“This training manual has been a turning point in my ministry. After getting to know and understand what God wants from me as a church planter, I now follow the plan of God. He is building His church today from district to state and from state to another country. I recommend all church planters to know the plan of God for building His church. This manual can help you discover that plan.”
—Santosh Makal, Church Planter, West Bengal, India, and Bangladesh
“Your manual is clear, complete, and useful. We train church planters in Ho Chi Minh City with this manual.”
—Pastor and Church Planter, Vietnam
“God has used [this manual] to change my life and given the men around me a deep root in the Scriptures. Our church is acting more like the one that the Scriptures talk about and many are blessed because of it.”
—Ken Auer, Businessman and Pastor, Raleigh, North Carolina
“I can now say this is next to the Bible in relation to the church and its ministry. You ask how and why? I say, ‘Because it takes the reader to the Bible itself to discover the supercultural, timeless and biblical principles in establishing new churches.’ This manual is a tool God can use to empower you to discover the process God wants you to follow.”
—Pastor and Church Planter, Myanmar
“The last ten years, I studied and applied this biblical philosophy in my life and ministry. When I studied and used this manual in the ministry, I went from an educator to biblical church planter.”
—Mari Daniel, Church Planter, Karnataka, India
“By the end of the book each participant will have his own Bible-based, church planting strategy. The training method used to teach with this manual is very simple. Each question presented makes the participants rely on the Holy Spirit and answer in truth from the Bible. The best thing about the manual is it is very practical.”
—Ramesh Sapkota, Church Planter, Former Attorney, Nepal
“Participants who work simultaneously through this training resource are most likely to discover God’s biblical strategy for church planting as well as their individual direction for planting churches.”
—Phil Largent, President, IMD International, Denver, Colorado
Seeking a Church Planting Model
Church Planting Models Today
There are a number of church planting models today. Many require extensive budgets (up to $350K), well trained leadership teams, facilities, fund raising, staffing, marketing campaigns, music teams, and several years of planning, practicing, planting, and establishing to complete. Some of these models seek to follow scriptural patterns and precedents closely; some only very loosely connect to scripture.
These models can include detailed flow charts and intense assessments and selection criteria for both staff and target geographies and demographics. In their detail, they sometimes look similar to business plans and project plans. Many begin with up to a year of planning and pre-launch activities, an initial launch and a second grand opening launch, take an additional two to four years before the church is officially planted, being self-supporting and with permanent staff. The leadership team is typically in place before there is an actual church planted. The church planter is frequently considered a founding pastor, and may stay with the church from several years to 20 or more years as the senior pastor. Some examples of these models include:
The Church Planting movement in the West is organizing under ministries like Acts 29, E3 Partners, Exponential, Catalyst, NAMB, Crossway, CRM, Lifeway, New Thing and many others and is being inspired by men like Francis Chan, Ed Stetzer, Reggie McNeal, Thom Rainer, Alan Hirsch, Dinno Rizzo, Marc Driscoll, Frank Viola and many more. The church today is enriched and is transforming itself in these efforts. One major change is a renewed acceptance of bivocational ministry that opens the door to countless new workers. All who pray for the church and for laborers are thankful where laborers emerge as the church reconsiders her ways.
Some Helpful Resources:
God is at Work
We can rejoice over the work being accomplished. Even the most formulaic of these models work. With the right planning and an extensive direct marketing campaign, following these methodologies will produce a new church launched on its first official day with several hundred first time visitors. And, there are some real benefits to the church in general. These models produce necessary change in the church and improved considerations for reaching present cultures and for service ministry. A fresh start allows the church to break away from traditions, reforming "under new management" with new ways of doing church together.
Whatever weaknesses and flaws there may be, God is using these methods, as He uses us—in spite of our flaws, our weaknesses, and our misunderstanding of His will and word. God is using the men and women who make the sacrifices, work very hard, and do the very best they know for advancing the cause of Christ. In any way we can, as we can, we should give these efforts our prayerful and active support and encouragement. The benefits include:
But even the most successful of these models have downside limitations. We are told that in order to just keep up with the population growth and the number of churches being closed every year, that we need to plant thousands of new churches every year. While the established formulas for church planting both work and are reproducible, due to the financial costs, professionally trained staffing, and extensive timeline, they are not very extensible. Because many of these models require a heavy cash infusion, they experience greater controls in who is sent and when and where they are sent and on what basis funds are distributed and released. Unfortunately, as in all of our endeavors, this grows into an ineffective bureaucracy too quickly.
Almost all of these models leave the clergy system intact, with its unbiblical models of positional leadership, its requirement for professional clergy training, and its limited expectations of functional ministry by "lay" people. This structure suffocates the mutual ministry of the saints, the very purpose for which the saints are to assemble together (see Heb 10:23-25; I Cor 14:23-40; Rom 12:3-10; I Thess 5:9-11; I Pet 4:8-11). And, it leaves the church without normative biblical leadership with a plurality of elders who derive their persuasive authority over time through experiential relationships rather than through simple positional authority. The top down, one man at the head, authoritative leadership structure the church uses today, adopted from the world's principles of leadership, is the same one about which Jesus said:
Finally, many of these models rely heavily on pragmatics. If it works and if it makes sense to our natural thinking, it is not scrutinized further. It can be as though since it works, it must therefore be God's best design and we should not question God. But Pragmatic considerations and what makes sense to our own logic should never be treated as on par with the authority of scripture. With such high barriers to entry as these models require, not everyone can participate in these efforts; with the mix of human logic and pragmatics, not everyone is comfortable with the underlying principles employed.So, the drawbacks include:
In Acts 13 through 21, the activities of Paul and his coworkers establish the first church planting movement, and demonstrates a church planting methodology that is flexible, financially lean and operates under a surprisingly brief timeline. Their work was taking place among very similar cultures and times to our own. We can look to their methods to re-examine and revise the church planting models we use today, and especially to increase our expectations of what God can accomplish through His people as He builds His Church.
Here are some thumbnail overviews to get our imaginations (and hopes) racing:
The Galatian Churches
Paul was probably sick (Gal 4:13, perhaps from beatings and stoning, II Cor 11:24,25) during much of the time he proclaimed the gospel and taught new believers over the course of a year in the Galatian region. He spent from two to six months in each of the cities of Iconium, Lystra and Derbe (Acts 14:1-23). After His initial work with them, newly planted churches were left for months at a time on their own.
Paul and his coworkers returned to each city on their departure from the region to ordain multiple pastors in each church. Most of these new pastors had only six months experience as believers in Jesus Christ. These churches, in much less than a year from their launching, had their own local leadership teams and were able to function independently under difficult oppression. Paul would visit again in about 18 months to two years (Acts 16:1-3), only staying a few months in the province. Another three years would pass before Paul visited for the last time, again for only a few months (Acts 18:23).
The Macedonian Churches
Paul and Silas visit the churches in Galatia on their way forward, sharing with them all the letter from the Jerusalem council. As a result, these young churches were established and growing, "so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily," Acts 16:5. At Lystra, they decide to add Timothy, a believer now for perhaps two years, to the church planting team. While they had targeted Asia, they are redirected by the Holy Spirit to Macedonia. At Troas, Luke rejoins the team.
The itinerant team of church planters again spends a brief time planting new churches, somewhere between two to five months at Philippi and Thessalonica, as little as one month at Berea (I Thess 2:17). Silas and Timothy stay on for a bit longer in Berea (Acts 17:14). At Philippi, Paul, Silas and a local worker (Justin) endure severe persecution (I Thess 2:2) and amazing deliverance. Philippi becomes Paul's, "dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown" and the only church from which Paul receives personal support, "no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only" (Phil 4:1,10,15,17). Women are prominently mentioned and associated with the work in these churches (Acts 16:13; 17:4,12; Phil 4:2,3). The work here is also associated with converting whole houses, not just individuals (Acts 16:15, 31-34). Paul was not what we consider a "full time" minister today; He was functioning as what we call a bivocational church planter, working full time ("night and day" I Thess 2:9; II Thess 3:8).
The Churches of Achaia
In Corinth (and briefly in Athens), the team spends as much as 18 months, and while there, do some followup work in Thessalonica and Berea. Unable to visit them though he wanted to do so (I Thess 2:18), Paul writes I Thess during this time and sends Timothy to deliver it (I Thess 3:1,2). Paul then sends again for Timothy and Silas to join him (Acts 17:15), which they do at Corinth (Acts 18:5). Timothy had likely left Thessalonica after delivering the letter to rejoin Silas in the work at Berea.
Paul is again functioning as a bivocational church planter in Corinth (Acts 18:1; I Cor 9:6-15; II Cor 11:6-10. We also see again that whole households are being converted (Acts 18:8, household of Crispus; I Cor 1:16, household of Stephanus). We also learn that Paul is giving responsibilities for ministry to others in the work (Paul only baptized the first converts, Stephanus's household, plus Crispus and Gaius, I Cor 1:14-16, though many were baptised there from the beginning, Acts 18:8).
During the Corinthian work, Paul relates that they are presently glorying about the Thessalonians "in the churches (plural) of God" (II Thess 1:1-4). Paul makes mention of a church in Cenchrea (Rom 16:1), a nearby port city to the capital Corinth. It seems quite likely that Paul and his team, perhaps along with workers from Corinth, were busily planting several other churches in the region during this 18 month period (see Paul's statement about the firstfruits of Achaia, not just of Corinth, in I Cor 16:15 and his mention of the dedication to the ministry of the saints demonstrated by Stephanus). This inference is also supported by II Cor 1:1 "unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia" and Rom 15:26 "it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints."
The Dangers of Elevating Notable Men Subsequent visits to Corinth by the recently converted Apollos (the great orator) and by Peter (the flamboyant miracle-worker), divide the church into parties who elevate and follow men. This danger is one we need to take seriously today. It is a common inclination among men to associate with an elevated person who then becomes the rallying point. This is divisive to the church and dangerous to the worker, and has nothing to do with Christian pursuits. It is destructive, and not simply "good branding," to have a big name in front of a work.
While Paul follows up with a series of letters, he does not return again for three or four years (Acts 20:2).
Enlisting new workers Paul leaves Achaia with additional workers: Acquila and Priscilla (whom he leaves in Ephesus, Acts 18:18), Erastus (Acts 19:22), as well as Gaius and Aristarchus (Acts 19:29). At some point, Sosthenes travels from Corinth to join the work in Ephesus (Acts 18:17; I Cor 1:1, Corinthians being written from Ephesus), as do Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus (I Cor 16:17). In all, Paul names more than 80 associated workers. These were not men under his control, but men also involved in the work, all of whom at one point worked alongside Paul.
The churches of Asia
Paul begins working in Ephesus. During this time, Paul and his team are also ministering to the troubled church in Corinth (Acts 19:22; 20:1-3; I Cor 4:17; 16:10; II Cor 12:18; 13:1). As to timelines, Paul is likely there for three years (depending on how you take Acts 20:31, perhaps for only two and a half years). Paul is clearly proclaiming the gospel three months in the synagogue, and holding discussions for two years through the school of Tyrannus. We also see Paul continuing his practice of bivocational ministry (Acts 20:33-35; I Cor 4:11,12).
During this time, "all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greek," Acts 19:10. We also learn from the trouble with Demetrius the silversmith, that Paul and his team had widely spread the gospel in Asia, "not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands." Philemon with his slave Onesimus is one of these converts from Colosse, as is Epaphras. They are likely responsible for the work in Colosse, Laodicea and Hierapolis (Col 1:6,7; 4:11-13; Philemon 1:22-24).
The churches of Rev 2 & 3 are the likely result of Paul's work and workers in Ephesus. It is also likely that because of Paul's concerns for Rome (Acts 19:20-22) that he may have sent Pricscilla and Acquila there as he sent Timothy, Erastus and others into Macedonia. Priscilla and Acquila had fled Rome under persecution, and had worked alongside Paul in Corinth and Ephesus. Paul greets them preferentially in Rom 16:3-5.
Consider the practices of the Apostle Paul and his teams in your church planting strategies. Especially, increase your expectations of what God can do with new believers in a relatively short period of time. We may be placing entirely too much importance to our labors and oversight, compounded by grossly underestimating God's power and place in the church planting process.
|Last Updated on Saturday, 22 May 2010 06:32|