Monday, March 28, 2011

Passing the Baton: Ensuring an Ongoing Church Planting Strategy

This is my last installment on the subject of how to facilitate effective church planting in the Baptist Association. This post also covers a key piece to the puzzle if you want a church planting emphasis to outlast your own ministry as a Director of Missions.

At this point in the game, you have created a culture that understands the Great Commission neccesity of church planting. A system of recruitment, assessment, training, deployment, and support is in place. The cooperation of state, national, and network partners is in place, and you are beginning to see the Kingdom advance that always ensues when new churches are planted to penetrate lostness. Now comes the hard part: You have to give it away!

I love church planting. But its been more than six years since I've started a church, and my stories started getting old a couple of years ago. Were I to start another church today, the learning curve would be steep even with my prior experience. Culture shifts so rapidly and quickly now that it is simply impossible to keep pace with the constant change in approaches to church planting without actually planting a church. The church planters we have in the field however, are still neck-deep in their experiences. Sponsor churches likewise are actually riding the waves of change as I write. As such, the best way to ensure an ongoing and plausibly perpetual church planting strategy is to turn the entire strategy over to the planters themselves.

We are currently in the middle of this process now, and have begun to develop a "Parent Church Network" (PCN). All members of this network have recently planted a church themselves, or they have parented a plant and demonstrated through that experience that they know what they are doing. Though I'm technically still in the driver's seat, the goal is to have the lion's share of the operation, policy-making, budgeting, etc. turned over to the PCN within the next two years.

This doesn't mean I won't be involved. On the contrary, I will continue to "start fires" in this area by expanding partnerships between churches, church plants, pastors, church planters, church planting networks and other denominational entities. But the process will be governed by those who are actually doing the work. If I get hit by a bus, they can always replace a catalyst, but the overall process should not have to suffer in the event that the DOM is removed from the picture.

But the greatest reason to turn church planting over to the planters is given by Bob Logan: He states that church planting movements "that reproduce quickly and spread among the people, can best be led by grassroots movements of ordinary believers doing what Jesus called them to do."

Currently, one of our planters who serves on our Association's Executive Board is working alongside me in anything related to church planting. My goal by the end of the year is to help him build a team that will oversee this work in MMBA. One awesome part of this is the people we have identified to date to join this team. One is a former moderator who has served as pastor of his church for more than 30 years, and who has helped us plant four churches. Another is the pastor of one of those church plants. Yet another is a planter currently starting a church with the support of the church that was itself started by our former moderator's church. Literally, we have three "generations" of folks who believe in church multiplication serving on this team. Our great hope is that they will lead future church planting in central Maryland, and anywhere else in the world where our member churches are called to go.

If those planting churches are to have any sense of ownership when it comes to the Association, you have to grant that ownership. So don't be afraid to hand it off! As I said earlier, their experience is more recent than mine, so they will know better than me how the next generation can be successful. For my part, I'm honored to have played a role in bringing them to this point, and I'm giddy with excitement over how God will use them as our network of churches moves forward.

If you are a Director of Missions, a church planter trying to start a CPM within your association, or a local church pastor with similar passion, I hope this series has been helpful to you, and that it will be helpful to your Association. With 258 million lost people living in the United States, the roughly 1000 Baptist Associations can serve a vital and role in reaching those people by helping plant new churches--or they can become totally irrelevant. I pray you choose to go forth and multiply!

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