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Fri, Jul 30th - 7:53AM

Views on Church Planting

Widely divergent views exist within evangelicalism regarding appropriate methods for "church planting." Three main reasons explain this.

  • Firstly, there is a widespread debate about the nature of the church; some say it exists purely or mostly for mission, other stress the importance of authentic community, still others say it exists for preaching or the correct administration of the sacraments.
  • Secondly, many imagine the church and the institution to be equivalent, and find it hard to negotiate the relationship between organisational features, and the healthy spiritual life that should be found within it.
  • Thirdly, much attention has been paid to cultural issues, and therefore the distance between church and culture is debated, with some advising cultural integration, whilst others promote cultural contradiction.

These three issues combine to create a climate for church planting that allows for great variety, as the positions taken by any church planter or church planting agency on these issues affect the sort of methods that are chosen. Church planting, as an idea, has won broad support quite rapidly; this may be, however, because behind the idea come such a broad range of meanings and concepts.

This means that there are a wide variety of methods, aims, and agencies through which the church planting process proceeds. Some people advocate a very simple, uncluttered, unstructured approach to planting a new church, beginning with a few families and meeting in homes. Others pursue a "high-yield" or "high impact" strategy, requiring months of preparation before a formal launch designed to attract hundreds of people to the first worship service. Church planting is often accomplished with help from a denomination, a church planting center, a local church or churches, a network, an association, and/or other church planting resources. The term can be applied to the establishing of churches as a legal entity and organization, as well as establishing an organic simple church or house church, which may or may not be formally organized.

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Thu, Jul 22nd - 10:47AM

Models of Church Planting

These are some models for church planting. Any given church plant may include a portion of each of these models. The model of church plant will be determined by the leaders and is best chosen to fit the needs of the community in which the church will be started.

Parachute drop
A church planter and family move into a new location to start a church from scratch. The planter has very little connection with or existing support within the new area. The planter and their family are “pioneering” new territory. Where there is great risk, there is great reward, but this approach is not for the faint of heart and requires a person particularly gifted in personal evangelism. Advantages of this approach include flexibility, and the ability to reach otherwise unreached areas. The disadvantages might be the effort required to integrate with a new community, and possible lack of financial and personal support.

An existing church or church planting organization (mother) provides the initial leadership and resources (money and/or people) to get a new church (daughter) started. This includes the selection of the church planter. Often the church planter is selected from within the organization and already agrees with the vision, values and beliefs of the sponsoring organization, or has been employed with a view to planting. The existing relationship allows for a close working relationship between the "mother" and "daughter" churches. Although the new church is autonomous, the sponsoring organization often has significant influence in the new church (including decision-making during the pre-launch phase). Advantages often include increased financial resources and the ability to draw core team / launch team members from the sponsoring organization.

Partnership network
This is a growing trend where an organization (or many organizations) committed to working together to plant churches. These informal alliances are referred to as collaborative or partnership networks. The participating organizations often share common beliefs and a passion for starting new churches. Planters often get many of the benefits of the "sponsoring church" model but with increased autonomy in decision making. This pattern can cross denominational boundaries.

House churches
Small groups form and multiply via a network of people meeting in homes. In some cases, the individual cells are connected in a larger network that meets together periodically in a large group setting. This relational model focuses on personal growth, care and teaching through one-on-one and small group discipleship. Groups are birthed through multiplication, and, often die, only to resurface months or even years later. This model requires very little funding.

Multi-site church
An existing church opens new locations. This is attractive to larger churches. Smaller churches have also successfully implemented the strategy. Motives range from reaching more non-Christians to making more room at an existing location. The evolving multi-site model is proving important in creating an entrepreneurial spirit of multiplication within existing churches. Where multi-site multiplication results in multiple leadership teams and replication of all aspects of church, then this method is a relevant form of church planting (see Ichthus Christian Fellowship). Where the new expression is integrated into the current organisational unit, then no church plant has occurred, merely an extension work of an existing congregation.

An existing struggling church decides to bury the old and plant a fresh new church. The restart may or may not be at a new location and may or may not be with the same leadership. The resources of many older stagnant churches are a good way to bring new life to the community being served.

This is not really a church planting method, but nonetheless is the agency through which many new churches occur. A split typically occurs when competing groups conclude there is less energy required to “split” or “divorce” than to resolve differences and reconcile. The underlying factors causing the split often develop over years. In many cases, the dysfunctional character traits of the old church carry forward to the new churches, but the passion on both sides of the argument can often lead to surprising growth.

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Thu, Jul 15th - 10:29AM

Church Planting Movement

In an international non-American missiological context, church planting may be defined as "initiating reproductive fellowships that reflect the kingdom of God in the world." Another similar term, Church Planting Movement (CPM), is defined as a rapid and multiplicative increase of indigenous churches planting churches within a given people group or population segment.

Leading church growth writer C. Peter Wagner says Church Planting is the most effective evangelistic strategy under heaven, and for its advocates this remains church planting's greatest rationale. Recent practitioners have developed theologies of church, place, and community, to answer the criticism of earlier models.

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Thu, Jul 8th - 10:14AM

Critique of Planting Movement

Church planting literature tends to focus on methods, which shows that it is often situated within modern culture. A minority of recent material shows awareness of this and is being more subtly developed. Attention still needs to be given to interpreting the biblical text so that an adequate account of the nature of church may be used as a starting point. Equally, the fact that a community of faith socialises its members over a long period to live a particular shared lifestyle is often neglected. A vision of church that shows an understanding of process, together with a renewed biblical ecclesiology would go a long way towards remedying inadequate church planting hermeneutics.

The difference between methods and methodology is this: whilst there may be a number of methods for church planting, the decision as to which method is chosen is determined by methodology. In other words, the key question is found in the way that such a decision is made. Is priority given to organisational features, or spiritual features? Will the church be shaped by the needs of the congregation for discipleship, or will it be shaped around the desire to offer congregation members a choice? These questions may not matter as much as acknowledging the paradigm within which such questions are being asked. An appropriate methodology may well arise from this sort of theological reflection. Where the right questions are being asked, methodological rigour may lead to appropriate methods. It is in this sphere that the major challenge to church planting lays: developing an appropriate ecclesiology as a precursor to church planting methods.

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Sat, Jul 3rd - 7:52AM

Practical Objections to Church Planting

For Anglicans and Catholics, "church-planting" can be very problematic because of the territorial nature of a diocese. For both the Catholic and Anglican churches, this practice may be viewed as an abrogation of the rights of a local bishop. This is because the bishop of the diocese has the right to decide where churches will be planted, and the phenomenon of church planting sometimes ignores both courtesy and obedience to the local bishop.

The Church of England has begun its Fresh Expressions initiative, which is seeking to encourage the development of new congregations even when they are across parish boundaries, for the sake of mission, under the bishop's permission. The recent Anglican conference GAFCON contained a broad hint that it would consider offering oversight to churches that have been planted without authorization from the local bishops.

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