Planting a church to reach this generation is a noble task. It is important to be relevant, but we must be intentional to plant a church that is lasting. This may seem obvious to you, but unfortunately, there are a lot of churches planted as a reaction to something, instead of in response to what God is doing in a specific area and/or a specific people.
Several years ago, I was reading Building a Discipling Culture by Mike Breen and there was a statement that really stood out to me. He wrote, “If you make disciples, you always get the church. But if you make a church, you rarely get disciples.” When I read this line, it caused me to give a good baptist moan (equivalent to a charismatic ‘Amen!’), and then brought about deep conviction.
What I’ve observed in most church planters, myself included, is that we know how to plant a good church service, but we are left scratching our heads on how to effectively make disciples of Jesus. I mean, we have become pretty good at making theological parrots, in that, people can quote hefty theologians with conviction (and often arrogance), but the deep truths that are dribbling from their mouth has yet to have consequence in their own lives. We’ve done a great job of building services for today, but have we been faithful to make disciples, who will make disciples tomorrow?
For those of you who are hoping to plant a church or are in the early stages, I would encourage you to expand your vision beyond your one year launch plan and begin thinking about the quality of the churches that you would be glad to leave to your children’s children.
Here are some things to consider as you strive to plant a church for generations to come:
- What are the transcendent foundational truths in Scripture? When planting your church, before you chase after the hot worship leader, the great location, or whatever grabs your passions, I’d encourage you to get away with the Bible, and spend time looking at things that really matter to Jesus for His Bride. Make sure you have a firm grasp of the Gospel, church polity, church discipline, and other foundational doctrinal truths. Don’t plant your church on the sand…
- How will this church influence the culture? As a church planter, you should have a deep desire to change the culture you are planting in. This is a good desire because unless you are planting in an overly churched and overly discipled area, there are changes that need to be made. However, more than just changing the culture, you want to have a church that influences the culture for generations to come. Change is great, but if all you do is change it for a season, it can always change back. If the Gospel brings transformation to a culture, then you want a church that has the ability to continually influence the culture. Otherwise, it will inevitably become irrelevant.
- What type of culture should we have that would be a blessing for generations to come? In John 13:35 Jesus says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” How can you plant a church that has a culture of loving one another? What are other important cultural qualities you want in your church? Honesty, generosity, authenticity, faithfulness to Jesus, love of neighbor, missions? Think through the bigger qualities now, and be intentional about them from the onset.
- Build a sound structure that can withstand the storms of cultural shifts. I attended seminary at a satellite campus that met in a church that was once large and thriving, but had become smaller and smaller, and more irrelevant. It was a predominantly white church in an increasingly non-white area. When the people of the church moved from the area, the church didn’t adjust to serve the new demographic in the area. If there were a structure in place that would be transcendent from race, then the church would’ve had more of a chance to remain relevant, while remaining true to the important structure that had been put in place. Beyond the ability to adapt to the surrounding area, it is also important to have sound constitution and bylaws. I know, this isn’t the ‘fun stuff’ of planting, but it is crucial to help protect the church in generations to come from dramatic shifts in doctrinal positions that will derail and ultimately destroy its Gospel impact, and its very existence.
- Make disciples who make disciples who make disciples… Your relevant church service will be irrelevant very quickly. Also, you need to know and remember that whatever you catch people with you have to keep them with. So, if you go big on experiences and entertainment, that is where you will be spending a lot of time (and money) just to keep people engaged. The problem is, it is much more difficult to make disciples when you and your team are having to constantly plan and work on the next big thing to keep people engaged. In my experience, it seems that the Sunday morning gathering is for equipping the saints and proclaiming the Gospel, but it is one link in a very important chain. The Sunday morning gathering is just one step in discipleship. If that’s all that you have in place, you will find that your culture may have some good sound bytes to regurgitate, but will lack the depth of substance that is necessary for future growth and discipleship. I’m not opposed at all to a quality Sunday morning, but that MUST be only one part of the discipleship process. Not the whole package.
You can put on a service and have thousands of people come and have an experience, or you can create a culture and an environment where God’s people collectively gather to worship their risen King, and build relationships that sharpen and train them to be more like Jesus. What is cool today, will very likely be irrelevant to your children and their children. Instead of spending all of your energy planting a church that ‘works’ today, invest in planting a church that will last and bless generations to come.