Biblical, Theological, and Cultural Reasons to Plant a Church–Journey into Church Planting (Part 4)
Now that I’ve considered the objections for church planting and how I overcame them (see posts 1,2,3), it will be helpful to consider the biblical, theological, and cultural rationale for church planting.
1. Church planting is a biblical and apostolic practice—a practice meant to be imitated. Reading through the New Testament, one notices a pattern of the gospel being proclaimed, individuals getting converted, and new converts being taught the faith under qualified leaders in local contexts—churches. The seeds are sown (gospel proclamation), new trees burst forth (conversion), and these trees need to be tended and taught to sow seeds themselves (discipleship). Within local churches, Christians come under the watch and care of qualified elders who preach the gospel, and help protect them from false teaching (both in practice and in doctrine). This process of making disciples is obedience to the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20) and imitation of the apostolic practice (Phil 4:9). Ultimately, the church is the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:27) and Jesus is the head of it (Col 1:18). He promised that even the gates of hell would not overcome the church (Matt 16:18), and this gives us confidence as the Kingdom of God is advanced through it.
2. Many existing churches do not preach the gospel. As I mentioned in my posted about overcoming objections, the sad reality is that many churches today are not preaching the gospel of repentance of sins and belief in Christ. There are many who would distort the gospel: some preach a false gospel of prosperity (believe in Jesus and you’ll be rich); some preach a false of gospel of personal happiness (Jesus died to make you happy, rather than holy and reconciled with the Living God [something which will bring actual joy rather than superficial happiness]); some preach dead traditionalism; some preach “moralistic therapeutic deism” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moralistic_therapeutic_deism); some preach a gospel that exalts secondary theological interests over preaching Christ; some preach a self-help gospel. Thus, there is a need for gospel-centered, Bible-believing, gospel-proclaiming churches.
3. There are millions of non-Christians in America. Who will preach the gospel to them and equip Christians to be bold and loving evangelists?
4. New church plants typically do a better job of reaching non-Christians. I have heard this from many; most recently I learned this in Tim Keller’s book “Center Church” and from conversations with local-church planters Ryan Huguley (http://ryanhuguley.com/) and Joe Thorn (http://www.joethorn.net/). Established churches naturally strive to help their members grow, and thus spend much of their energy and time on programs building them up. Church plants, on the other hand, are forced to focus their efforts on reaching non-Christians.
5. Some would argue we need different churches to reach different types of cultures (Rick Warren). Not to stifle diversity, but there is a need for different churches to speak the language of different cultures. These churches don’t have to compromise the gospel to fit in, they are simply seeking to be all things to all men as so reach as many possible with the gospel (1 Cor 9:19-23). There is a radical continuity and diversity present in church planting, as evidenced even in the letters of the New Testament. On the one hand, there is a radical unity: in the many expressions of the church around the world, there is devotion to the apostolic witness (the words and teachings of Jesus and his authoritative sent messengers, the Apostles [found for us today in the Bible]), gospel proclamation, and qualified overseers to lead local congregations (pastors, elders). On the other hand, there is a radical diversity: all over the world, the Bible is taught hundreds of languages, thousands of different songs are used, and preaching is delivered in vast array of different styles. These churches together comprise the global church.
6. Church planting will be necessary in every generation. A new generation means new individuals who need to hear the gospel, which means there will need to be new churches, especially as many close their doors every year—statistics show that between 3,500 and 4,000 close down every year (http://djchuang.com/2010/churches-closing-and-pastors-leaving/).
Later this week I’ll share some of the personal reasons why I’m entering church planting….