How Does Church Planting Relate to God’s Mission?

Every church involved in a new church, and every church planter starting one, needs to answer the question: what is church planting?

For some, the word planting comes across as insider language. In the sub-culture of the church planting world there is an entire language mostly unknown to the outside. We’ve all heard of planters talk about “doing a parachute drop church plant,” or “starting with a launch team.” What do these words even mean? More importantly, what is church planting about?

That’s an essential question, really.

Church Planting or Church Starting?

When we talk about church planting it can be a little different than church starting. What’s the difference? Well, I think church starting happens a lot of ways. The most popular church starting strategy involves a group of people getting mad, leaving their home church, and starting another church. In most cases I wouldn’t advise this strategy.

Church planting, on the other hand, involves an individual, mother church, and/or a group of people going out to start a church for the purpose of engaging a community through gospel proclamation and demonstration.

Church plating, unlike church starting, should/must be mission driven.

Church planting grows in the soil of lostness (hence “planting”) where men and women far from God are challenged with the claims of the gospel of Jesus Christ by a group of intentional believers.

Church Planting and Gospel Movements

Church planting is about planting the gospel. And growth in church planting comes from making disciples.

As such, any movement of churches that’s going to be serious about reaching the lost world is going to be involved in church planting. In fact, most of us who write in the field of mission believe that any movement or denomination desiring to grow through conversion should aim for at least a three percent rate of church planting every year. (Take a look– most growing groups and denominations have over that percent and most declining ones have under that percent.)

Think of it this way, if a movement has a hundred churches one year they need to plant three the next year– at the very least.

Church planting is essential to the growth of the Kingdom and the work of Christ through His church. The networks, movements, and denominations that are thriving are thriving because they’re planting new churches. The key thing to remember here is that church planting is reaching lost people through the making of disciples that then gather into congregations.

Planting and the Mission of God

How does church planting relate to the mission of God? The mission of God is bigger than church planting, but it certainly includes church planting. Why? You can’t love Jesus and despise His wife. The church is the bride of Christ, and if you love the work of Christ you love the church.

Now, you and I both know that the church is a mess sometimes. While the church is the stunning bride of Christ, she sometimes looks more like Shrek than she does beautiful. But again, you can’t love Jesus and hate His wife.

Ultimately if you’re going to love the mission of God, you have to love the church of God which is sent out for the mission of God. Ephesians 3:10 tells us God has chosen the church to make known His manifold wisdom. Therefore the church is the tool or instrument of His Kingdom agenda.

If you want to change the world, and if you want to see God at work in the world, plant change agent churches. I think anyone who loves Jesus and His church would, by extension, love and be about the mission of God proclaiming the gospel of Christ– and that is done effectively through church planting.


So is it the mission more than planting?

Yes, it certainly is more than that. Is every church that’s planted necessarily a good thing? No, there are always exceptions, but as a whole, I think church planting is integral to the advance of the Kingdom. And more church plants doing more of what God wants us to do is a good thing.

For this reason I think church planting and multiplication is so essential to the mission of God.

None of our churches should be a cul-de-sac on the Great Commission highway.

Instead, as we plant churches that plant churches that plant churches, the Kingdom advances. The gospel is preached, men and women become believers, churches are formed, and those churches become agents of gospel transformation.

So, want to be missional? Great– just don’t forget church planting.

Read more from Ed here.

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Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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What say you? Leave a comment!

Joel Sprenger — 07/14/13 12:40 am

My thoughts for what they are worth. - The problem with all church plants in a de-christianizing society like ours is that they compete with already existing churches. Actions speak louder than words and the action of planting a church speaks loudly to the pagans that we believe that God cares about our denomination and the teachings and practices that are unique there-to. There are very few Bible verses that say in effect 'believe thusly', not zero but very few. Compare that to the number of verses that say 'act thusly'. This should give us some idea of what is important to God. Something that I think would help the The Church immensely is if all believers would memorize John 17:20-23 right after they memorize John 3:16,

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I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright
"While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
— Ken

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