Defining Church Planting: Part I

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A basic classroom definition given for North American church planting goes like this: The team process of communicating the gospel, seeing people repent and believe in Jesus, developing as His followers, congregationalizing, and repeating the process. Each part of this definition emphasizes something that is special to the church planting process. It’s beautiful—like ministerial poetry (an out of tune Haiku, if you will)! This blog will cover the first two lines of the “Church Planting Haiku.”

“The team process of
Communicating the gospel,
Seeing people repent

and believe in Jesus,
Developing as His followers,
Congregationalizing, and
Repeating the process.”

Planting a church doesn’t happen in a vacuum. No church planter can claim that he was a lone ranger in getting the church off the ground. At the very least, every planter will recognize they were sent out by a church, they were covered in prayer, they had partners that believed in them, and, most importantly, “God gave the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:6)

More specifically, this part of the definition is exhorting potential planters to plant with a team. I believe the New Testament clearly asserts plurality as the model for church leadership. Dr. Benjamin Merkle agrees in his book Why Elders? “The New Testament evidence indicates that every church had a plurality of elders. There is no example in the New Testament of one elder or pastor leading a congregation as the sole or primary leader” (Merkle, 31).

While plurality of elders may be debated as a prescriptive principle, no one in the Southern Baptist community disputes our collective responsibility to communicate the gospel. It’s important that this calling does not become “saturated” in our minds. J.D. Greer is quoted as saying that “When you are sick of telling your people the vision your leaders are just starting to grasp it.”

A church planting team will be waging a war on two fronts with vision. On one front, the team has a city full of lost people that need the gospel clearly communicated to them! On another front, the elders of the team, as the church grows, has a need to communicate to the church that it’s the responsibility of every believer to further the gospel. See the tension? This is yet another reason that plurality is important. When there is a team of elders doing the work there is enough “pastoral bandwidth” to cast vision to the flock effectively and to do evangelism zealously.

This is just the beginning! Join Jordan next week as he unpacks the next two lines of this “Church Planting Haiku” to delve into this definition a bit more…

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