Monday, January 24, 2011

Church Planting Systems and Baptist Associations

Two weeks ago I was invited to lead a session at the NoBA annual conference for Directors of Missions at Southwestern Seminary on Effective Church Planting in the Baptist Association. It was a privilege to talk with fellow Directors of Missions from across the country about their own efforts to facilitate church planting, and to learn from them regarding the real world issues they face in trying to cultivate a church planting culture. I was energized by their desire to do this better.

Since returning to Maryland I've received several requests for my teaching material, as well as bibliographic resources to help Associational servants do this work more effectively. In light of that interest, I've decided to dedicate the next few weeks to a blog series on the subject of church planting within Baptist Associations. My hope is that this will not only help Directors of Missions, but also local pastors and laity in churches who are passionate about seeing God's Kingdom multiplied in their own context.

In the first post, I will discuss the strategic role of the Association in denominational church planting, as well as some of the problems within denominational systems that can kill the desire and momentum for starting new churches. The Biblical pattern is that churches, not denominations, plant churches. At the same time, my very biased opinion is that Associations are in the best position of all denominational entities to empower local churches to fulfill this mandate. This is not to say that our friends at the state convention and North American Mission Board are irrelevant to the effort. On the contrary, we need ALL our partners on board for the undertaking neccesary to reach North America with the Gospel. But from a doctrinal, contextual, and ecclesiological standpoint, no one is more poised to help catalyze a movement of new churches among established churches like the Baptist Association.

In the second post, I'll discuss the neccesary work of creating a church planting culture in the Association. The best and most sophisticated support system on earth is useless if there is no passion to utilize it and no understanding of why it exists. Churches networked together in Associations must conclude that church planting is an absolute, non-negotiable neccesity. A culture of church planting understands that if an Association can't facilitate the work of churches planting churches, it has no reason to exist. I'll talk about ways to cultivate that sort of environment.

In the third post, I'll discuss the essential pieces for effective church planting strategy. I'll talk about the elements that constitute and define a "mission field," the neccesary elements of recruiting and assessing planters, and the neccesity of allowing parent churches to lead the way.

In the fourth post, I'll concentrate on a single piece of church planting strategy; funding. On the one hand, it takes money to accomplish the mission, and all the church planters reading would be very angry with me if I didn't raise this issue. On the other hand, financial support for a new church must be consistent with the strategy. Contextualization of financial support is every bit as important as contextualizing the overall strategy if you aspire to have a truly autonomous, self-supporting,and self-propogating new church.

In the final installment, I'll briefly talk about ways to ensure ongoing church planting strategy in the Association Obviously, the Director of Missions plays a vital role in catalyzing and facilitating this emphasis. At the same time, we want to "hand off" church planting to appropriate leaders in local churches, and eventually empower them as team members so that the mission continues should the DoM get run over by a bus.

My hope is that this series will be helpful to church planters, local pastors, church members, and Directors of Missions who want to see the Kingdom of God multiplied in their Association, and around the world. God willing, I'll see you in a few days with installment one.

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