The gospel to the city; church-planting as a strategy Jonathan Bell
Introduction “Planting a new church is not easy, but if we handle it well, is the most effective way of evangelising a new area.” (Terry Virgo) “The most effective means of growing churches today is planting churches.” (Peter Wagner) “The only effective way to grow churches quickly is to plant churches.” (Sandy Millar) “Church planting is so much at the heart of God for this country, at this moment.” (Clive Calver)
Introduction “I am convinced that church planting is a must of vigorous and outgoing Christianity, and is a sign of hope for the future.” (George Carey) “The most effective way of expanding the Kingdom of God is by planting new churches.” (John Wimber) “Where a denomination has stopped planting churches, it will decline… where churches are structured to reproduce themselves, then that particular movement of churches will continue to grow.” (Roger Forster)
Introduction “Nothing else – not crusades, outreach programs, para- church ministries, growing mega-churches, congregational consulting, nor church renewal processes – will have the consistent impact of dynamic, extensive church planting.” (Tim Keller)
Potential Objections We should concentrate on improving existing churches rather than planting new churches. Church planting weakens churches by dividing resources. Church planting has become an end in itself rather than a means to an end. “The Christian world is divided between those who think church planting is a good idea and those who are actually doing it.” (Nigel Wright)
Three Key Theological Concepts i) Missio Dei (The Mission of God) Ultimately, mission is defined, directed, energised and accomplished by God. Because God has a mission, so does the church. The church exists not as an end in itself, but as an agent of God’s mission.
Three Key Theological Concepts ii) Incarnation “In these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son” who is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.” (Hebrews 1:1-3) Jesus, rather than the early church, is the source of inspiration for church planters. God speaks to people by making his word flesh.
Three Key Theological Concepts iii) The Kingdom of God The church is a community, whereas the kingdom is an activity: God extending his rule throughout creation. The kingdom is broader than the church. And so the kingdom rather than the church defines the scope of God’s mission.
Summary Church planting initiatives are needed which are: Motivated by the privilege of participating in the mission of God Patterned on the incarnational way in which God has acted in mission. Energised by a vision of the coming Kingdom of God as the goal of this mission.
New Testament Models 1. Mass Evangelism (Acts 2) 2. Mega Church Plant (Acts 6) 3. Micro Church Plant (Acts 10 & 16) 4. Mushroom Church Plant (Acts 11) 5. Mobile Church Plant (Acts 13 & 20) 6. Mini Mission Church Plant (Acts 18) 7. Mother Church Plant (Acts 19) 8. Multi Cell Plant (Acts 28)
Conclusion We may find some of all these methods in the way we plant churches! It’s not that one way is necessarily going to be better than others. Different contexts require different approaches. There’s tremendous scope for flexibility in the way churches can be planted. As we partner together to reach this city with the Gospel we must reflect something of the diversity and creativity that’s evident in the NT approach to church planting.