Make sure to check out the other posts in this series on Preparing2Plant Churches
Church planters, especially those who “parachute” from the outside, have a reputation for disrespecting the already-established churches in the area. We can easily view ourselves as the enlightened saviors of the city who finally “get” how to do church, and if people would just do ministry like us (never mind that we’re not actually practicing, and this is all theory) then this city would be 95% evangelical, not 95% lost…
Such thinking reflects a myopic kingdom mindset, but this has sadly been the legacy of many planters who have gone before us. Such thinking typically leads to these churches shutting their doors before really having a chance to open them.
Our team didn’t want to be oblivious to the work that has gone before us in the city. It’s not like we’ll be the first good church in Denver, and it is exciting rather than discouraging to know that there are good, gospel-centered churches in the city already. I guess there’s something seemingly-courageous about going to a city and saying you’re the only evangelical church. But for me, when we’re trying to reach millions of people, I’d sure like to have some brothers in the trenches with me. I think there will be plenty of lost people to go around.
These other churches are not our competition, but rather our partners in fulfilling the Great Commission in a city that desperately needs Jesus. I love cooperating for the cause of the gospel since it is “the great unifier.” Territorialism in light of this is utterly ridiculous.
We have experienced a wonderful spirit of cooperation in Denver, as pastors recognize both the need in the city and that no one church is going to reach a city on its own. We’ve seen partnerships develop with churches like High View Church, which is only a year old, running around eighty people, yet planting a church in Colorado Springs as well as helping with our planting process in the next year.
If you don’t love the other gospel-centered local churches in the city in which you’re planting, I’d strongly encourage you to evaluate your own calling. More than anything, I’d ask you whether you’re planting a church for God’s glory, or your own.
3. A Team
The thought of my wife and I being a couple of lone rangers and moving to a city to start a church was less than appealing to me. I know there are plenty of guys who have been successful using this model, but when I examined the multitude of responsibilities involved in church planting, I recognized that I didn’t want to do this alone.
Planting as a team presents unique challenges and potential dangers, but the advantages are tremendous: you are engaging the city with an already-established support system in place. You have a community of missionaries ready to reach the city and capable of entering spheres of influence that a lone planter could never reach on his own. You are able to immediately invite non-believers into a gospel community where they can witness what a counter-cultural, gospel-centered life looks like. And when this team comes out of the same church, you already have a clearly defined DNA in place that makes vision casting for the lead planter much easier. I don’t have to introduce my team to concepts such as missional living, gospel-centeredness, expository preaching, and community engagement because my church already has.
In conclusion to this section on calling and the local church, my plea is that you would love the church and see the call to church planting in a less-individualistic light. Strive to see the call in the context of community, namely that local body in which God has placed you to love and serve before you plant.
Planning2Plant (P2P) is a series by Bryan Barley following his year of preparation for church planting.
While the first post dealt with the individual call, this post examines my calling to a particular “method.” My team’s methodology is to do everything we possibly can through the local church.
I struggled whether to make this the first post in the calling series. Which comes first – your own sense of calling or the church’s recognition of that call? In an ideal world, we would see churches and their pastors so consumed with the thought of planting other churches that their passion is to see men raised up within the congregation to be sent out to plant. Therefore, pastors would be intimately involved in the calling process, perpetually assessing and raising up leaders.
But I also recognize that it’s not the norm for most guys who may be reading this.* From a pragmatic point of view, such a heavy investment in church planting can appear unwise to local churches because it encompasses giving away money, resources, and your best people to a cause that doesn’t “directly” benefit your own local church. With the increased interest in church planting in SBC life, this attitude is slowly changing, but the reality is that many who read this are probably at churches where church planting isn’t on the radar. Hence, it’s tough for me to say you’re not called to church plant if you don’t have the local church behind you.
However, I would encourage you as much as possible to have the local church be the vehicle through which you plant your church. Before I felt entirely comfortable about planting, there were three major pieces I wanted in place to remain consistent with a methodology that emphasized the local church. The first is in this post, and the other two will be in tomorrow’s post:
1. A Sending Church
I am blessed to be at a place (The Summit Church, Durham, NC) that believes in churches planting churches (for example, see our church planting center, SendRDU). My pastor, J.D. Greear, regularly communicates that we measure success not by our “seating capacity” but rather our “sending capacity.” Therefore, we’re committed to planting 1,000 churches over the next forty years. Our “method” for doing this is the local church.
The benefits of having a local church behind you are countless. It is on the front lines of God’s mission. Training and discipleship can happen over the course of years from those actually “in the trenches” of local church ministry. For the planter, ministry experience is obtained, successes are celebrated, and failures happen in a context where it doesn’t mean the downfall of your newly-established and highly-fragile church plant.
Assessment as to whether you’re qualified to plant comes from men who actually know who you and are able to discern whether you meet the biblical qualifications of a pastor. While it’s easy to convince someone you’re qualified to plant when they’ve only met you once, a deeper relationship will expose your true strengths and weaknesses. It’s tough for someone other than the local church to really see whether you love your wife, regularly share the gospel, and disciple others.
What is a better training ground for church planting than the church on the front lines of the missio Dei ? The church knows you well enough to tell you when you’re ready to plant, and can prepare you to do it with excellence.
I can’t imagine a better place to be equipped than on the frontline, and I encourage you to think in the same way.
*Note: A natural question raised in this post is “what should I do if I feel called to plant a church, but the church I currently attend has no passion for church planting/ will not equip me for church planting?” This issue is a complicated one that is not intended to be answered in this post. However, my conviction is that the local church is the best place to prepare for church planting. Consequently, potential planters must think in this light, and established pastors must see their churches as training centers and launching pads for new church plants and planters. Ideally, every church would view itself as a church planting center in some way. However, this is not a reality at this time. This leaves some difficult questions to be answered when it comes to how one should best prepare to plant, as well as how to discern the call to plant when there are not pastors in your life who are eager to help you in this process. Churches still must be planted, but when the local church is not as involved I would recommend proceeding with greater caution.
J.D. Greear is the lead pastor of the Summit Church, a rapidly growing church of over 3,000 members in Raleigh-Durham, NC. J.D. is committed to the local church and to church planting, having undertaken the goal of planting 1,000 churches in the next 50 years. Currently, they have 12 plants around the world, 7 of which are in Muslim contexts. He has authored a number of publications, including the forthcoming Breaking the Islamic Code. He has a Ph.D. from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and has recently been named to the recent Great Commission Resurgence Task Force.
Baptist21 is grateful for the ministry of J.D. and are very thankful that he has taken the time to sit down with us for a podcast interview. J.D. is a model for our audience and a man that we can learn a lot from.
Interview Questions :
Note: This interview came pre-convention
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary has announced that effective January 1 Bruce Riley Ashford will be the new dean of the College at Southeastern, the undergraduate program at Southeastern Seminary. Dr. Ashford has been serving as director of the Center for Great Commission Studies at Southeastern since 2005. He teaches courses in theology, philosophy, and missions. Dr. Ashford is an active member at the thriving Summit Church in Durham. He is a gifted communicator and speaks at churches and in other venues all over our Convention. In addition, Dr. Ashford blogs at Between the Times with four of his SEBTS colleagues (David Nelson, Ken Keathley, Nathan Finn, and Danny Akin). He has been a vocal proponent of a Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) in the SBC in his teaching, speaking, and blogging. He is a rising leader in our Convention and a man who exemplifies the wedding of piety, doctrine, and practice.
Baptist21 posted a blog entitled “Men and Women of Whom the World is Not Worthy, A Better Resurrection, and Am I an Obstacle to the Nations Hearing the Gospel?” that addressed a sermon he delivered in Southeastern’s Chapel on missions to begin the new academic year. He is an avid proponent of missions and church planting and renewal, as well as a student favorite on campus. In addition, he has posted a wonderful ten-part series on Theologically driven Missiology. We here at Baptist 21 wish to say congratulations to Dr. Ashford and are excited about Dr. Ashford’s new post.
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