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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What is Church Planting? (part 1)

Church planters are what I call entrepreneurs of the spirit. But, what is this entrepreneurship of the spirit? What is church planting?

Church planting is a disciple-making process.

Consider these two scenarios.

Imagine that there are two church planting teams. One team, let’s call them Team A, works from the first premise below. Let’s call this “starting point A”. The other team, predictably, is Team B and works from “starting point B”.

A) We’d like to disciple the residents of a neighborhood.
B) We’d like to start a church for the residents of that same neighborhood.

How do the images that fill your mind differ when you read “starting point A” from when you read “starting point B”? How do you imagine that these two teams would approach their work? What things will they have in common? How might they differ?

Jesus instructed his disciples to make disciples of the “nations”. (For our purposes here, let’s take the “nations” to mean those who live without reference to the scripture and who do not yet profess faith in Christ). Jesus’ instructions to “disciple the nations” stretch us to imagine the discipleship of the outsider. In contrast, our practice is to program for the discipleship of the insider. Of all the things the church does, starting new churches should be understood as a process for the discipleship of the outsider, but often it is not. It is conceivable, in the western context, to start a church and never disciple an outsider. According to a recent poll, 96% of mega church growth is transfer growth. (Hat tip to Bob Roberts for that stat). In fact, many churches that consider themselves “discipleship” churches even though they have little to no contact with outsiders.

At a recent Church Planting Training at Northwood Church in Keller, Texas, Bob Roberts stated, “We don’t plant churches in America. We plant worship services.” Starting a worship service may require a programming team and some stage talent, but need not require nor create disciples.

Starting a new church often results in a new worship service populated by the already convinced. But if we start with the discipleship of the outsiders, then the aim of the church planter is already being achieved even before a new church emerges…which will often happen. The apostles did not go into cities to start churches, but to announce the kingdom… to get that “embodied” conversation going. When that conversation took root in the hearts of women and men, new communities of faith emerged.

Brian Hook, church planting pastor at Northwood Church in Keller, Texas, tells me that he believes “… in the years ahead we will be talking discipleship rather than church planting.” In fact, he takes it a step further. He’s thinking that “we could drop the term church planter today because, in America, it doesn’t always mean ‘disciple'”.

So, when we think about definitions for church planting, it may help us to think in terms of the process of disciple-making among outsiders.

What do you think?

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

M is created by the International M network.
For more information about future M events …

Twitter: @theimn
Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/TheIMN