Church planters are rare breeds. They are entrepreneurs for the sake of the gospel — and entrepreneurs make up only a tiny percentage of the population. But there are things that every church leader and lay person can learn from those fearless church planters amongst us. Here are a few:
Vision is vital. Church planters cast a compelling vision of where God is leading them in the future. They have trust in where God is moving, and are able to articulate that in a clear and compelling way. As we navigate an uncertain future as an institutional Church, all Christian leaders need to be able to hold out the mission of God in visible and engaging ways.
We are not in Kansas anymore. Church planters know that the fastest growing segment of the Canadian population is the unchurched — those who have never had any connection with any church. A church planter knows that God yearns to be in relationship with the unchurched and is intentional in building ministry to help connect them with the living God. The typical Canadian parish exists in neighbourhoods full of unchurched people whom God loves.
Christology matters – a lot. Who Jesus is drives a church planter. Who Jesus is shapes how a church planter shapes their new community. Who Jesus is gets the church planter out of bed each morning for the long, slow, hard, stressful, intense, and often lonely and isolating work of starting new Christian communities all over this country. Churches that are growing in this country — across the theological and liturgical spectrum — are churches that talk about Jesus. A lot.
The Church matters. Church planters remind us that God is not finished with the Church yet and that there is no Plan B — the Church is God’s one and only plan to announce the good news of Christ to the world. Every one of the churches that we currently serve began as a church plant. How do we reclaim that heritage in our communities? The churches that we currently find ourselves in are part of God’s good purposes for the future. Each of our churches needs to plant a new one to help reach new people, or use its resources to help support another group of Christians elsewhere plant a new church. Church planting is a ministry of the whole people of God because God has no other plan than us.
Church planters have much more to teach us: how to use social networking effectively for ministry; how to connect well with your neighbourhood; how to engage in good missional listening; how to undertake demographic research and how to explain the basics of the gospel to people who are biblically illiterate. The list goes on and on.
The Vital Church Planting Conferences coming up in Toronto and Edmonton in May offer us an opportunity to mingle with these fearless church planters who are among us, and learn from them. Church planting is always a team ministry — those who feel called to be part of such a team will love the conference. There are lots of things that we can learn from church planters – especially since church planting is the single most effective form of evangelism. Come also to be incredibly encouraged by the work of God in our midst. Click here to find out more about the Vital Church Planting Conference.
Jenny Andison is the Archbishop’s Officer for Mission for the Diocese of Toronto and associate priest for Church Development at St.Paul’s Bloor Street.