3 Blogging Series for Church Planters

This is just another friendly reminder that this blog has moved and can now be found at www.churchplanting.org.  I have 3 blogging series going on there.

  1. Church Planting is Hard.  This series focuses on the difficulties many church planters face when planting a church.
  2. Legal Wednesdays.  This series covers a to z everything a church planter needs to do to legally establish the church.
  3. Resource Fridays.  This series highlights a different church planting resource each week.

I hope you find these posts helpful as you go about the kingdom work of starting new churches.

Is God working in spite of the church?

Don’t forget this blog has moved to http://www.plantingchurches.org. If you want to read the post head over there or http://bit.ly/cEYKfd.

Church Planting: Is it Reproduction or Cloning?

This blog has moved to www.plantingchurches.orgClick here to view this post and don’t forget to subscribe to the new site if you want to keep getting updates.

Moving to www.plantingchurches.org

This blog is officially moving.  The new address is www.plantingchurches.org. Please update your email subscriptions and RSS feeds.  Big thanks to Josh Starr of Solid Giant who designed the new blog.

I Don’t Like My Church Plant: The Need for Contextualization

I spent a year in Northern Virginia at New Life Christian Church.  The church planter, Brett Andrews, told me something that has always stuck in my memory.  He said, “I don’t like my church plant.”  This of course let to a befuddled reply of, “What do you mean, you don’t like your church plant.”  Brett replied, “If I had planted this church for me we would all where formal attire on Sunday and sing hymns.  I just don’t like the loud music, video clips and dress down attire.  But, I didn’t plant this church for myself.  I planted it for the people of Northern Virginia and after learning about them we determined that this style was the best way to communicate the gospel.”

Wow!  I love that story.  How many church planters can say that?  That is the story of a missionary.  Contextualization is important work for a church planter.  One of the unique facets of the gospel is that it is not contained within a particular culture.  If a person is a Gentile, they don’t need to first become a Jew to access God.  Remember that story?  The first thing a church planter needs to do once they are on the ground is what Alan Hirsch calls missional listening.  Church planters are typically highly driven individuals who want to hit the ground running.  Too often they assume they understand the culture and begin planning for church services.  When this happens, I guarantee you are planting a church for yourself and not the culture you are in.

What did you do / are you doing to missionally listen before you start planning for church services?  Here are a couple of examples from planters I’ve worked with.

1.  Worked at Starbucks for two years in the planting community before drawing a salary from the church plant. Result: started a ministry to mom’s providing them a place to hang out while their kids played.  The facility served as a Third Place in the community as well space for the children’s ministry on Sundays.

2.  Conducted a community needs assessment interviewing 100 community leaders, and surveying over 300 people.  Result: Discovered that community needs were being met by existing organizations.  Rather than starting another one, the church was started with a DNA of generosity and gives several man hours a month to community organizations as well as organizing drives to gather the resources they need.

3.  Began serving door to door by raking leaves and shoveling snow with his family.  As the team grew, they organized volunteers and took on community projects the city couldn’t pull off alone.  Result: The city has asked the pastor to develop a youth program for the entire city (20,000 students) and will be funding it too.   There is not restriction on sharing the gospel through the program.  The chief of police asked the pastor to be the chaplain for the city fire and police stations.

The cool thing is that God is already active in the places we are planting churches.  Sometimes we just need to slow down long enough to listen.  When we do, not only will we learn how to contextualize church in the community, but we might also learn what God is already doing and partner together with Him.

Pastoring the Prayer Team

One of the early milestones that any church planter must accomplish is developing a prayer support team.  I’ve seen hundreds of prayer updates over the years from church planters.  The majority of them all sound about the same.  Most include prayer for more funding, the right facility, an upcoming event and prayers for people to come.  Notice a theme?  The prayers are primarily self-centered and focused on what the church planter needs to succeed.  Most church planters naturally look at these prayer updates as ways to get people to pray for their needs.  Now I know church planters pray better than that.  I spend time in prayer with them and they pray for things like specific people coming to know Jesus, praise for God’s work in the city the church is being planted in, prayers for wisdom and discernment, etc.  These prayer just don’t often make it into the prayer update.  Church planters generally don’t stop to consider how significant and influential it is for a supporter to receive prayer updates.

Most people never get an intimate look at the prayer life of a pastor.  By receiving updates and prayers, supporters can see how the church planter’s  faith handles difficult obstacles, takes on the impossible, perseveres, and trusts God.  That open window into your life will help stretch their faith and serve as a model for how they approach God.  Essentially the prayer updates will serve as discipleship tools to your supporters.  As the church planter shares stories about lost people coming to know Jesus, supporters will be inspired to reignite their passion to reach out the lost in their midst.

So the next time you realize its been over a month since your last prayer update, don’t dread it.  Take it as an opportunity to teach and inspire the people who are making a sacrifice of time and money so that this new work of God can exist.

The Outsourced Church

Outsourcing is a very popular business model that companies use to cut costs and streamline work flows.  But the idea of outsourcing isn’t new.  The church has been doing it for centuries.  Back in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, there was a movement to form missionary societies.  For example, the Baptist Missionary Society was formed in 1792.  These societies assumed the role of sending missionaries out into unreached areas.  From an institutional standpoint, this makes a lot of sense.  You can organize on a large scale and ensure that work isn’t being duplicated.  I believe the long term effect has been that today’s church is not as engaged in mission.  On the local church level the result is that missions simply becomes check writing.  Rather than each Christian being called at baptism to the Great Commission, they become an economic engine to support others doing mission.  In a Christian culture, the impact is minimal.  But in today’s post-Christian Western culture the impact is devastating.  Each Christian no longer understands that their baptism is also a calling to the Great Commission.  Thus, the unchurched among us are no longer reached.

The early 1900’s saw the even more outsourcing in the Church with the rise of parachurch organizations.  Today, parachurch organizations exist for almost every imaginable ministry.  While there is nothing inherently wrong with parachurch organizations (I work for one), the result in the Church in the West is the sense that mission is again not the business of the local church.  The local church simply serves as check writers, the economic engine of the parachurch movement.

The missional shift we are in the midst of is a needed correction of this outsourcing.  Once again, churches are rallying behind the Great Commission and bringing these essential elements of missions back into the local church.  Churches are begining to serve their communities, raise up pastors from within, send out church planters and missionaries, and see themselves as the primary catalyst of God’s mission within their locale.

With all the debate about missional churches and what they are and are not, I believe the local church embracing the Great Commission is the greatest benefit of this movement.  I believe this missional movement will require parachurch organizations and missionary societies to reorganize as partners who help the local church become the hands and feet of God’s mission rather than doing it for them.

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