Archives For Church Planting

In recent weeks, I have found myself reflecting quite a bit on the past 15 years of my life. I am not exactly sure why (perhaps it is because I have been an adult for almost 50% of my life?), but as I shared with a college-aged student yesterday, there is no way I could have mapped out the course my life has taken.

When I came to embrace the doctrines of grace, I did not enter the typical “cage stage” that people talk about. For me, the sovereignty of God was my lifeline. Either God was in control of every detail of my life for my good and his glory, or I had really no point in believing or living out my faith. In a short period of time, my world was rocked time and again.

In my first position at a local church, I served with several of my roommates and friends, all who came to embrace the doctrines of grace at some point in that journey of college life. While I was the least Reformed at that point, I guess you could say I had the roughest experience. My tenure at the church did not last long as I was physically threatened while being “kicked out” (not excommunicated but threatened to leave) by the senior pastor and education pastor (who called me “Absalom” and verbally assaulted me for 3 hours). That’s not the way you want to begin a lifelong call to gospel ministry to say the least. What happened in those early days were formative moments that would mark my life forever, and I am profoundly grateful to God for the brothers He placed in my life.

Over time, all of my brothers from those college years went their separate ways. We represented, I suppose you could say, the early stages of the young, restless, and Reformed movement. In the following years, the debate over Calvinism would hit a feverish pitch, mostly with charges that Calvinism stifles missions/evangelism and kills churches. This blog was very involved in the early years of the debate to offer rebuttals to many of the critiques that were leveled against Calvinists in the SBC, and it is without question that people loved to debate Calvinism (my stats were way higher then than they are today).

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outsourcingOver five years ago, I asked the question about the outsourcing of the local church. It is a question that has not left me since then. I don’t know when it began, how it developed, or why we got here, but we cannot escape this reality that has existed for far too long. Nor am I interested in spending energy to determine who is to blame. Rather, I want to invest my life in the dream of changing the direction from outsourcing the local church to insourcing the local church. Until we have this significant paradigm shift in our thinking, any thought of seeing a serious Great Commission movement in North America is disingenuous.

The Great Commission was given by Christ for the local church. Jesus Christ promised to build His church. When we see the outworking of the Great Commission in the book of Acts, we see the fruit of that promise in the exercise of making disciples, raising up leaders, and planting churches. It is my desire and dream to see churches take greater ownership of the Great Commission with deeper faith in the promises of Jesus to do through the local church what only He can do.

I am not naive to think that insourcing the local church will become an overnight trend. Let’s face it. Outsourcing the responsibilities of the local church is convenient and (sometimes) efficient. Who do we write the check to? To tackle an issue like this requires a philosophical reframing of ecclesiological convictions. By that I mean, our thinking deeply about the Great Commission will require us to give sacrificially in order to focus intentionally on what Jesus has called us to do in His name. It is a stewardship issue, and we cannot shift or shirk the responsibility.

The Great Commission is to be worked out in the context of the local church, by means of the local church, and for the multiplication of the local church. That means disciple-making, leadership development, and church planting (three graduating expressions of the Great Commission) must find their home in the local church where insourcing is the passionate commitment of its pre-determined vision. As the director of the PLNTD Network, we have made that central to our mission, namely that church planting should be done in the church, by the church, and for the church.

Insourcing means that prophets will be devoted to communicating the vision and clarifying the mission of the Great Commission; priests will be devoted to mobilizing people and creating a culture where it is celebrated; kings will be devoted to fostering pathways and on ramps through systems and structures to administrate the vision and bring it to fruition. In the midst of all this, there is a pervasive expectation for multiplication because the mission has been simplified through a focused alignment to mobilize the people of God as a disciple-making family of servants dedicated to the cause of His kingdom come.

The history of outsourcing needs to have a conclusion. The consequences of outsourcing have led to an immobilization of mission and has undermined any Great Commission resurgence we long to see in our generation. A dream of mine is to see that change. In the coming weeks, I hope to explain more of my thinking on this, and in the coming months through PLNTD, I will be working diligently to see this dream begin to become a reality. If this is something you resonate with, I ask that you join me in the cause of insourcing the local church. It is not enough that we talk about. We need to rally together and give ourselves to it. Jesus promised to build His church, and I believe it is time that we make the changes to show that we believe His promise is true.

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In the vast array of conferences available today, church leaders can get attend an event for just about anything they are passionate about. Some people attend conferences because of the tribe they belong to; others go to conferences on the issues or practices they care most about. Over the past several years, I have forced myself to be more disciplined in my time away from family and local church responsibilities with attending and participating in conferences.  Having said that, one training event that I highly recommend and remain committed to participating in is the GCA National Conference

I’m not opposed to going to conferences or bootcamps where you can hear your favorite preacher deliver an encouraging or challenging message. We need those for sure. But more than that, we need more practitioner-driven, nuts-and-bolts training that can have tangible, ongoing benefit for the ministry leader. When it comes to church planting, I don’t know of any other organization that does this better than Steve Childers and Global Church Advancement.

On January 22-25, 2013, current and aspiring church planters will have the opportunity to learn from leading practitioners from across numerous networks, including Ed Stetzer, Randy Nabors, Randy Pope, Bob Cargo, Tom Wood, Larry Kirk, and others. I have personally attended this training twice and led as a practitioner twice. I have sent all of our church planters and their teams to the week of training as well. Needless to say, I’m a believer in the benefit this week brings in all aspects of church planting–theological, missiological, spiritual, and practical.

The training event takes place in Orlando, Florida (which will be stellar in January). The training is intensive and interactive. The community is engaging and encouraging. The instruction is practical and contextual. AND with the extension of the early bird discount to this Friday, the cost is rather affordable.

For those who register by this Friday, you will be able to take advantage of the early bird discount. This week of training is the equivalent of an entire seminary course on church planting at a fraction of the cost. I plan on being there (along with PLNTD) and hopefully will see some of you there as well.

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My friend Garrett Ventry is a church planting intern at Vintage 21 in Raleigh and responsible for many church planting training initiatives in the RDU area. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know him in recent months, and he has asked me to write on his blog about the message of the church planter (the gospel). Below is my answer, originally posted yesterday on his website.

THE GOSPEL MESSAGE

The gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of uniqueness and universality. The former speaks of the subject matter; the latter addresses the subject’s supremacy over all things. Jesus Christ is the sum and substance of the Christian faith. He is the exact revelation of God—His character and His ways. As the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15), Jesus displays all the manifold perfections of God’s character, and through His incarnation brings it down to our neighborhood for us to behold (John 1:14). In profound irony, the radiance of the glory of God that transcends what any human eye can be allowed to see (Heb. 1:3), and yet at the same time God sent His Son to earth so that through the eyes of faith we could see such glory in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6).

Uniqueness

The Gospel is a message of uniqueness. It separates Christianity from all other religions of the world. It has divine origin. In the covenant of redemption, God the Father planned salvation before the world begin through the sacrifice of His Son that would be supernaturally applied through the regenerating work of His Spirit. It is preeminently God’s gospel. He came up with it, and therefore we are not authorized to edit or censor it.

The Gospel is also unique because it is an announcement. While all other religions tell us what we must do, the gospel tells what God has already done in Christ. While religions tell us we must work ourselves into acceptance with God, the Gospel tells us we are accepted through the finished work of Jesus Christ. Religions are centered on good advice (what we must do); Christianity is centered on good news (what we must hear and believe). Therefore, unlike what many have mistaken Christianity for, it is not a religion of do’s and don’ts. Rather Christianity is a family whereby sons and daughters are adopted because our elder Brother took our place and in love brought us into the Father’s presence. He came down to rescue us precisely because we could never come up to Him.

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We are two weeks away from the PLNTD/Gospel Appliance New England Conference on “Cultivating Gospel Mission”. We are pumped to have Scotty Smith, Caesar Kalinowski, and Jared Wilson speaking to a nice cadre of men and women from around New England on gospel renewal and reviving work of mission in this pioneering region of the country.

Over two months ago, we sold out of the pre-conference, where Caesar Kalinowski will be teaching on “The Story-Formed Way”.  We are glad to announce that we have made it possible for 10 more slots for this pre-conference training. In order to take advantage of this opening, those interested need to register on our conference Eventbrite page. These pre-conference registrations will likely go quickly, so be sure to sign up ASAP if you are looking to attend.

I look forward to seeing many of you in Portland! I hear Maine is beautiful this time of year . . .

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