church planter, you know.
Having the right definition
As wise stewards of the mystery of Christ, we must subscribe to a definition of biblical church planting as evangelism that results in new churches. Or, to communicate it in other terms: disciple-making that results in new churches. The weight of the biblical model is on this definition.
Imagine what would happen if we began to create a church-planting atmosphere in North America whereby the expectation for new churches is that they should consist of 95-100% new believers–at the moment those churches are planted.
Consider what would happen if our strategies did not embrace methods that would result in new churches consisting of 95-100% long-term Kingdom citizens – at the moment of their births.
We Don’t Need More Flavors
What would happen if we recognized that a wise use of our Father’s resources (e.g., money, people) should be to assist in planting churches from out of the harvest fields, instead of establishing a new work in a community to provide a different style of worship/ministry for the believers who are already there?
We do not need another flavor of church in the Baskin Robbins of North American Christianity; we need missionary bands to settle for nothing less than disciple-making that results in new churches.
What would happen if we equipped and commissioned church planters with the task of only going to the lost in the people group/community?
Yes, we say we are advocating these things, but let’s begin to question our results.
Try this. The next time you hear about a new church planted, a record number of new churches birthed in an area, or church planting goals reached, just ask the question, “What percent of the members of those churches recently came into the Kingdom of God?”
This article will continue in the next post.