Baptist 21 is excited to offer a three-part post from Matt Chewning, Lead Pastor of Netcast Church in Beverly, MA–a suburb of Boston. In these posts Chewning walks through the first three years of planting a church, offering practical insight and wisdom from his experience as to how we all should rethink mission and strategy in church planting.
Be sure to stay tuned for parts two and three!
Year 1: Don’t plant a church.
Favor in the Graveyard.
As I’ve had opportunities to share our story of planting Netcast Church over 2 ½ years ago, people have been astonished to hear what the Lord is doing. Over the past century, Greater Boston has been considered the preachers grave yard; It’s where preachers go to die. So for us to have baptized over 150 people in a little over 3 years, is shocking to those who know the New England context. As a planter, I am consistently asked questions about strategy, philosophy and mission as people learn about what God is doing through Netcast.
When our family parachuted into Beverly, MA we had one goal in mind….Plant the Gospel, not a church! Netcast Church is not the hope of the world, Jesus is. Netcast is not the means to a transformed heart, Jesus is. Netcast Church is not the answer to the brokenness in our community, the Jesus is. Therefore, we must be more passionate about the gospel of Jesus than our local expression of the Kingdom of God.
A Gospel Strategy.
As our family prepared to move, it became more and more clear that our context didn’t need a church, it needed the gospel. Greater Boston didn’t need rules, morals or ways to better their marriages. They surly didn’t need more education, knowledge or tradition; they needed the transformation that only comes from Jesus. For too long, Greater Boston has been surrounded with religious ideals and the idol of tradition, but lacked a power that is only found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So, our strategy? Plant the Gospel.
From day one we set out to tell everyone about Jesus. No shame, no bate and switch, no worrying about what people would think; just love people as best as we knew and talk about Jesus as often as we could. Jesus was our message. Jesus was our strategy. Jesus was our philosophy. Jesus was our hope. If this didn’t work, it wasn’t gonna be because we were too timid to talk about Jesus.
The Gospel Fruit.
As I get opportunities to encourage church planters, I constantly want to challenge them about strategy, philosophy, goals and motives. If your goal is to plant an exciting ministry, preach a relevant message, have dynamic music and organize yourself with good systems; you just may be tempted to find yourself talking more about your church than the one who hold the church in the palm of His hands. If you your goal is to have a specific philosophy of ministry or certain numerical goals, it’s possible that you’ll find yourself compromising gospel conversations for conversations surround around the topic of your church and in turn winning more people to your new ministry than to Jesus. However, the fruit of the gospel being planted in the hearts of men and women is a local body of transformed and empowered worshippers who gather together and scatter abroad because of the fame and name of Jesus. Therefore, plant the gospel and watch in amazement as Jesus builds His church right before your eyes.
Here are two keys of planting the gospel…
1. Talk Jesus, not church.
The problem in your city and my city is the same. It’s not that there aren’t enough churches, it’s the fact that the churches that do exist are not portraying an accurate picture of our Savior. To often people see church as a place of bored-rule followers where there is no life or fun to be had. Therefore they attribute the same thing to our great God. Next time you have the opportunity to invite someone to your church, pause long enough to remember that the reason they don’t want to come to your church is because they think they know what your God is like. And usually, their wrong.
2. Learn your context personally.
One of the reasons it is hard to plant the gospel is because the gospel is assumed. To often planters assume their context has specific views about Jesus but haven’t taken the time to actually explore. When I started Netcast, I wanted to understand what the presuppositional views were about Jesus so that I could deconstruct them and reconstruct an accurate one. Take a week and meet with as many non-christians as possible asking three questions.
ñ What do you believe?
ñ How did you come to believe it?
How has that belief system shaped your life for the best?
In a few days the movie based off the best selling “Evangelical Christian” book of the last decade, Heaven is For Real, debuts. Some of the truths in the sentence I just wrote frighten me and cause me to wonder if we have a biblically discerning, “Berean” culture in today’s Evangelical Church (cf. Acts 17:11). If you have not read the book, the basic premise of this supposedly true story is that a little boy is pronounced dead during an emergency surgery, goes to heaven, is revived, and recounts what heaven looks like in the ensuing months. There are all kinds of verses that come to mind that raise concern for our discernment about this story. David Platt highlights two of them while quoting John McArthur in this video clip from last year’s Secret Church
However, my biggest concern is the number of Christians who say this book bolsters their faith. These responses concern me greatly because they betray our lack of confidence in the sufficiency of the scriptures. Why do we look to a story about a boy’s “experience” with more excitement and awe than we do the Word of the Living God? But this type of demand for additional assurance than biblical truthfulness is nothing new. We have seen this before—in fact, about 2,000 years before. Jesus tells us a story about such a man in Luke 16:19-31 in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. The parable is about the rich man dying and going to Hell while Lazarus dies and goes to Abraham’s side. The climax of the story records the rich man’s plea to Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead. Here is what is recorded for us in verses 28-31: “And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house-for I have five brothers-so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent. He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.‘”
Christian, you do not need a dream of a 5 year old boy or someone spending “90 Minutes in Heaven” to prove to you that Heaven is for real or bolster your faith. You have the Prophets and Apostles! For 2,000 years they have been shouting to us through the Word that One came back from the dead and offers us both a resurrection like his and eternal life. Yes, Heaven is for real, and it’s a certainty for the believer. We shouldn’t garner our hope in the testimony of a 5-year-old boy, but in the power of our Lord and Christ who vacated a tomb in the Middle East and is right now at the right hand of the Father in Heaven. After all, we know Heaven is for real because in Christ we have already been raised from the dead and are right now seated in the heavenly places (Eph 2:6).
All this we know because the Bible told us so.
Post by Nate Akin, director of B21 and Pastor for Disciple-Making at Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC
Pastoral Poison: Self-Glory
For as far back as I can remember, I’ve been the most competitive person I know. I hate losing — I hate it more than I love winning. Besides being born a sinner, I also was born into a family where this “competitive trait” drove us all. To this day, there’s the constant competition over which family member has the most money, who has the biggest house, or what married couple has the most sex; it can get awkward at times. In recent years, the Lord has begun to show me that entering into these conversations can be a form of self-glorification as I attempt to convince others that I’m better than I really am.
I’ve recently come to realize that this isn’t just a “Chewning Family” issue, but a massive disease that is spreading throughout pastoral ministry. Actually, many of us are trained in self-glorification from the moment of salvation.
I was raised with no spiritual upbringing at all. My mom is a non-practicing Jew; my dad, a non-practicing Catholic. They divorced when I was four years old. My only memory of church growing up was being thrown out of a church basketball game because I kept using offensive language. After high school, I was recruited to play basketball at a Christian college and decided to go even though I knew nothing about Christianity. Within two months of being at school, a friend of mine shared the gospel with me off campus, and I immediately believed in Jesus and became a Christian.
Baptist21 is excited to once again host a lunch panel at this year’s SBC in beautiful Baltimore, MD. Our panelists will be discussing the most pressing issues facing the church and what these issues mean for our mission and engagement in the world.
Groups are a big part of local church ministry. Whether they come in the form of discipleship groups, accountability groups, Sunday School, or home groups, it’s clear that evangelicals believe groups matter.
For this reason, The Gospel Project is excited about hosting a discussion panel on Group Ministry in the Local Church at Together for the Gospel on Wednesday, April 9th in the zero dollar book store from 2:00-2:40. Our panelists will include:
During the discussion our panelists will explore the theological foundations (why) and practical applications (how) of group ministry. We’ll be tackling issues like:
According to the research behind Transformational Groups, the majority of church attenders don’t believe groups are that important to the church. However, a survey among Protestant pastors, 76% agree (32% strongly) that groups are the primary network to mobilize their church and its work. Why is there such a discrepancy between the church leaders and their members? Join us for the panel discussion as we explore the answers.
Switch to our mobile site