Thursday, June 2, 2011

THE NEW BREED OF CHURCH PLANTERS: Part 5: They're Indigenous

My first four posts on this blog series were about the New Breed Of Church Planters that God is raising up in North America and dealt specifically with the characteristics that were identified with Peter and John as they stood before the Jewish council giving an account for their witness and preaching of Jesus' resurrection.  They were found to be bold, ordinary, uneducated men who had spent time with Jesus.  I think that no one would disagree that these two apostles were pretty effective in their endeavors as church planters.  But in this final post and as I talk about the fifth characteristic of the New Breed of
Church Planters I draw my conclusions from my own personal observations of being a church planter and mentoring church planters.

When wanting to start a new church in a particular area it has been a common practice among many denominations and in particular my denomination (Southern Baptist) to look far and wide to find that perfect church planter.  Many times these church planters are brought in from states different from the place where the new church is being planted.  The group that is calling this new church planter then spends money relocating them, getting them set up, and providing start up equipment and this is in addition to the time and money that has already been spent searching for this new church planter.

In other words a huge financial expense has been invested and the expectations for success are enormous.  Sadly to say, a large percentage of these church planters just don't pan out.  They're on the field for a few years, three to five, and then they are heading back home, wherever that might be.

There are two major reasons why these relocated church planters have not panned out.  The first is due to their outside financial support running out and the new church is not yet strong enough financially to support themselves.  When starting a new church denominational leaders have an expectation that over a  period of a few years the new church will be able to be financially self-supporting. This time period, ironically, is the same time period in which church planters usually leave to go back home, it is a three to five year period.  What happens is that the church planter and his family are then faced with the decision to either look for another job in addition to pastoring the church or take the experience gained from starting the new church and going back home to pastor a more established church that is able to support them.

The second reason is more sociological than financial.  There are many cultural differences throughout the North American landscape and taking a person/family from one culture and placing them in a different culture and still expecting them to thrive can be a tall order if they have not been adequately trained.  What happens over time when the newness and romance of the new location and church wears off, is that the internal calling of "HOME" keeps getting louder and louder.  Memories of family and cultural traditions keep tugging at the heart.  Over time this tugging keeps getting stronger and stronger. Sometimes it's not even an internal calling but a real and physical calling of family members back home asking if they are planning to come home soon.  Some people will say that the solution is to do an even better job of interviewing or to do a better job of preparing the church planting family for cross cultural ministry.

QUITE FRANKLY THE PROBLEM IS THAT THIS STRATEGY IS  DESIGNED TO FAIL!

Most people are not spiritually gifted for cross-cultural ministry.  Moving a church planter from one part of the United States to another, regardless if he is reaching out to people who are of the same ethnic group, he will encounter a huge cultural divide.  The solution is not to tweak this ineffective strategy - the solution is to scrap it and establish a more effective and, I believe, Biblical one.

THE SOLUTION IS TO LOOK FOR THE PERFECT CHURCH PLANTERS
FROM WITHIN THE HARVEST!  

A church planting professor of mine always said, "The resources are in the harvest!"  Whether it be financial resources or ministry personnel, resources can always be found in the harvest of new souls being reached for Christ.  I most certainly believe that is also true when it comes to finding the perfect church planters to start the large number of new churches that we need in North America.

THE BEST POTENTIAL CHURCH PLANTERS ARE THOSE INDIGENOUS PEOPLE THAT ARE REACHED FROM WITHIN THE NEW TARGET AREA OR PEOPLE GROUP.

The rising new breed of church planters are those people who have been born and raised in, and are part of the targeted community.  They are truly the absolute best candidates for being successful as a church planter.  This is true for a few reasons:


  • Indigenous Church Planters Don't Have To Exegete the Community They Are The Community. Indigenous church planters instinctively know what will work and what will fail.  This hasn't been learned by books or studies.  They understand it because they understand the values of the community intrinsically.  
  • Indigenous Church Planters Won't Get Homesick Because They Are Already Home.  Indigenous church planters already have a network of family, friends and business associates well established. Family members won't be pulling on the emotional heartstrings because the family members only live a few miles away.
  • Indigenous Church Planters Don't Need Financial Support Because God Has Already Provided That Support Within The Community.  This rising new breed of church planters, for the most part, already have the financial support they need.  For many, their spouses are the primary bread winners, or the church planter has another source of income, and some are able to work a full time job as well as start a church.
THIS IS NOT ONLY TRUE SOCIOLOGICALLY BUT IT IS ALSO TRUE BIBLICALLY!

In Luke 10:1-24 Jesus is sending out the 72 into every town and village he is about to go.  After appointing the 72 Jesus said this to them:

"The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.  Therefore, pray earnestly to the 
Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."  (v. 2)

Then Jesus teamed them up two by two and gave them some very specific instructions. Part of those instructions were:

"Whatever house you enter, first say, "Peace be to this house!' And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him.  But if not, it will return to you.  And remain  in the same house, 
eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go 
from house to house." (v. 5-7)

It is my personal belief that the finding of this "Person Of Peace" is the answer to the prayer that Jesus instructed the 72 to pray in regards to finding more laborers in His fields.  Truly this is finding the church planter resource from within the harvest.

So let me offer this suggestion to denominations on a new strategic direction for 
church planting in North America:

  1. Hire a few people with the spiritual giftedness for cross-cultural ministry to be, not church planters, but to be what the International Mission Board calls Strategy Coordinators.  The Strategy Coordinators job would be to develop a strategy for raising up indigenous and ordinary Christians as church planters in their particular people group or geographical area.
  2. Create a discipleship/mentoring process for training these indigenous church planters.
  3. Unleash these church planters and try not to control them.  Don't bottleneck the movement of God with a bunch unnecessary rules and regulations.
  4. Don't pay these indigenous church planters a salary.  Since they are indigenous they have already established their financial resources.
  5. Do provide resources for culturally relevant evangelism/outreach and discipleship events and materials.
God is raising up a new breed of church planters.  Some may feel a sense of excitement and anticipation with their arrival.  Others may hate it and wish it wasn't so.  Whether you like it or hate it God is bringing it about.  You can either hop on the train and join it or move out of the way and get left behind but one thing is for sure you won't stop it.  I for one am only filled with gratitude and thankfulness for this new fresh wind and this new breed of church planters.  

THANK YOU GOD FOR THIS FRESH BREATH OF AIR!

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