What is Church Planting? (part 2)

As I’ve written before, I call church planters entrepreneurs of the spirit. In the first installment of, What is Church Planting?, I suggested that church planting is a disciple-making process. Today I want to touch on another aspect.

Church planting is a strategy to create the future.

“Create the future!” I’ve been hearing some form of this idea since the 80’s. “The best way to predict the future,” it is said, “is to create it.”

I’ve been thinking about the future since I was 5 when my grandfather told me he would live to see the year 2000.

“Why will you live until the year 2000?” I asked him.

“Because there will be dancing in the streets,” he said.

That positive and hopeful image changed me. Years later, when I heard and believed the gospel, it reinforced the words my grandfather spoke. When I think about the future through the lens of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I see dancing.

Much of my life-long reading has been about the future. So, I’m not sure when I first heard the phrase about the best way of “predicting the future is to create it,” but whatever the case, I have seen the paradigm of “creating the future” type thinking move from the background to the forefront among Christ following people.

In general, the church around the world as an institution is dedicated to preserving the past. Every Sunday we rehearse the things God did…in Israel, in the early church, in Jesus…in the past.

In church, we remember.

The book the church reads is an ancient one. True, many churches seek to apply ancient wisdom to the present moment, but the emphasis is always on bringing forward the past.

Because the Christ following faith is based on it’s history, we would never want to lose this emphasis on our ancient stories. We must remember.

And, because the Christ following faith announces a risen Christ who is with us on the great adventure to disciple the nations, we also want to keep the emphasis on our present experience of being with Christ. We must experience the reality of the Kingdom now.

But what of the future?

One place where the church actually faces outward and forward is through the disciple-making process we call church planting. (Part 1 of these thoughts on “What is Church Planting?” touches on church planting as a disciple-making process ) Church planting is disciple-making process that anticipates and creates new communities of faith. In other words, church planters work to create future communities of faith with future new disciples of Jesus.

Because the audience for a new church is that population of people who do not yet follow Christ, we have the incredible opportunity to create future communities of faith that reflect God’s vision of the future. Too often our churches are more expressions of our immediate past than of His future.

To launch a new community of faith means that we can take what we’ve learned from the past and unlearn the bad stuff. We can create future communities of faith that more clearly reflect the world-changing stories we rehearse. Because old churches become rigid as they rehearse the old in their particular way, it is often far more difficult for them to enter into the future. Too often they are concerned with saving the past. But with new churches, this is not a concern. With new churches, we can create the future.

But according to what standard do we form our ideas of the future? There are trajectories for the human story embedded in scripture (see, Makers of Fire) but that goes beyond the scope of this short post. Primarily, our standard, our narrative, is the story of Christ. He serves as the future image towards which we shape the human story.

Jesus is from the future. He is what and where the human story is going. He leads us from the future and towards God’s future.

So, they say that the best way to predict the future is to create it. The best way to create a human future is to care about the things Jesus cared about, to love the ways he loved, to lead the way he led.

Remember the ancient stories.
Experience the reality of the spirit now.
Create the future.

What do you think?

IMN Resources
Makers of Fire: The Spirituality of Leading from the Future

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4 thoughts on “What is Church Planting? (part 2)

  1. Alex McManus

    Hey Sal,

    Sorry I missed your comment.
    I see it now.

    I would say that the “better future” is being created among us and within us by God whether we recognize his work or not.
    So any human that contributes anything towards that “better” or “more human” future is collaborating with God.

    God participates in creating this better future in many ways. One way is that God downloads himself to operate within human history in Christ. That event — the Christ Event or, as I like to say, The Human Event — drives human experience in the direction God is heading.

    Again, anyone who also drives history towards the more human path is creating a better future… but none of that ever happens without God who is in Christ reconciling the world to himself. Every human whose heart is open, who is aware of his own brokenness, who forgives and loves will one day discover Christ who labors with him.

  2. Alex McManus

    Thanks for your thoughts, Jon.
    Nicely said.

    Every word we speak (and even every sound we make) is a symbol.
    It may be then that with every sound we struggle to
    understand that towards which our symbols point.

    Thanks again!

  3. jon

    Religion is all about symbols. It is the modest attempt to bridge the colossal gap that separates the heaven from the earth; making gods immanent and thus reduced them as our own, walking among us. As in theoretical knowledge, artistic representations of the divine in the same manner are also contextual. Their emergence belongs too to a particular occasion that inspired its creation to facilitate this contact between the divine and the profane. It is about meaning; what the symbol diffuses so as to goad its believers to keep the struggle alive, whatever it might be. The symbol or a memorial however is a fixation of the occasion, fossilizing the event into particular epoch in the past, making it as property of history. Meaning however is always alive and fresh within the memory of those who went through the event, and always belong to the present. Memorials turn to become public properties, but the memories die with its owner, so as their meaning. What we have in the end were symbols deprived of their significance.

    Faith is a struggle. One might not agree with this but it is about pushing your way up and trying to make a modicum slide in spite of a more imposing evil. So faith is not about yesterday. It is about today as you try to slither out of debacle this life has offered and emerge still victorious tomorrow. With symbols devoid of their meanings I wonder therefore how they could assist our faith in this struggle in search for better existence. A lady suddenly interrupted the silence and asked all the people in the room for the meaning of certain religious ritual she herself was faithfully doing – no one was able to grope for answer; not even me was able to help her. Faith then was disconnected to its own memory; it was left in the present with no trace of its own history of struggle. It was armed with plethora of symbols, memorials, rituals, but meanings were not able to escape the fossilization of the historical. Faith in the present without the memory of its past is a faith abandoned; an orphan left in the benighted generation.

    What the past has to do with the present is how it relives the struggle that was fought before and making it alive and active in every coming generation. Our faith commitment to justice, righteousness, and love is crafting ourselves into the living symbol of the Galilean Lord. This challenges the church to not just hollow on religious symbol, but to become an authentic memory of Jesus. We should in many occasions, thru both word and deed point to Jesus. We become mere representations, mere reconstructions of the faith born in the manger, a mere narrative shaped in authentic actualization of the mandate “love your neighbor,” a mere symbol. But symbol that is fraught of meaning, symbol that impresses meaning, symbol that evokes meaning.

    But we need to recognize that we live in a tension. Jesus as both Alpha and Omega. Beginning and the End. Past and Future. While we relive and be inspired by the past to be in the present, we are also called to drag into the present the future. The Kingdom of God is both in the now and the not yet.

  4. Sal Vasquez

    I love these thoughts!!

    I’m all about {Creating the Future}

    I would love to engage in some practical ways of working this out!

    Why is it so important to create the future with Jesus? One could say there are many people that seem to be creating a better future without Jesus…

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