Live blog 3: Missional Church Planting conference

Communications Staff — May 11, 2009

Speaker: Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research.

Session title: Missiology-Theology?

If you take equally called and gifted people and send them to a culture and to the first you say, ‘Go teach the Bible and love people’ and to the second you say ‘Go teach the Bible, love people and here are some things about this culture you should know, be aware of and minister in light of,’ then the second guy will reach more people with the Gospel.

Why Theology?

Most church planters don’t get excited enough about theology. Theology is deeply important. There are two movements that are attractive to young evangelicals: the emerging church movement and the new reformed movement. This is where the energy is among young evangelicals.

The left stream of the emerging church has left evangelicalism, but there is another stream — guys like Dan Kimball and Erwin McManus — who are pretty solid. I have some differences with Kimball on some things, but think he is pretty solid.

The new reformed movement is sometimes known for guys who are strong on theology, but are who are not very strong on their missional influence. The new reformed movement places a high emphasis and value on penal substitution. The conservative emerging church guys want a big Gospel, while the new reformed guys say, be careful, we don’t want to get too big.

So why theology? Because theology is the foundation for missiology.

Key points of theology:

Missio Dei

  • Our theology should be theocentric not anthropocentric.

Missio Dei means ‘sending of God.’ The term ‘missional’ is centered on the idea of, ‘A God who sends.’ It comes from the idea that missions work should be rooted in the idea of who God sends people on mission.

‘If I were to boil the word missional down to one word, it would be sent.’ The Father sent Christ and Christ sends us.

  • Emphasis from the life of the local church to the needs of the world.
  • Recognizes the need for divine empowerment.
  • Church planting reveals God’s heart for the lost.


  • Focal point of Missio Dei

People representing Christ and being the presence of Christ is the focal point of Missio Dei.

  • The church’s focus is on the world not on the life of the church.

Stetzer referenced the parables about the lost coin and lost sheep to prove the point that the church’s focus should be on the world.

Kingdom of God

  • Kingdom is activity: God extending His rule throughout creation.
  • Kingdom rather than church defines the scope of God’s mission.

The danger here is that the church could get marginalized. We don’t want to do this. But we should also recognize that the church is not the center of God’s plan. Jesus is the center of God’s plan and the church is central to God’s plan.

The church is essential to the plan of God. The kingdom of God births the church and enables the church to live the kingdom agenda.

The church holds the keys to the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 16:19). How does the church have the keys? The church holds the keys to the kingdom of heaven in that the church proclaims the Gospel, which is the only way to enter into the kingdom. The church is not the kingdom of God, but the church holds the keys to the kingdom of God.

The church has the power of binding and loosing (Matt 16:19). What does this mean? We find out two chapters later in Matthew 18. After Jesus spells out the process of church discipline, Jesus says the church has the power of binding and loosing through the power of church discipline.

Bottom line: The kingdom of God defines God’s mission and the church is essential in that mission.

Church and Mission

  • Church planting interface between ecclesiology and missiology.

Most people see the church as: building plus programs plus clergy equals church.

There is a huge problem with that: none of those things are biblically mandated. They aren’t necessarily bad, though they can be. Buildings can hinder multiplication, programs can become equivocated with the church and the idealizing of a clergy can lead people to downplay the priesthood of all believers.

Instead, a better picture is: the kingdom of God sends a body on mission — that is the church.

If you are going to plant a church, you need to first know what a church is. You need to know what the marks of a biblical church are. For example, clergy are not biblically mandated, but pastors/elders and deacons are biblically mandated. You have to have those functioning roles.

I think you need to practice the ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. I think you need to practice covenant community with church discipline. These are some marks of a church and there are others.

  • Lausanne, 1974: mission is the primary task of the church.

Lausanne focused on recentering the church around the mission of God.

Marginalization of church

  • Institution not held in esteem.

Marginalization of the church takes place in the culture. But it also takes place in the church itself. Many people look at church and find it to be non-helpful.

Church planting

  • Part of the mission

Church planting does not equal the mission; it is not the entire mission. But it is part of the mission.

  • Extends the worship of God
  • Part of the natural process of what a church should be

Most churches are not seriously involved in church planting. All healthy things reproduce. It is the normal order of things to reproduce. Churches should reproduce disciples and churches.

Missiology of church planting

  • The indigenous principle is the #1 principle of missions strategy (at home or abroad)

Where are oranges from? Florida, right? Well, not initially. Oranges are from China, originally. But they have become indigenous to Florida.

The church is the same way. The church is not naturally indigenous. It has to become indigenous. If you don’t believe this, ask the church at Jerusalem in Acts 15. It was not naturally indigenous: it had to become indigenous.

You must have a minimal definition of what a church is. Not a reductionistic definition, but a minimal definition. And that definition has to be universally true: otherwise it is a cultural definition not a universal definition. Then you have to ask ‘what expression of a New Testament church is most appropriate in this context?’

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