Rescue Church Planting

Church planting as a movement has lost its way and is in need of rescuing.

A church planter came in to meet with me after attending the hottest new plant in our city.  He was intoxicated with vision.  He couldn’t say enough good stuff about the way this new church operated.  It was running over 600 people while just a little over six months old.  After the planter talked about signage, parking, greeting, hosting, childcare, worship, preaching, and so on he paused to catch his breath.  I asked him a simple question, “What about Jesus?”  “Pardon me?” he replied with a puzzled look.  I repeated myself, “What about Jesus?  Where was Jesus in all this?”  He pause and went introspective.  In a few moments he returned.  This time there were tears in his eyes as he replied, “There was no Jesus!”

Jesus paints a vivid picture of this when he addresses the Church of Laodicea, “Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelations 3:20).   Where is Jesus in this picture? What is he doing outside his church?  How did we come this far?

Planting the Gospel is a movement about rescue.  Our mission is to rediscover the simplicity and beauty of Jesus and his ways resulting in dozens of movement making churches, hundreds of church plants, thousands of disciples, and millions of gospel seeds sown.

Our prayer is that God will rescue us from ourselves.  It’s our desire that Jesus and Jesus alone will be enough.  We need nothing else.  We confess that we have made church planting more about…

  • Building our little kingdoms instead of advancing his glorious Kingdom.
  • Reaching “more of those” instead of the “least of these”.
  • Puffing our own Narcissism instead of His glory and honor.
  • Advancing our own personal mission instead of embracing his mission.
  • Producing weekend services instead of reproducing the “Body of Christ”.
  • Being relevant instead of proclaiming his liberating revelation.

God save us from ourselves!  We repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!  We embrace your way as the only way. We commit to plant the Gospel as reflected by…

  • Being devoted to a Gospel of rescue, renewal, and re-creation.
  • Accepting our mission of making disciples that live like Jesus, love like Jesus, and leave what Jesus left behind (those that live like him and love like him).
  • Embracing the Kingdom of Heaven as our true citizenship.
  • Reproducing disciples, leaders, groups, ministries, churches, and movements.
  • Acting with humility, justice, and mercy toward the “least of these”.
  • Depending solely on the power of the Holy Spirit to work within and through us.

Join the movement.  We would love to hear from you.

Plant the gospel. Make disciples. Form the church.

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City Movements

Lately I’ve been thinking about what a gospel movement in my city would look like.  My imagination has been running wild.  I see endless possibilities for the transformational power of the gospel to make it’s ways through the very veins of our city bringing new life every where it goes.  I believe this kind of gospel movement is possible and we can be part of it.  I can experience it in my city and you can experience it in your city.  Here’s how!

Recognize the gospel is enough.  It really is.  I believe the gospel is all we need.  Matter of fact, I think some of the things we rely on really get in the way and are harmful to a gospel movement.  Jesus taught us that the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, that though it is the smallest of all seeds it grows to become a large tree.  He also said that the faith of a mustard seed has the capacity for moving a mountain, or in this case redeeming, renewing, and restoring a city.  The gospel like that mustard seed when planted grows, grows, and grows.  Along with that growth it multiplies, multiplies, and multiplies.

Now when I say the gospel is enough, I’m not talking about the gospel we use like a tag in our moralistic therapeutic teachings, but a robust hardy Bible-centered gospel.  A gospel that spells out God’s incredible meta-narrative in the context of creation, rebellion, redemption, renewal, and restoration.  It’s the story of Jesus from Genesis to Revelations.  It’s the story of God’s unconditional redeeming love, his ongoing renewal of his people, and his ultimate restoration of his creation.  God wants to redeem, renew, and restore our city.  This is the essence of a gospel movement in our city.  The gospel is all we need.  Dependency on anything else is idolatry and will ultimately hinder.

Recognize we can best do this together.  The gospel is enough, but the gospel always brings us together.  I am encouraged at how we have a way of finding each other.  Over the past couple of years I have notice when I focus on being the church, opposed to doing church, church is always breaking out or perhaps breaking in.  The very essence of the gospel draws us together.  Unfortunately, our churches often operate as separate business in competition with one another.  We are all guilty.  I know I am.  I believe Satan knows something incredible happens when God’s people come together for a common purpose.  If I was the enemy I can’t think of a better strategy then to keep us apart.

Years ago I heard Leonard Sweet suggest that the movement of God is like a tornado oppose to a hurricane.  A hurricane moves inland with its mighty power devastating everything in its path, while a tornado’s power is much more random touching down here and over there.  He went on to suggest we see God touching down here and there, in random patterns.  He offered this conclusion, that if we ever learned how to connect the dots we would see the power of God in incredible ways.  For some reason this really hit me.  Perhaps it is why I do what I do today.  I remember praying, “Father, I want to spend the rest of my life connecting dots.”  There’s an incredible advantage and power when we come together.  I would even go as far as to say it is sin when we don’t.

You are a part of the solution, not the total solution.  God always brings together a people to do his work.  Israel was made up of twelve tribes.  Jesus chose twelve men to be his apostles.   John wrote letters to the seven churches in Asia. These seven churches were a collection of movements in their city, join together by the gospel.  Paul never acted along, but was sent out by the church at Antioch, with Barnabas.  Not only do Christians find each other, they need each other.  We are the body of Christ.  As the body of Christ we are complete when we are join together.  As the body of Christ we need each other to demonstrate Christ love to the world.

Recognize the gospel is already growing in your city Look around you.  What do you see?  If we look beyond the natural eye, we see the gospel and it’s growing.  There’s a gospel movement in your neighborhood.  It may be small, but it’s growing in humility and impact.  It may not look like a movement, but it is.  This gospel movement may be found in a new upstart church or an old traditional one that’s been around for many years.  This gospel movement may be found within a small group who find themselves bringing renewal to the lives of kids that need a foster parent for whatever the reason.  This gospel movement may be found in a widow, who even though she has very little shares it with everyone along her street ensuring that they all have a good meal and a warm place to lay their head.  This gospel movement may be found in the heart of a businessman while experiencing incredible success, gives generously to other gospel causes.

God is at work and he invites us to join him.  When we recognize the gospel is growing in our city that is our invitation to join him and join them.

Recognize that the gospel must begin with me.  I was in a meeting with two pastors from the Midwest.  They had experience amazing growth and impact.  They told me their story.  It was a story of God’s power and presence at every point.  It became obvious that the gospel was at work within and through them.  When they finished I longed for what they had.  I told them our story.  I talked about how hard we had worked and the sacrifices we had made.  When I finished they affirmed me and us for our faithfulness.  I reply, “You don’t understand, I want what you have.  I want a gospel movement in my city.”

To experience a gospel movement we must begin with the gospel in our own hearts.  No more cheap substitutes.  I’ve come to understand when the gospel is sown in good soil, in your heart; it produces a good harvest of 30, 60, and 100 fold.  At least that’s what Jesus said.  I often ask, “When will the gospel be enough?”  Jesus paints a picture in Revelations 3:20.  He is standing outside a door knocking seeking to enter.  This provocative image forces us to ask the question, “Where is Jesus in this picture? Is he outside our hearts?  Is he outside our churches?  Could it be both?”

God helps us to open our hearts to the gospel on a moment by moment base where we can begin to experience a gospel movement in our own hearts that would grow like leaven in the flour.

Discipling Church Planters

Here at Planting the Gospel we are committed to discipling church planters!  I often get the question, “How do you disciple church planters?”  In other words, what’s the difference between the training and discipling of church planters?  It’s really very basic.  Most training models are strictly about the acquisition of knowledge.  We assume the more we know, the more success we will have.  However, this is simply not true.

I planted my first church coming out of seminary in 1988.  At that time, I was aware of one book on church planting, Planting New Churches by Jack Redford.  For me, it was the Holy Grail of church planting simply because it was the only book on planting I was exposed to.  In addition to this book, Peter Wagner did a set of audiotapes on How to Plant a Church and Bob Logan created a self-bound version of Church Planter’s Toolkit called Church Planter’s Checklist.  That was it.  Since then, there has been a proliferation of church planting resources with similar nominal results.  Ed Stetzer and Warren Bird suggest in Viral Church, the average church plant after four years runs 87 people in weekend attendance.

I think it is fair to say that doing the same old thing, the same old way, produces the same old results.  However, today things are changing.  I recently did a study of the major church planting networks in the US.  Most networks employ a relational approach to developing church planters.  They often offer some kind of residency, apprenticeship, or internship.  These networks have seen phenomenal results.  The average network church plant after five years runs approximately 300 people in weekend attendance.  This is nearly four times the result of the non-networked church mentioned earlier.

Why?  I believe the key is relationships.  In order for leadership transformation to take place, training has to run congruent with intentional relationships.  That’s why we don’t talk about training church planters or simply running church planters through a curriculum.  It is our core conviction that planters must be discipled in the context of a healthy church planting environment.  Our formula is simple; relationship plus training in the context of an effective church or church plant equals the discipling of church planters.

This is why every church planter should speed up their effectiveness in planting by slowing down and spending a year in the right residency.  That’s why we don’t train church planters, we disciple them.