UPDATE: Baptist21’s panel discussion for this Friday during lunch time of the “God Exposed” conference is almost full, so sign up as soon as possible. The panel will feature Danny Akin, Thabiti Anyabwile, Mark Dever, J.D. Greear, and Mark Liederbach. The event will take place in the Multi-Purpose Room of the Ledford Student Center from 12:15 to 1:30. The cost is $5 per person. You can sign up here or buy a ticket at the check in on Friday morning. Seating is limited to 220 and tickets will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Please note: For those of you already signed up for the God Exposed Conference, this event is not included in your conference ticket price or conference registration process.
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A lean, streamlined Church Planting Network (Simple Planting) – Note: Aaron Coe, a Planter through NAMB, has helped us with the information in this section. This network must be streamlined, meaning that ideologies of the current model will have to change along with renegotiating existing relationships. We believe that this is necessary because it will help us get necessary resources to our planters and it will help us spend money on what is best, not simply what is good. It will also mean a unified strategy.
First, Change the current ideology. Church planting should probably be done less, but done better. The main focus of the church planting network should NOT be the number of churches planted each year but rather the quality of churches planted. The major problem with our current process is that we are more concerned with the number of churches we plant than we are with the health and viability of the churches we plant. Our focus should be finding the right men and helping them plant churches. The issue here is that we have a higher failure rate than some because of this ideology of planting high numbers of churches. This ideology also causes us to struggle in finding resources to support these church planters.
A nice shift would be if we only have three capable planters in a given year, only plant three churches. This way we can support churches that will be viable in ten years instead of extinct. Our resources are ultimately wasted if we invest tons of money in churches that will fold up the tent within 10 years, which unfortunately happens too often! The ideology should be find the right men (or teams), however many or few they are, and help them with an abundance of resources to plant healthy, vibrant, self-sustaining, reproducing churches. In the long haul, if we are planting a small amount of healthy, reproducible churches then it will create a multiplication effect. Let us resolve to plant a smaller number of vibrant churches with the right men (teams) for the jobs. We must have a focus on planting healthy churches, and not just more churches.
Second, invest the necessary resources to aid the planters (teams). We mentioned above that the lack of resources hinders many of our church planters. We cannot give a planter a measly salary, send them to a major (expensive) city, and say, “okay, have at it”. As Danny Akin said, in this case they are “DOA.” Here is more from the above quoted Western Recorder interview, “He decried the low funding levels for a new church start and declared a church planter is “dead on arrival” when he is funded at a decreasing level for three years at a starting salary of just $20,000. Baptist State Convention of North Carolina church planters start even lower, at $14,000. “I’ve got news for you,” he said. “You put all that together, and I’m going to be hard pressed to take care of my family for one year.” Instead of giving measly support, we should find the chosen and give them great support that ensures they can last.
Third and directly related to a shift in ideology, we should also consider supporting teams that plant more than just a lead man. This has not traditionally been one of our strategies. This is more than likely tied to our concern with the number of churches we plant in a given year as mentioned above. This must change. Team planting seems to be much more prudent than a single unit plant and some would argue more biblical. This will help in areas of early strength, accountability, planning, etc. We must support more effectively those we are sending into areas that are tough, including many of our major cities. If we do not, we should not be shocked when living in relative poverty, being isolated, and the trials of church planting discourage them. We must resolve to use “Annie” for the sake of our planters. In addition to being prudent, team plants enjoy greater success.
Fourth, we need to eliminate bureaucratic hoops, duplication, and competing strategies. NAMB must find a way to overcome the challenge of moving from a state-convention entangled, bureaucratic agency to a church-focused, streamlined church planting machine. Let us be clear. We’re not saying that state conventions and NAMB should not have any cooperative agreements. That’s impossible. NAMB and state conventions need to operate with one another to prevent overlap. But, we do mean that the current ways that NAMB and the states operate will not do. In fact, we believe, that this step is necessary to a viable existence. These agreements may have served us well in the past, but they need to be re-thought for our future. We hope that state conventions will be very much involved in church planting. But we hope that the interaction between NAMB and state conventions would be healthy and mutually beneficial.
In order to be less bureaucratic and more focused on church planting this home mission board/church planting network should employ its own home missionaries/church planters and not be as bogged down with ties to existing state conventions. An outstanding article entitled “Moment Critical for NAMB” by Calvin Wittman helps us think through what this might look like. We commend it to you, and we believe this move might be a necessity. The red tape and the entanglement with the state conventions must be altered. NAMB on the whole, unlike the IMB, does not employ its missionaries and planters. They are instead employed by and supported through agreements between NAMB and the State Conventions. The State Conventions are then in cooperation with the associations. That means that funding for these planters has to go through several layers to even get to the field: from HQ in Atlanta to the state office to the association and then to the missionary/church. So this means “executive” level salaries at 3 or 4 different levels in order to administrate ministry in one church or area. According to NAMB employees this creates all sorts of issues.
First, there are often times disagreements between NAMB, the state convention and the local association as to how ministry in that particular area should be done. So, the missionary is in an awkward political position trying to determine with whom he should “side.” Second, this creates often times greater loyalty to one entity over another depending on which entity hired you. Third, these tensions lead to NOT having a unified approach to ministry in a particular area. One example might be reaching college students in a city. One entity may utilize a church-based strategy that empowers local churches to reach college students, whereas another entity might utilize a parachurch campus based approach to reaching college students. Too many bosses. Too many chefs in the kitchen. Sometimes the bosses utilize strategies that work against one another.
However, what we propose for this church planting network is setting up regions within the US (which could cut down on the number of executive level salaries necessary to carry on the work of the board). They would employ planters and have a unified strategy (church planting) in that region. The regional coordinator would work with churches in the planting process.
One of the biggest factors in the upheaval at NAMB seems to be that NAMB cannot operate effectively in its current structure without state convention buy-in. So a trim and more efficient church planting network that lacks much of this red tape is necessary. In some ways it is harder for NAMB to succeed than IMB because NAMB has so many more hoops. So NAMB has done it like this: they get an idea, put it before the states, and then form committees made up of the state convention people, ostensibly to get their input, but in reality more to get their commitment. This leads sometimes to stalling creativity and the death of good ideas. There is a catch 22 though because NAMB must have state buy-in to be successful. It seems that this is the system NAMB has created, and it needs to be replaced. This will take tough calls, but a leaner entity could be a better church planting network.
Jon and Nathan Akin
Part 4 of this series will be some concluding thoughts
Baptist21 will continue to release the GCR Task Force videos from each member as they are released. This one from J.D. Greear fits greatly with our current series “The Future of Church Planting in the SBC.” He talks about the Primacy of the Local Church and good parachurchism. Check out this video. And check out J.D. Greear and his ministry, he is someone that future pastors should learn from in the opinion of baptist21.
The second video is from “The Nines.”
From the Leadership Network Website:
What if you could sit down across your desk with some of the best leaders in today’s church and hear what they would say to you? That’s the idea behind THE NINES. Leadership Network asked some of the church’s greatest communicators: “If you had nine minutes to talk one-on-one with thousands of church leaders, what is the one thing that you would tell them?”
The Primacy of the Local Church should also help the mission board make church planting its primary concern (maybe only concern). The main focus of a home mission board should be the planting of churches. It should be a church planting network. Why? Jesus promised that He would build His church (Matt. 16:18), not just save individual people. When the Church at Antioch sent Paul out to accomplish the Great Commission he went planting churches not just evangelizing individuals disconnected from a community of believers. Christ is purchasing and building a people who are in community with one another (Acts 2:42-47). The local church is the manifestation of Christ’s Kingdom community on earth. So, the local church is the body commissioned by King Jesus with the task of carrying the Gospel forward. This is done as the Gospel is declared with our lips and displayed with our actions. The primary way that the Gospel is to be displayed is in the way in which believers within local churches demonstrate the cross-love of Jesus of Nazareth as they take care of one another (cf. John 13:34-35; 1 John 3:10-23). This will mean meeting the needs of those in the family of faith first of all, but also displaying mercy to those in the larger community. The Church is the community commissioned to take care of the needs of people (not the government), both chief needs (salvation) and felt needs (mercy ministry). The Church is commissioned with discipling and training its people, more so than seminaries or bible colleges. Finally, the Church is the chosen vehicle that demonstrates to the Prince of the Power of the Air that his rule has ended. Therefore, to be of utmost effectiveness, a home mission board should be about planting these “outposts of the Kingdom”. Why do we say all this about the church? Because the Church will most effectively meet the problems in our cities and country. So, it is our job to plant as many of them as we can to address the great need of the world. If we plant healthy, vibrant churches we will experience better missions, better mercy ministries, better discipleship, better church planting, resurgence of baptisms, and more ministers called out. A great article to read about the church and parachurch ministry is an article by Russell Moore entitled, “Jesus Didn’t Die for Your Campus Ministry.”
The Primacy of the Local Church will set in place a Church-focused Strategy. Here is the strategy, “Find the churches who are already planting healthy churches and let them set the pace.” The main strategy of this church planting network should be to find churches that are planting well, support them, and teach others to follow their pattern. The mission board should find those churches that have the vision to do this and have a track record of doing it well. There are many examples here to follow. One pattern could be that of FBC Woodstock and Pastor Johnny Hunt. They pick strategic areas that need churches and they bring in men who they think are capable of planting and they train them on site for nearly six months. They train additional staff for a couple of months and they encourage people to go with the church planting team and make up the church’s initial core group. They then send them out with great financial resources. These churches have proven to be successful. Here is what Danny Akin said about them in an interview in 2008 with the Western Recorder, “First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., which has started three churches in the Las Vegas, Nev., area and funded them initially with $500,000 each. Each church now runs more than 1,000 members.” This is a model to emulate. The church planting network should come along side of a church like Woodstock by: 1) giving them the resources necessary to do this on an even greater scale and 2) helping them model this for other churches. For churches that are smaller, they could emulate churches like Open Door Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC (here is a baptist21 podcast with Open Door’s Pastor Dwayne Milioni). So far Open Door has planted 3 churches with 3 more in the works very soon. All of them are viable and the plants are even looking themselves to plant other churches. Open Door has planted on a small scale because of resource limitations, but if they were to be aided by a church planting network they could send many more out. For very small churches, this church planting network could help them form “networks” or associations with other local churches in which they pool money together and help each other plant churches. The main call of the board should be to come along side all these churches and help them plant. Churches that for whatever reason feel that they absolutely cannot plant but still have a passion to see churches planted in order to reach North America would still be able to give to the church planting network to be a part of something greater than themselves through the Cooperative Program.
Jon and Nathan Akin
Part 3 of this series will deal with streamlining this church planting network
In all of the talk about the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR), part of the conversation usually drifts to what will help energize the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Many believe that the denomination is at defcon4 (though a small minority sees no issues with declining baptisms, membership, giving, and other ominous factors). What will help revitalize the churches that make up the SBC and their mission efforts at home and abroad? What will energize younger pastor’s participation in and hope for the SBC? We do not propose to have all the answers, but we, along with many others, do think one thing is vital to the future of the SBC and the continued participation of young pastors. We must have a vital North American Church Planting Network, and right now we just do not seem to have one. The North American Mission Board (NAMB) appears to be in upheaval with leadership uncertainty, frustrations with planting, and a lack of a unified approach. This is not to say that the North American Mission Board does not do some effective and good things. NAMB has been used of God to plant many healthy churches. But can we do better? Can we develop a church planting strategy that has a higher success rate and is more directly tied to the local church? We think the answer is “Yes!”
We want to propose what a vital church planting network might look like and be characterized by. Since the SBC has an existing home Mission Board this proposal will of necessity offer suggestions that call for some change in that existing board. However, we are not naïve enough to think that the vision we propose will be easily implemented when there is an existing structure in place. Much of this discussion will focus on what such a church planting network might look like built from the ground up. We also understand that much more than what we will lay out here goes into this kind of network.
The Primacy of the local church – this network must be characterized and driven by the primacy of the local church as the body created by King Jesus to plant other churches. Ultimately, local churches rather than mission boards “run point” on planting churches. Why? The church is the one commissioned to do this. Not a home mission board. Acts 13 shows us that the Church at Antioch under the power of the Holy Spirit recognized, commissioned, and sent Paul and Barnabas for the purpose of church planting. So what is the role of the church planting network? Ultimately, the network or the board is to be a servant to the churches of the SBC. Our local, state and national entities were NOT created to DO the work of the local church. National church planting networks are merely to serve the church. The New Testament gives the mandate to churches to multiply and not to mission boards. J.D. Greear, of the Summit Church and the Great Commission Task force, has written several articles about “parachurchism.” He writes, “Parachurch ministries (and, denominations and networks) exist to facilitate the ministry of the local church…denominational networks are simply functional tools that churches can use to accomplish the mission given to them… Good parachurch ministries facilitate the ministry of the church. Bad parachurch takes ministry from a local church and does it for her. Bad parachurch says, ‘Give us money and people and we’ll do ministry for you.’” We believe, unfortunately, that our North American church planting network has operated under the bad parachurch category in the past, supplanting the church as the vehicle that plants churches.
The Primacy of the Local Church in planting would mean a better selection process - In the New Testament and throughout most of Baptist life, the church has been the one that confirmed the call of the pastor. We must recover this in Baptist life; not every “Billy Baptist” that says he thinks it is time to go into vocational ministry is called out. The person’s internal calling must be confirmed by the external calling of his local church setting him apart for ministry. God calls people to ministry through the church. This, again, is the pattern we see when the Church at Antioch recognized the calling of Paul and Barnabas to mission and sent them out (Acts 13:1-3). If the churches will do this, then they can mark out the ones they think are fit to be Planters (based on elder qualifications in the NT). They will have the advantage of seeing these men on a day in day out basis and so will know them even more intimately than a board or a network can. They will know how these men love their wives and their children. The Church will know and see their ministry gifts as they are exercised in the fire of local church ministry. And the Church will then be responsible to send them out, this is great because the onus will be on that church and most churches would not waste time and resources on one that is not called and competent. This process would avoid sending isolated individuals disconnected from local church ministry. It would also weed out disgruntled planters who want to start something new because they do not see anyone else “doing it right.” Church planting pastors need to first follow the godly leadership of an older pastor before they plant. They must be able to submit to authority before they can be in authority.
Jon and Nathan Akin
In part 2, we will continue to examine the primacy of the local church and how it should impact our church planting.
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