Stetzer at church planting conference: churches need missional focus

Communications Staff — May 27, 2009

Every church and denomination is prone to an anti-missional mentality that must be combated for the sake of reaching the lost with the Gospel, Ed Stetzer said May 11 at the Missional Church Planting Conference in Louisville.

Dozens of students, church planters and church leaders learned from Stetzer and current and former pastors and church planters at the conference, May 11-14 at Sojourn Community Church (SBC). The event was co-sponsored by the Kentucky Baptist Convention and Campbellsville University.

Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research — the research arm of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, said all churches must guard against a tendency to become 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,’ Stetzer, author of ‘Comeback Churches’ and ‘Planting Missional Churches,’ said.

‘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.’

Several elements can feed the problem of churches not planting other churches, Stetzer said, such as a large church mentality: ‘When it comes to church planting big is not necessarily better … The goal is not big, it is Gospel transformation,’ he said.

In his fourth of eight sessions over a two-day period, Stetzer talked about redeveloping a missional mindset for North America. The term ‘missional’ carries a variety of connotations, depending on who is using it and the context in which it is used. Stetzer said the word has become an ‘ecclesiological junk drawer’ with people often using the word as a descriptor for what is lacking in their church—’we need to become more missional.’

Stetzer based his definition of missional on the term ‘Missio Dei,’ which means, ‘sending of God.’ Stetzer said to be missional is to “live sent,” and being missional means to “live on mission for God.”

‘God is a God who is on mission. He is a God who sends; He is a sender by nature,’ he said. ‘Isaiah was sent by God and for God. John the Baptist was sent to bear witness to the One who would come into the world. Sent is used in reference to Jesus more than 40 times. The sending God sent His Son into the world to reconcile the world to Himself.’

Those who will be church planters must have a vision from God to plant a church as well as where and how they should plant it. By vision, Stetzer said he does not mean hearing a voice from God, but knowing that God wants you to plant a church.

Stetzer said planters must also be willing to adjust the vision as they learn more about their ministry context. A vision should always exist to serve the advance of the Gospel, he said.

‘Do not turn vision into the goal,’ he said. ‘You can’t cast a vision for a cooler church. You have to be casting a vision for Gospel transformation. Whatever specific vision you cast, make sure Gospel-centeredness characterizes the vision expressed in a way that fits your culture.’

To read the live blogs from Stetzer’s eight sessions visit

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