Church Planting, Redefined
One of the things that we’ve learned over the past ten years has been that if you set out to plant a church, you may attract a lot of people, Christians may flock to what you’re doing, but you won’t necessarily make disciples.
On the flip side, if you set out to make disciples of Jesus, you will inevitably wind up with a church. I like to say it like this: Church planting is best understood as a discipleship process that leaves a church in its wake.
This is a shift from what is commonly done. Most church plants start with a core team that is selected from an existing church. The core team leaves the existing church, begins meeting in another location, and hope that unbelievers show up at the new location. This is usually accompanied by some amount of outreach to get new people to join the church.
In this model, significant amounts of time and energy are focused on creating a meeting that attracts people. And while this is usually not the intent, the kind of people that this new church attracts are often very similar to the people who start the church: Middle class, somewhat moral people. And many times this ends up being people who are dissatisfied with a previous church and are already believers. Church planting was supposed to be “the best methodology of evangelism under the sun,” but when we primarily engage already saved believers with our methods, we give away our opportunity to be effective in reaching people for Jesus.
But church planting can be something different.
It can look more like baptizing new believers than preparing sermons.
It can be more like loving on the broken than setting up tables.
It can be meeting with newly baptized believers and teaching them the Bible than writing a doctrinal statement.
It can be teaching other believers how to share the Gospel and endure hardship instead of working on your church’s website.
It’s effective because it’s not building the church programs and expecting disciples to get made, but building disciples and expecting the church to be born.
So instead of starting a meeting with existing believers, gather two or three existing believers who are hungry to reach the lost with the love of Jesus. Spend time with these believers talking to lost people and engaging them with the gospel. As they come to Christ, teach them to follow Jesus and obey His commands. Baptize them. Help them get into the word. Teach them to share the love of Jesus.
Eventually you will come to the command to gather with other believers and encourage each other. But prior to that, you and your small group will have practiced this several times over in trying to be obedient to the other commands.
And as two or three people come to Jesus from the lost and begin to become disciples, you will begin to see a functioning church emerge that isn’t built on meetings but is built on following Jesus and interconnected relationships. The reward is not only a church, but a church made up entirely of people who never knew Jesus prior to their involvement.
So make disciples and churches will emerge. As churches emerge men and women will be sent out to preach the Gospel and make more disciples. The point is that discipleship continues to go out from where you are and touches people who have not yet given their lives to Christ. It’s a “go-ing gospel” that touches people outside the boundaries of the church.
Most importantly, when we teach people to obey Christ, it’s the seedbed for a movement that can spread far beyond you and I and touch the ends of the earth.
And that my friends, is what we really wanted from church planting, anyways, right?
About traviskolderTravis Kolder is a follower of Jesus, a husband, a father of five, an organic church planter, and a writer. He lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he serves as part of the Cedar Rapids House Church Network.
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