If church planters are to take part in kingdom expansion, they have to do the hard work of discovering, developing and deploying church planting teams from within.
But how do they do that? Here are some thoughts.
1. Tell people early that they are involved in planting.
Dhati Lewis, Send Network president and lead pastor of Blueprint Church in Atlanta, said he likes to think of everybody in the world as being in one of four categories — a skeptic, a seeker, a convert or a kingdom builder.
“And I think oftentimes, and rightfully so, we celebrate seeing the transformation going from skeptic or seeker to convert,” he said. “But I think that as churches, we’ve got to recognize that our work is not done at that point.”
As Jesus remarks in Matthew 9:35-38 that the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few, Lewis said the question becomes “how do we help them go from a convert to a kingdom builder — a laborer where they live and work and play?”
One way Lewis does this at his church is that every person who walks through the membership class receives the same message — they’re going to be either a bi-vocational church planter or a bi-vocational church planting team member.
“I think if we want to see a tangible expression of the gospel all across North America, we must send out kingdom builders, or laborers, to make disciples, and as disciples are made, then we will see churches planted and established,” he said.
2. Build the expectation of emptying out, not filling up.
Matt Dye, lead pastor of M28 Church in Atlanta, said one of the elders at his church says to him regularly, “Matt, you try to fill the place up. I’m trying to empty it out.” That’s the whole idea, Dye said — to get your church to think of its long-term vision as a sending church.
He said it’s not uncommon for a church to think they’re missions-minded because they give a high percentage of their budget to missions, yet never actually send anyone out.
“I think a lot of people, it’s not as if they’re making a conscious decision, ‘We don’t want to do this,’ it has just never been a part of the DNA of the church, that they’ve seen,” Dye said.
He offered these questions to ask about your church: What does your discipleship look like within your congregation? How are you doing it? And what is your main aim? Is it just to make better church members who will know all the right answers and will stay committed to one local vision? Or are you praying that God is going to raise people up out of your congregation, whom you plan to send out?
3. Instead of training the called, train everyone, then see where God calls.
Lewis said one issue he sees with multiplication is a “bottleneck” with future leaders.
“Somebody has to come to us and say, ‘Hey, I feel called to ministry.’ And then after they feel called to ministry, we have a plan for them, and then we’ll put them in a program or system,” he said.
For instance, a church might send that person to seminary.
Instead of waiting for someone to feel called, churches should consider the kind of system that takes someone from skeptic to a Kingdom builder or church planter. Disciple people to be more like Christ, and train them to lead and disciple others.
“I think we have it inverted,” Lewis said. “We first allow them to determine their call, and then we say, ‘OK, let’s train you now.’ But if we’re training everybody, then people will be called out of that. I think we’ve got to shift our paradigm and say, ‘Hey, let’s train the qualified and then allow God to work on their calling.”
The bar has to be lowered, he said, and by that he means “all of us are called to be on mission.”
“This is not a seminary thing. We are all called,” Lewis said. “And we have to also train all of our people. We want to make sure everybody knows how to share their faith, everybody knows how to study the word, etc. That’s a part of being a covenant member at our church. And that’s a baseline. When you start creating that baseline, then everybody gets on mission.”
Published May 20, 2021