I’ve heard this one around the traps at College: “If you’re interested in a church planting ministry — or even just regular church ministry…”
The implicit hierarchy here is appalling! Church planting must never be played off against ‘regular’ church ministry. Why not?
Because church planting is a strategy for gospel growth.
Let me break it down…
- Church planting is a strategy. It’s a means not an end. ‘Multiplying fellowships’, as the Sydney Diocesan Mission puts it, is not something that is valuable in and of itself. Rather, it’s only valuable insofar as it delivers on the goal dictated to us by the gospel. Which, again as the Mission puts it, is ‘that everyone will hear his call to repent, trust and serve Christ in love, and be established in the fellowship of his disciples while they await his return’.
- Church planting is a strategy. Not the strategy. Surely there’s more to calling and establishing disciples than simply multiplying fellowships. We want depth, maturity, lives transformed by the grace of Jesus and the power of his Spirit. What’s more, what does a church-planting only approach have to offer struggling churches? A quick death so we can get on with something newer and better, perhaps? While I fully believe that a valid case can be made for shutting down a ministry, but I doubt we can make it a matter of premeditated policy.
- Church planting is a strategy for gospel growth. This really underwrites the other two points. I’ve already said that our aim is dictated to us by the gospel of God’s grace. But it’s worth realising that this gospel also dictates our acceptable methods — or at least rules out unacceptable ones. As I mentioned earlier, the world’s approach to leadership is ruled out. And, as the Apostle Paul puts it, ‘We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practise cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God’ (2 Cor 4.2). I could go on, but I won’t.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for church planting! I’m absolutely convinced that the gospel, mission and community of Messiah Jesus must the beating heart of our churches — and church planting is a powerful expression of this.
I’m also very aware that we all too easily let a passion to bring the gospel to the world slide off our agenda — and when we do we need to repent and prayerfully call upon the Lord Jesus for mercy.
What we don’t need to do is (implicitly) undermine our bread and butter ministry in order to exalt church planting.
Here ends the rant.