• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

Is Church Planting Too Narrow a Focus?

Sometimes in conversation with people from around the globe, I will hear a comment which goes something like the following: “So, your mission is only focused on church planting?  I’m not sure that really plays well to potential workers today.”  What I think people are trying to say is that ‘church planting’ is somewhat out of date, too restrictive, or that the term doesn’t really communicate passion and vision to potential workers.churchplanting

Agreed. The term church planting (CP) might not communicate well in our media saturated context and it could convey the idea that we’re just concerned with building a building and moving on.  However, I think church planting is oftentimes undersold.

Building communities is not only a wild ride of spiritual passion, it is varied in its activities and outcomes.

For one, building communities pushes a person to their limit because you always ‘work from a blank page’.  Jerry (WT France) used this expression recently to describe the work in Western Europe and I think there is a lot of truth in what he said.  It’s about starting something from scratch by looking around to see what God is already doing, how you can join in partnership with others, and what ways you can facilitate the work of seeing people commit to Christ and live out their spiritual journey in a different cultural context.

For another, building communities involves addressing the total needs of people, and in particular their spiritual needs.  Everyone we meet has a host of needs that range from physical to emotional to spiritual.  The Bible is pretty clear that we cannot just address spiritual needs when the physical needs of a person are staring us in the face.  It is a multifaceted task to which we are called.

And finally, building communities means admitting daily you don’t have the capacity or ability to do ALL the work.  It calls for distributing, delegating and sharing the work across a large number of people.  It means learning, really learning to work collaboratively with others, where sometimes their ideas are chosen over ours.

Church planting may not be the best term to communicate what we are about.  Perhaps it’s building communities. Perhaps it’s something else.  Whatever the term, the elements which make up that work get my heart, and the hearts of many others, pumping.

8 Responses

  1. Amen. The concept of somehow serving under God’s leadership to develop communities of believers – whether my role is that of pioneer church planter, facilitator, or mobilizer: get’s my heart pumping too!

  2. The key I believe is learning to talk about ‘church planting’ or ‘building communities’ in other ways so that people will catch the passion … and the vision!

  3. It seems that “building communities,” although extremely important in the process, is also too narrow with only a likely temporary appeal. I think that we might find that the best definer of what we do is the biblical concept and term “discipling all the peoples”. But this also has its problems since disciple-making is not widely understood in it biblical meaning since in today world evangelism is viewed as separate from disciple-making.

    If I understand the Bible correctly evangelism is part of the disciple-making process. Disciple-making includes evangelism, community building and teaching to obey all that the Lord commands throughout the Bible. I believe that compartmentalizing disciple-making weaken the total process. This compartmentalization also tends to distort our understanding of the gospel making the gospel only for the unbeliever. Discipling the nations is defined by three essential components –going to all the nations (peoples) communicating the way of salvation, baptizing them, which means incorporating them into the fellowship of the covenant people of God (church), which includes building community, and teaching them to obey the whole word of God. Failing to see disciple making in biblical terms also tends to cause our strategic thinking and action to become overly sequential.

    How to communicate what we do in a way that is accurate, consistent with our biblical mandate and calling as an agency in terms that strongly motivate and are immediately and accurately understood is a difficult task. Training and facilitating disciple-makers among the least discipled is what we do, but I doubt that those terms would communicate well.

    I agree that the key is learning to communicate in ways that cause people to be gripped by the passion.

  4. Ed, your wisdom is greatly needed and appreciated! Each term seems limited, but we need several ways perhaps to describe what we are talking about. CP is multifaceted and I think we see that just in the ways we are trying to find to describe. But the ultimate goal is to fan the flames and passion for seeing the peoples of the world discipled to Christ!

  5. “What does a Church Planting Movement look like and how is one typically started” is the intro for an excellent video produced by “Act Beyond” It is a great illustration of how missionaries can catalyze Church Planting Movements (aka Disciple Making Movements). Over 100 movements like this are now active around the world – on every continent. http://tinyurl.com/oj49on3

    One reason I share this is simply to review INGREDIENTS of multiplicational church planting. I believe that it can be demonstrated by the numerical success of some agencies mobilizing many for CPIng that there is nothing out-moded with the term “church planting”. Maybe we all just need to actually reference CPing more often, while including illustrative ingredients. Doing this allows more people (different gifting) to find ‘their place’.

  6. True, but your friend Woody was always good about talking about CP in a hundred different ways. That’s what we need, to talk more about CP by using all the terms, images and concepts which make up its core.

    • Touché! And, Woody’s approach ‘caught’ many people …while inherently re-launching the VISION on regular basis; another important leadership ingredient.

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