Live blog 1: Missional Church Planting conference

Communications Staff — May 11, 2009

Speaker: Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research.

It is essential that people be prepared to plant churches.

Why we Don’t Plant Churches in North America

Churches and denominations have a creeping anti-missional mentality. Stetzer said churches are prone to becoming inwardly focused.

‘The mission of God is supposed to drive us outward; it is supposed to drive us to serve. Churches and denominations that are thinking rightly have this focus. Over time though the focus is increasingly shifted to what is going on in the church: the nursery, the children’s ministry, etc. Instead of being a machine, we are now servicing the machine. This happens on the church level and the denominational level.’

  • Elements that feed this problem:

Large church mentality

The idea that bigger is better is a problem. Larger does not necessarily mean better.

‘When it comes to church planting big is not necessarily better. What we find is that new and multiplying is better. New life is better than old life. New life can be found in church plants and new life can be found in old churches. The goal is not big, it is Gospel transformation.’

Professional church syndrome

The idea that you need a professional seminary-trained pastor to launch church plants is a problem. Stetzer likes theological education. He has theological education and is a proponent of it. But the process of church planting can be hindered by waiting for seminarians to graduate before you plant churches.

If someone says ‘I am called to plant churches’ then we need to send them out. We can have something in place to help them stay on track theologically, perhaps some training on the weekends. But we need to send them out.

‘One of the great dangers in church planting today is the ‘clergification’ of church planting. The ordinary believer can engage in the ordinary activity of planting churches.’

Parish Church Mindset

The parish church mindset is: if we have a church in one area, we don’t need to plant another one there. In reality, you usually need more than one church per community to reach the community.

Rescue Approach

The cry to ‘help the dying churches!’ can be a problem. When Stetzer worked at Southern Seminary, he sent out letters to more than 100 churches that were declining asking if they would want help in being revitalized. Such revitalization would include changes, including a name change. None of the churches said yes. In churches that have been around for a while, they want help if they don’t have to change.

Why are we planting new churches when they are so many dying churches? This is a good question. One reason is, it is harder to restart a dead church than to start a new one.

‘It is always easier to birth a baby than to raise the dead.’

Already Reached Myth

The idea here is that American and Canada are already evangelized. This is not true.

There is still great need in North America. It is not un-reached, but it still needs to be reached.

‘Our culture has religious overtones, but it doesn’t have a biblical worldview. North America is the only continent in the world where Christianity is not growing.’

Stetzer noted that biblical knowledge in North American has decreased over the past 50 years, not increased.

Why Plant Churches?

  • Reasons why we should plant churches:

Church planting is pragmatically important

This does not mean that we should be pragmatists. But Church planting often works. The opposite of pragmatism is not doing nothing that pragmatically works. Do we want to say, ‘Okay, what doesn’t work? Let’s do that.’

Church planting is normative in the New Testament

‘And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,’ Matthew 16:18.

‘We don’t need to overly rely on our expertise. We find the means and often the methods of planting churches in the New Testament. And we certainly find that church planting is the norm in the New Testament. The planting of churches is clearly present in the New Testament.’

Jesus is a Seeker of the lost

‘Jesus’ passion for the lost was so great that He didn’t worry that He made religious people uncomfortable. Church planting always makes religious people uncomfortable. We should care about the glory of God and the lost coming to embrace the Gospel more than keeping people happy.’

North America today is in deep need of people who will preach the Gospel.

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