Monday, August 16, 2010

An Essential Key To Unlocking A Church Planting Movement in North America

In searching for the keys to unlocking a Church Planting Movement here in North America I believe that the Lord has shown me at least one of those keys. While looking at scripture, especially the book of Acts, and at church history, especially my own denomination the Southern Baptist Convention, and in the contemporary Church Planting Movement happening all over the planet again and again I notice an important key to seeing the Kingdom of God spread and new churches rapidly being started and established. This IMPORTANT KEY is ordinary followers of Christ being raised up, trained up and unleash to establish new communities of faith (i.e. churches).

Not the paid professionals, not the highly educated, not those who have the religious pedigree but ordinary, common, and many times over looked, people who love Jesus with all their heart, mind, soul and strength. In the book of Acts we do see the Apostles starting churches. That's what Paul did. But the Apostles didn't start nearly the number of churches that were established in those early years. For instance, who started the church in Damascus? It wasn't Paul because he wasn't even a believer yet but would come into a living encounter with Christ on the road leading to Damascus that would transform him from a Christian killer to fully devoted follower of Christ. It wasn't the other apostles. The scripture tells us that when the persecution started the apostles stayed in Jerusalem. So who started that church? I think it is pretty clear that it was those disciples who fled Jerusalem because of the persecution to Damascus and as they came they bore witness to Christ's death, burial and resurrection and to as many as believed those ordinary followers of Christ taught them what they had learned from the apostles while in Jerusalem. Again, let's consider the church in Rome. Who started it? Again, not Paul. When Paul writes the Roman letter he makes it clear that even though he has not yet come to them it has been his desire to come to them share with them his gift. So who started it? We don't know for sure. Quite possibly it was some people who were in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost when Peter preached and 3,000 people were baptized. Having received salvation and basic instruction in the faith from the apostles they then returned home and shared with others in Rome. Here's what is clear. Most of the church plants were started not from the professionals but by the ordinary followers of Christ.

In my own denomination Southern Baptist experienced its greatest growth as farmers and ranchers began to move out west to start a new life. As these ordinary people, who were also devout followers of Christ, moved out west they were confronted with a stark reality. That reality was that there were no Baptist churches out west. One of the long time flagship churches among Southern Baptist has been First Baptist Church of Dallas Texas and according to Wikipedia,

"Dallas was a wild and reckless frontier town in the 1800s; no Baptist church existed in downtown because they were repeatedly being run out of town. When W.L. Williams and his wife, Lucinda, moved to Dallas and
saw no Baptist church, they were moved with determination and a call
from God. Along with nine others, they met in the Masonic Lodge at
Lamar and Ross on July 30, 1868, and First Baptist Dallas was born."

Notice that it was a husband and wife, ordinary folks who loved Jesus, that started what later became a highly influential and powerful church for God's kingdom. All over the Southern Baptist Convention, during that time, churches were established by farmers, ranchers, and other ordinary, non-seminary trained folks who felt what W.L. and Lucinda felt, a call from God and determination to start a new church. They knew the Lord through saving grace, they had read, studied and meditated on the Bible and could share what they learned with others who didn't know as much.

In our contemporary age there is a church planting movement happening all over the world, accept North America. As missionaries and missiologist have studied these rapidly reproducing churches one common factor keeps coming up again and again and that is it is fueled and driven by non-professional followers of Christ. Ordinary people who have a personal relationship with Christ determined and called by God to reach new people and gather them into newly formed communities of faith (churches) are the ones driving these movements all over the world.

So what does this teach us about one of the essential keys to experiencing a Church Planting Movement here in North America? Just this: OUR FOCUS MUST BE IN RAISING UP, TRAINING UP AND UNLEASHING ORDINARY FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST INTO THE CHURCH PLANTING FIELDS.

While I do believe there is a place for those who are in professional vocational ministry I do not believe raising them up should be anywhere close to our primary focus. Our attention, focus and emphasis in training church planters should be on those ordinary believers who will work at a secular job during the day and go and work the church planting field at night. Our discipleship process should focus on moving people from being SEEKERS to FULLY DEVOTED FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST WHO START NEW CHURCHES. Everyone member a missionary who starts churches should be our theme. Methods for training in Church Planting should be developed with the non-professional church planter in mind.

Now while some of these ordinary and non-professional church planters maybe sitting in some of our pews today I would venture to say that most will come out of the harvest. Why? Why won't most of the church members sitting in our pews heed the call to become church planters? Simple because that is not what they bought into. This way of Christian living is so far off their radar that most will not be able to tune into the right frequency to make it become a reality. However, I pray that I am wrong about this but I don't believe I am to far off from the truth.

Attention all Pastors, Directors of Mission, Denominational Leaders and Church Planting Strategists it is time for us to put our full attention and devotion into:


Stop making it small side issue! Start making it the major issue and emphasis.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Lack of Resources For A Church Planting Movement In North America

Peter Wagner in his book CHURCH PLANTING FOR A GREATER HARVEST said that Church Planting is the single best evangelism strategy available to us. More people come to faith in Christ and grow in their faith through the planting of new churches than any other means. Armed with that information denominations and churches have made an intentional priority for new churches to get started. The North American church has become very sophisticated and professional in their church planting endeavors. Seminaries offer not only church planting classes but majors in church planting. Denominations require church planting assessments before potential church planters can be funded. Denominational leaders require church planters to attend church planting camps and/or training seminars to make sure that their is a viable strategy in place. With all this sophistication one would think that North America would be in the middle of one of the fastest growing church planting movements in the world. However, that is just not the case. Instead of a church planting movement that is over taking the general population of North America the North American church is in decline with the largest growing religious identification group being: 'NO RELIGIOUS PREFERENCE AT ALL". While the Christian church has declined the No Religious Preference Group has nearly doubled. Why? Why hasn't a CPM taken place in North America?

The answer to that question is simply this: THERE IS NOT ENOUGH RESOURCES TO START THE KIND OF CHURCH WE'VE BEEN TRYING TO START over the past 30 years. There's not enough FINANCIAL RESOURCES and not enough PERSONNEL RESOURCES. The kind of churches we've been trying to start with a full time paid pastor, in many cases staff, buildings, worship equipment, Bible study material etc... cost a whole lot of money. As a matter of fact it cost more money than we have available if we are to start the number of churches needed to impact North America. THERE'S JUST NOT ENOUGH MONEY!!

The second resource that we don't have enough of is PERSONNEL. To start the kind of churches we've been trying to start requires leadership that is skilled in administration, counseling, business, personnel and the list goes on. I jokingly but also seriously say, "That in order to be a church planter in North America you better have a Masters in Business Administration." And actually that's not very far from reality. But the sad part is that there's not enough people with that skill set to be church planters for us to start the number of churches needed in North America.

So what's the solution? The solution is to stop putting such an emphasis on starting Corporate Style Churches and start putting the major emphasis on RAISING UP, TRAINING UP and UNLEASHING ORDINARY PEOPLE AS CHURCH PLANTERS. North America is sick and tired of Organized Religion! Instead of these Corporate Churches with their big financial budgets and CEO leaders we need to start churches that resemble more of a family unit and led by spiritual parents. This kind of church won't don't cost much at all to start. There would be no need to pay salaries the church planters would have secular jobs and the money that is brought in can be used for evangelism and ministry. A few of these ordinary people may be sitting in the pews of our churches but most of them will be raised up from the harvest.

If the North American Church is going to be serious about reaching our mission field and seeing a church planting movement then we must become serious about developing this new church structure and using all of the people of God to start them.