Missional Church Planting – Working Toward a Definition

Tim Brister —  May 18, 2010 — 4 Comments

Bob Thune of Coram Deo in Omaha has recently put out a working definition of missional church planting. His definition?

Church Planting is planting the seed of the gospel in the soil of a culture and trusting the sovereignty of God to bring forth a thriving church.

The four elements Thune wanted to capture in this definition were (1) gospel proclamation and demonstration (planting seed), (2) contextualization (understanding the soil), (3) prayerful dependence (resting in God’s sovereignty), and (4) gospel renewal (goal is a thriving church).  He adds this definition “is organic; it sees a visible church as the end rather than the beginning (people living as missionaries in their culture is the beginning); it involves both hard work and patient, prayerful dependence on God.”

I’m intrigued by this definition, and from an initial reflection, I dig it.  As I reflect on this more, I was wondering what you thought about Thune’s definition.  Agree or disagree?  Does it say enough? Too much?

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  • It sounds strikingly similar to Charles Brock’s “sower, seed, soil, spirit” paradigm of church planting in his book “Indigenous Church Planting: A Practical Journey.” It is also reminiscent of Roland Allen’s emphasis upon the Spirit. I think it is a fine definition of church planting but I do not think it will suffice to define missional church planting this way. What is the meaning of “missional” is it the mission of man or the missio Dei? His definition must answer these questions as well.

  • Jeff

    It’s a definition that feels good, but is incomplete. While I would certainly agree with his four key points, especially the idea that God grows the church, any definition of church planting that focuses only on “seed sowing” is incomplete. The definition implies that church planting only means sharing the gospel, then waiting. There’s more to it than that.

  • In the whole church planting arena, I still think most planters and networks are far too heavy on the Sunday morning event… Obviously corporate worship and the faithful, preaching of the Gospel cannot be overemphasized. But in my opinion, there’s still a lot of Sunday morning competition and attractional motivation going on. Living in culture, friends with sinners, as missionaries throughout the week with small in home missional communities is where we would see a movement take place.

  • Bob Thune

    Keith and Jeff, good points. The point of the definition was not to be exhaustive, but to be accessible – it’s for a preaching series we’re doing in our church. So it certainly leaves some things unsaid.

    Jeff, one of my unspoken assumptions is that ‘seed sowing’ is more than just ‘sharing the gospel.’ I would see seed-sowing as both personal evangelism AND creating a gospel-community-on-mission (a missional church with gospel DNA) that is a corporate expression of the seed of the gospel (a la Newbigin, Keller, et al).