That was the question asked to me by Collin Hansen of The Gospel Coalition. Darrin Patrick, Ed Stetzer, and I give our take on the future of church planting. Below is my response.
On a network level, I believe we will see second- and third-level decentralization where there are networks within networks, whether they are regional or affinity-based. I am hearing more and more from church planters that they are either burned out or not interested in the current conference circuit and are looking for a mirco-conference of sorts that is tailored to their context and addresses specific issues in their church planting experience. PLNTD hopes to utilize the approach of the “weekender” training (a la Capitol Hill Baptist Church) focusing on church planting needs as directed by practitioners on the field.
On a local church level, I believe both theological education and training of church planters are migrating from institutions and agencies to a grassroots movement. For instance, theological education through the Porterbrook Network provides a medium with a misssional emphasis that any local church could benefit from. Through PLNTD, we have targeted three main components: resourcing (via plntd.com), relational communities (via Cobblestone), and residency centers (via church planting churches). Our goal is to develop parenting church communities where reproducing churches are equipped both with the ability to provide theological education as well as practical training for aspiring church planters through such church-based residency centers.
Another surging interest among those in our church planting circles is training in revitalization and replanting of existing churches. In the denomination we work with the most (SBC), 25 percent of all churches are not leading anyone to Christ (10,000+ churches), and many of them are merely existing in name only. Some have suggested that unless something is done, 20,000 of these churches will simply cease to exist by 2025. I see a great opportunity for strategic partnerships between networks such as PLNTD and denominational entities (including state conventions) that are realigning around the church’s mission to work together for reformation and renewal through a genuine, grassroots Great Commission Resurgence. This is already happening in some places across North America, and I believe it will become more prominent in years to come.
One thing not included in my response that I sent in the email is that the popularity of church planting is going to make it crucial for church planting churches and networks to separate the fan boys from the men called and qualified to plant a church. This means the interview and assessment process will be all the more important to discover and discern those who indeed have been called to plant churches in the future.
I also agree wholeheartedly in Darrin’s and Ed’s assessments as well. But I’m curious, what do you think is next for church planting?