By Peter Meier | April 15, 2019
In its recent Becoming Five Multiplication Study Report, LifeWay Research highlights some of the common church planting activities in which Reproducing and Multiplying Churches are engaged. These churches now make up 7% of North American Protestant churches, moving the needle from 4% where it has been stuck the past several years. This movement gives us reason to praise God. Take a look at these activities, and see if your church could be involved in church planting action like this:
· Providing support services to new church starts such as help with technology, accounting, and providing space and needed materials.
· Participating in a church planting network.
· Developing planters through assessing, training, and coaching.
· Conducting a church planting intern or residency process.
· Financial support of planters, networks, or new starts.
If you are supporting the Center for United States Missions through your church budget or special gifts, or if you, personally, support our work financially, you are involved in church planting! The Center has many opportunities for your church to partner in what has been called “the most effective (and Biblical) methodology for making disciples under heaven!”
You are invited to join with churches who are taking Jesus’ Great Commission seriously, with the understanding that new churches reach new people in new places!
In previous Mission Moments posts, I have been highlighting the 12 Principles for Church Planting in 21st Century North America, as defined in the new Church Planting Manifesto for the 21st Century. This Manifesto was drafted by the Send Institute Missiologists Council and has gained a large number of endorsers, including myself. Take a look. You may also wish to endorse it! You can download a pdf here, or read about it on their website here.
The drafters and endorsers of the Manifesto commit themselves to join together around sound missiological and biblically-faithful principles for planting new churches in North America. They pray that this collaborative effort will result in “a new generation of disciple-makers, churches, and networks across North America participating in God’s redemptive work and accounting for innumerable people coming to Christ, immeasurable cultural transformation, and every-increasing glory to God.”
I believe that these next four principles are particularly challenging for us, and are vital for a church planting movement in North America. Take a look.
06. Multiplication movements require local churches taking responsibility for raising and spiritually parenting future church planting teams. (Acts 15:1-3; Romans 15:22-29))
We affirm that it is the responsibility of local churches to plant and care for new churches. Church planting movements empower the local church to not only grow through addition, but to also release into multiplication. The gospel trajectory of North America could continue to stagnate unless local churches take responsibility for discovering, developing, and deploying church planting teams from within. Healthy and well-supported church planting teams come from local churches that provide care and covering. While at times it is necessary for denominations and networks to catalyze new churches, we believe that a healthy pattern for ongoing multiplication is through a local church’s internal disciple-making process.
Years ago, many of our Districts realized that church planting by Districts (or by the Synod) simply was not working. That’s because God’s natural mission agency is the local congregation. This is still a hard reality for many of our churches to embrace. Many congregations decline this mission calling because of fear or ignorance. Neither are God’s intention.
God wants His church to multiply! He has designed the local group of believers (congregations) to prepare the next generation of leaders and missionaries. This is done through intentional discipleship, and intentional identification of those mature Christian individuals who God has gifted to gather and disciple others. These are the next generation of church planters, both men and women. God has placed them in the midst of His people. They are raised from the harvest, from the local congregation. It is the local congregation who is called to intentionally engage in the Mission of God by sending disciples to start new faith communities in new places to reach new people.
The Manifesto offers this action point for your prayerful consideration: We agree that the initiative for church planting falls on local churches and that denominations and networks exist to support churches in that mission. We discourage any strategies that create orphan churches that short-circuit multiplication dynamics. What would happen if our churches, synod and districts took this principle seriously? Beyond providing mission dollars, in what ways could districts and synod offer needed support?
07. Biblical churches that are culturally relevant exist in a variety of models and sizes. (Philemon 1:1-3; Acts 2:42-47)
We recognize that throughout history, as today, our creative Father has been transforming the world through churches expressed in various models and in a wide array of sizes. But we also recognize that a virtual industry has developed around church growth principles and best practices resulting in exalting particular models. Some new models have emerged in reation to this to deconstruct rather than helpfully engage. We believe churches should plant churches in the particular way the Holy Spirit leads them, especially as they are contextual to the domains of society and the people they intend to reach and disciple.
We still struggle with this in our LCMS circles. “Success” is thought of in terms of a particular style or model of planting (most often large-start models), with expectation that in three years, the new start will be self-sufficient, with a certain number (120-150) people regularly in worship. This is simply not practical for most new starts, especially in the post-Christian (or pre-Christian) culture in which we find ourselves. I have seen many contextual models which are natural and welcome ministries in their community. We need to pay attention to this principle. District leaders and local churches need to embrace and support the variety. Our God is a creative and innovative God – and we are made in His image. We can use our God-given creativity to reach new people without compromising Scripture or our theology. Do you agree that “it takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people”?
If we truly believe that God’s mission or purpose is to reconcile and reclaim all people, in our culture today we must endorse this action point: We agree to hold our models loosely and to champion how God is at work in all kinds of ways. We avoid rigid models, especially when they are proving to be contextually insensitive and evangelistically ineffective.
08. Honor leadership from the harvest and contextualized pathways of leadership development. (Acts 20:16-18; Titus 1:5-6)
We affirm that it is best to develop leadership from within the harvest. The many contexts of North America are complicated, but most cities are made up of communities with already existing social structures with their own subcultures. While it is not wrong, and often necessary to import leaders with cross-cultural giftings from other geographies to initiate a church plant, a long-term practice of this is not consistent with what we know to be true about movement dynamics. The reliance on importing leadership will prohibit young disciples from attaining maturity, stunting any natural pathways for multiplication.
We have already found that the church planter pipeline from our seminaries is broken. With only a very few candidates receiving calls to plant churches, and very few seminarians willing to consider church planting, and with the costs of residential seminary training, it has become clear that the next generation of church planters must be raised locally, from the harvest. The next generation of planters, both men and women, must be discipled, apprenticed, and trained locally, in churches that are themselves new starts. New starts themselves are best equipped to train and apprentice new believers who will plant new churches. Those who will become pastors will benefit from contextual seminary education such as SMP, CMC or EIIT, but we must – must – explore additional ways of preparing the next generation of church planters, without expecting each to have a seminary degree and ordination. The Center for United States Missions can help with this, as well as Concordia Portland’s Mission Training Center.
Can you affirm this action point? We agree to champion discipleship pathways among our churches that enable new believers to become multiplying disciple-makers. We resist any model of mobilization and leadership that asserts the preference of external leadership over the contextual needs of the mission context and its internal leadership. Read that over once more. What does that say to us today?
09. Heathy communication and collaboration among groups, especially at local levels, is an essential dynamic for multiplication. (John 17:20-26; 1 Peter 3:8-9)
We affirm that what God wants in North America can only be accomplished among all faithful groups, not only among any particular few. The ideas of free enterprise and start-up culture are useful for innovation, but has often created an isolationist mentality, fostering a kind of competition that is unhealthy. We believe that when church planters and leaders communicate and collaborate from national levels to the cities and communities in which they plant, a more conducive environment is created for the Spirit of God.
Clearly, sectarianism, silos and lone-ranger attitudes are not helpful, nor will they assist in the overall efforts to storm the gates of hell by Gospel proclamation. That’s why the Center for United States Missions participates in Ed Stetzer’s national gathering of church planting leaders from over 75 denominations called Church Planting Leaders Fellowship. That’s why I participate with the leaders of area church planting associations and networks in the Twin Cities Prayer Collaborative. We meet monthly to share and pray together for church planting in the greater Twin Cities. While we honor the distinctive doctrines we each confess, we join together for communication, collaboration and prayer. We need to work at this on our national levels among the many mission organizations in our circles. This can also be done very effectively at local levels. With whom are you connecting outside your circuit meetings? What are the things we can do better together than separately and individually?
Join me in making this commitment: We agree to be collaboratively-minded at the highest levels of our organization and especially at local levels. We avoid any methods that would intentionally create unhealthy competition and isolation among our leaders and church planters.
What is your reaction to these four of the twelve church multiplication principles in The Manifesto? These get to the heart of challenges we face when it comes to church planting and mission in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. I’d be interested in your observations. And stay tuned for the final three principles.
I challenge you to review these first nine principles, consider and discuss these with your team; study the scriptures provided; pray together for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and direction, and commit yourself and your congregation to making disciples of all the peoples! It’s what God wants.
You can do it. Let us know how we can help!
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