I have greatly benefited from seminary training concentrated on church planting, and other denominational training. But the most comprehensive church planting training I have received to date has come from Steve Childers and the Global Church Advancement (GCA). Last week I was fortunate to attend the conference a second time in six months. This time, I brought with me seven others from our core group. Here is a summary of my reflections from the week.
Few Christians apparently understand the mission we’ve been given. As a church planter on my second church planting endeavor, I am keenly aware of the lack of understanding many Christians have for the Mission of God. I do not say that arrogantly. I did not gain what little understanding I have about church planting on my own. But really, how many Christians give serious thought about how their church was started? How many consider, “If God did not use someone to start this church, we would not be joined with this biblical community of Jesus followers.” This week I watched as Christians pondered this for the first time.
Why plant new churches? God created all things good, and this brought Him the glory He deserves. Satan and Sin entered and corrupted everything. Because Sin corrupted the first man and woman, people today do not seek to glorify God. Therefore, God’s ultimate purpose in the world He created is to bring renewal and once again make His Kingdom visible on earth.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away…and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away. And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.'” Revelation 21:1,4-5a
We are in need of a spiritual awakening. Christ and His Church are our hope. This was clearly communicated right from the beginning by the staff at GCA. “God has ordained that His Kingdom comes with transformational power into every sphere of life–primarily through the church.” —GCA Church Planting Foundations: Student Workbook
I recommend GCA to anyone considering involvement in church planting. You will walk away more prepared in several key areas. Here are eleven summarized thoughts I took from the conference:
1. The vision for every church must be to glorify God and advance His Kingdom through His Church empowered by the gospel. This vision never changes. We must never lose sight of this if we are to be gospel-centered in our churches.
“What would it look like in your neighborhood if the Lord answered the Lord’s prayer…’Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven?'” –Steve Childers
Have church leaders thought clearly enough about how the church will see the gospel make the invisible Kingdom visible in our city for the glory of God?
2. Church planting requires that those involved “be acutely aware of the kinds of things that deeply burden the people” you are sent to reach, “i.e. the things that keep them up at night.”
This thought compelled one member of our group to write,
“I am praying for a greater love for the people of our city. My desire is to laugh when they laugh and cry when they cry, to genuinely love and care for this city.”
3. “Prayer must be a top priority in starting and establishing a new church.” It is vitally important to have a plan for this to remain a serious matter in any church planting endeavor.
“Now we see again, safely and stunningly, what the awesome place of prayer is in the purpose of God to fill the earth with his glory. Not only has God made the accomplishment of his purposes hang on the preaching of the Word; but he has also made the success of that preaching hang on prayer. God’s goal to be glorified will not succeed without the powerful proclamation of the gospel. And that gospel will not be proclaimed in power to all nations without the prevailing, earnest, faith-filled prayers of God’s people. This is the awesome place of prayer in the purpose of God for the world. That purpose
won’t happen without prayer.” –John Piper
4. The task of church planting requires contextualizing the gospel without compromising.
“The work of faithful evangelism is to identify with the world you live without
losing your identity in Christ.” –John Stott
“You must be not only a wise interpreter of God’s Word but also a wise interpreter
of God’s World–particularly as it is uniquely manifested in the culture
your church is serving.” –Tim Rice
5. Discover your strengths and weaknesses and learn to serve out of your strengths, both personally as leaders and as a church.
“The healthiest church plants are normally those that maintain BOTH a balanced focus on all five ministry priorities (Worship & Prayer, Learning & Discipleship, & Fellowship & Community, Outreach & Evangelism, Mercy & Social Concern) AND know what they are uniquely gifted and passionate about doing best.” –Bob Orner
6. Your Church’s core values are a synthesis of the church planters core values with the personal core values of your church leaders and members.
“Core values are the underlying convictions that reflect the biblical purposes
for the church and drive its ministry activities.” –Bob Cargo
“Church planters often fail to understand the true, underlying values of the church–which…are often not the same as the church’s stated, articulated values. Church
values normally take a long time to be developed and truly owned, and an
even longer time to change later.” –Bob Cargo
7. A new church’s “style” should be shaped by knowing how best to express the church’s biblical purposes to the people in your cultural context.
“The process by which a church planter ‘incarnates’ or adapts the Christian faith into
the culture of the new church Ministry Focus Group (while being both faithful to the Scriptures and relevant to the culture) is called contextualization.” –Andre Rogers
Without contextualization, determining initial ministry styles of Worship, Learning, Fellowship and Outreach is unwise.
“The biggest thing I probably came away with was the importance of knowing the culture in which we serve and the importance of incorporating that knowledge into our overall strategy. I think I have often just assumed the culture.” –Team Member attending with me.
8. Deciding what model the church plant uses requires being realistic and envisioning what the new church looks like in two years . When the church reaches a mature level a few years later, what essential gospel ministries will be in place to be considered a healthy young church?
“Left to ourselves, we will all end up doing what we’ve seen done
before, or what we like to d0.” –Bob Orner
9. One goal in church planting is to establish a healthy, indigenous church. Four marks of an indigenous church include:
“Self-Theologizing: applying the gospel well to the church & culture.
Self-Governing: overseeing the church through indigenous leaders.
Self-Propagating: reproducing the church through church planting.
Self-Supporting: providing for all church financial needs through the church.”
—The GCA Church Planting Foundations: Student Workbook
It is critical in church planting to develop a clearly defined financial plan that includes both fundraising and financial management for the new church.
10. Considering all that church planting involves, it is vitally important to have a ministry plan. Know what you plan to do for the next twelve months, then proceed trusting God. The plan is just a vehicle, not God. Do not confuse the two.
“One of the things that God taught me this week was that we should be more organized with our church planting efforts. This seminar has helped to reiterate the importance of good planning and organization.” –Core Group Member attending with me.
11. Remember: The main thing is not the ministry, it is loving God and loving people.
“It’s been well said that it is hard to lead. But it’s even harder to love. Church
planters often have an inordinate focus on the Great Commission (making disciples
of all Nations) to the neglect of a much more needed focus on the Great
Commandment (loving God & people). –Steve Childers