What we plant determines what we grow. Farmers understand this but for an urban guy like me, it has taken a while to figure out.
For 25 years, I’ve been involved in what evangelical-Anabaptists refer to as, “church planting.” The Christian world can be divided into those who think church planting is a good idea and those who are actually doing it. I’ve lived in both camps, and I think that some of my fellow-travelers (myself included!) have been involved in a great adventure in missing the point.
Leaders have engaged in church planting as institutional formation. We focus on executing strategies that attract a collection of people who we hope find spiritual meaning in the church plant’s wonderful programs. Growing a church requires the planter to commit to sustaining program excellence, manage costs, and form relational bonds through customer intimacy. Mission agencies sustain this model by offering venture capital to the church plant with the expectation that a sustainable and self-funding church will emerge that supports the mission agency in return. In short, the system demands we plant churches as institutions.
What if we did gospel planting instead? What might it look like if we see every follower of Jesus as a church planter and believe every church can plant another church? What if we incarnated the victory news that Jesus is Lord of everything?
Gospel planting requires leaders to re-think everything: our definitions of mission and church; our leadership cultivation and discipleship formation; and the way we use money in the formation of church plants.
Our current church planting models grow from the same Christendom assumptions that have informed much of the way we have done church over the past 1700 years. Instead, let’s start planting the gospel, and experience the church fruit that grows from that seed.
Scary, huh? – JW