Church planting exists for God’s mission, and has always been a vital part of that mission. He has consistently sent His people into new mission fields, to minister among new people groups, and often to plant new churches.
Sometimes church planting happens in easier seasons of life; sometimes it happens in difficult times—this has always been the case. Sometimes God plants churches out of human planning; sometimes out of spiritual persecution; and other times out of global pandemics. However God works a specific plant, He invites us to consider our role, and the role of church planting, in His mission and for His glory. In this, the final post of this series, we consider five encouragements for current and future planters, or for leaders who want your church to become a church planting church.
- Start and end with Jesus: Church planting is God’s work in which we have the honor of being involved. If church planting doesn’t start with a vision for seeing Jesus’ Kingdom expanded; and if our motive isn’t to see more of His good news impact very real lives of very real mission fields, we have the wrong starting point and the wrong goal. In the ten years I’ve been involved with church planting, I’ve seen too often a planter’s motivation being to be better… different… more relevant… more right, etc. than other churches, including their sending church. And one of the most common temptations for every pastor is to make it about us. The church is God’s; He will build it as He sees fit. Jesus is the head of His church. And the Spirit of God alone can produce godly and lasting fruit. God is our source; He is our motivation; He is our goal: “from him and through him and for him are all things [including church planting!] To him be the glory forever” (Rom. 11:36).
- Build a diverse team: This was mentioned briefly in a previous post, but is worth a deeper dive. No matter who you are, where you plant, how large or small your core team, or the method you’re pursuing, no one human can lead a church to holistic health alone. Functionally, multiple voices serving God’s people helps a planter share the load, balances out his weaknesses, and brings more well-rounded leadership. By God’s grace, I’m a decent teacher and can create culture relatively well, but the church I’m planting would be lacking without others with a variety of other gifts leading alongside me. In Saturate’s residencies we consider the importance of APEST and shared leadership; every church needs multiple perspectives and a multi-gifted team of servant leaders. I was recently talking with a colleague about the importance of self-awareness in planting; being honest about your own giftings and strengths, and also your areas of need, is vital for planting a strong church.
3. Create a culture of multiplication at every level: There is never a right time for a church to start turning outward, and focus on planting other churches, supporting external work, or sending missionaries. A church never gets to a point where it is strong enough, financially stable enough, established enough, secure enough, and lots of other “enough’s” to start this kind of work. If we realize this, then we can accept that the right time to start creating a culture of sending… is today! This is true whether you just planted, or serve a hundred-year-old church. A culture of multiplication starts with teaching on multiplication and developing leaders to multiply. Church leaders must equip people for everyday discipleship of each other; we must cast a vision for new groups, churches, and missions; and we must empower leaders for such endeavors. We can structure our churches for releasing people, learn to measure fruit more by “output” than “intake”, and brace ourselves to lose people purposefully for the sake of the gospel. There’s no time like the present; your first step toward multiplication and sending can start today!
4. Send and support well: Whether it’s sending out a new leader and new group, new planting team and new church, or new missionary team and new mission, every church can—and must—send and support well. Sending is a big deal; celebrate it! Share stories, prayers, and encouragement, as people prepare to be sent, as they are sent, and well after they’re sent. On one hand, the people who are not overtly involved in sending will be brought into the process, and the level of ownership and affection for sending will go up across your church. On the other hand, people gravitate toward that which is celebrated. So sending will likely increase too. Finally, support those sent out, through finances if needed and possible, but also through resources and meeting tangible needs, through encouragement and prayer, through checking in and caring, and through coaching and relational support. This obviously looks different depending on whether it’s a new group in your church vs. a new church plant, etc. But be creative and discuss amongst your team: how can we both send and support well?
5. Church planting exists for God’s mission: Every church was somehow started by another church. Leaders of Salt+Light Community in Fort Worth Church, to use my church plant’s history for example, were sent out by The City Church. The City Church in turn was supported by Northwood and The Village Churches. The Village was planted in 1978 by Lakeland Baptist Church, which was planted in 1962 by First Baptist Church of Lewisville, TX. First Baptist Lewisville was started by thirteen families in 1869, the result of an 1845 decision by the Southern Baptist Convention to “form a missionary organization to take the gospel out west.”* And on and on we could go—eventually we’d work our way back to Jesus’ first disciples’ pursuit of the Great Commission! This is true for every church that has ever existed, whether planted through healthy circumstances or not. Through planning or persecution, new churches have been birthed by existing churches for all of Christian history. Church planting has always been part of God’s vision for making disciples. However you plant a church, whatever your role is in helping send planters on mission, and whatever situation God uses to birth His church, the goal of church planting is “for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14). Church planting exists for gospel saturation; it is part of God’s mission.
There is more to say, to be sure. And as with every point in every post of this series, there is plenty more to say about each of these encouragements. This content will be expanded in a forthcoming Saturate book and future posts later this year, which we hope helps every church become involved in planting churches and sending missionaries.
Finally, part of my work with Saturate is to foster collaborative residencies in various areas across North America. On one hand, we work with multiple organizations to come alongside churches in training church planters; on the other hand, we help churches and organizations start residencies of their own. We’d be honored if any of that work can serve you; let us know!
*This paragraph and quote from https://www.thevillagechurch.net/about/history. Accessed 2018.07.10.
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