In a previous series, Defining Church Planting, we discussed the foundational and theological framework for the tasks of Church Planting in general. Today and in the following series of posts, the goal will be to take this foundation and begin to apply those principles when considering the North American context (US and Canada). Before we examine the mission field in detail, let’s first focus on the basics of church planting.
What is “Church Planting?”
“The team process of communicating the gospel, seeing people repent and believe in Jesus, developing as His followers, forming congregations, and repeating the process.” – Defining Church Planting
Communicating the Gospel
Gathering/Organizing as a Group of Believers
At the core of this definition are two primary considerations that drive the entire Church Planting process: The Gospel and People. To this end, one must acknowledge that church planting is not an end unto itself but, rather, a part of God’s plan in reaching the lost with the Gospel. Church planting is, therefore, not simply a business process that involves opening a physical location, rather it is a process dedicated to communicating the good news of the Gospel to those who have yet to hear and respond to it. This may seem like an inconsequential nuance, but to the Kingdom-minded, it draws attention to the true calling of reaching People with the Gospel over that of simply creating physical organizations where “church” occurs every Sunday.
Why Plant Churches?
At times, this question can be overlooked. Maybe you have heard the statement, “But nowhere in the Bible does Jesus tell us to plant churches.” While that statement is true, one can see that the process outlined above is a natural outflow in response to both the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:35-40) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). In focusing on the realities of the Gospel, sharing that with the lost, and growing together as a community in Christ, the local church serves as the corporate model to all in attendance and to those impacted by her presence. Some may even question whether church planting in the North American context is a legitimate endeavor. After all, many churches already exist. However, many reasons can be identified to plant new churches in the North American context including the following:
1. Increases Reach and Diversity
2. Allows the Church to Try New Things
3. Provides Opportunities to Grow and Stretch Existing Churches
4. Provides New Evangelistic and Leadership Development Opportunities
So, What’s Next?
As we consider the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, we must acknowledge each context and all of the underlying considerations that can be associated therein when determining potential approaches to church planting in a given area. The North American context, though home for many of us, should not be exempt from contextual considerations when determining various approaches, models and methodologies. In the next part of this series, we will begin to take a look at the demographics, needs, and potential approaches to the Mission Field that is North America.
Associate Director for North American Church Planting
Assistant Professor of Church Planting and Evangelism, Associate Director for North American Church Planting for the Center for Great Commission Studies, National Missionary of the North American Mission Board (D.Miss., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, M.Div., Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary)