Church planting aficionado, J.D. Payne, is concerned with what he calls “missiological malpractice” among church planters today — as am I. He has offered 11 guidelines to ethical church planting. I will post #s 1-7 today, each followed by my own commentary. I’ll cover the remaining four tomorrow.
- Guideline #1: Since the global need for the gospel is so great, unless God reveals otherwise, we will begin our ministry among people with the greatest need and with a high level of receptivity to the gospel.
This makes sense to me, as long as we make sure to leave room for the God revealing otherwise bit. However, I think we also ought to create some kind of clause for, in the absence of God’s revelation, encouraging missionaries to go where their talents might be more useful. For instance, a church planter and soccer enthusiast who speaks fluent Portuguese might look toward Brazil or Portugal. I think that’s wisdom.
- Guideline #2: Since the world consists of four billion unbelievers, with two billion who have never heard the gospel, our strategy will involve the use of highly reproducible church planting methods.
This is what we’re attempting to do here in Geita. Highly reproducible church planting methods must involve giving God’s responsibilities back to him — namely those of drawing, saving, teaching, and maturing men. Missionaries must have less authority in the local church — none, actually, other than that of mentoring facilitators.
- Guideline #3: Since biblical church planting is evangelism that results in new churches, we will not prioritize transfer growth over conversion growth by designing ministries that will primarily attract believers.
I definitely agree we shouldn’t aim to attract believers from other groups. But I would go further, to say we shouldn’t design ministries to attract anyone. We should, rather, live Christ into our community. To see a four-part series on attractional ministry versus incarnational ministry, go here.
- Guideline #4: Since unity among churches in a geographical area is a powerful witness to the gospel, we will be concerned with other evangelical pastors laboring in the same area as our team, and will take the initiative to meet with them to share our calling, vision, and ethic.
I believe Christians should always strive for unity — and encourage one another in obedience to the words of Christ and service to their shared community.
- Guideline #5: Since we desire to respect other evangelical pastors in the area, and desire sanctification in the lives of any transfers from local churches, we will have a systematic plan to respond to the transfers who want to become part of the new church.
Honestly, I haven’t thought much about this. I should, though. It makes sense.
- Guideline #6: Since our calling to this ministry, people, and location is from God and not based on money, we will not end our church planting ministry in this area simply if our financial support ends, but rather will make appropriate plans for the future of our personal finances.
Not sure exactly what this means or how it plays out. I do believe God desires for us to be in Geita and ministering to the Sukuma people (and others who are here). But to be honest, I’m not sure what plans I could make to continue future work here if financial support were pulled. I think I lean more towards the mindset that as long as God desires for us to be here, he will continue to provide what is needed. And if we lose support from one congregation, he will raise up another…
- Guideline #7: Since the biblical model for church planting is a team approach and many liabilities come when working as a solo church planter, a team will be developed before the work begins.
Check. And that team should, at some point and in some fashion, begin to include local peoples.
Guidelines 8-11 in Ethics in Church Planting – Part Mbili (2).
J.D. Payne is an associate professor of church planting and evangelism at Southern Theological Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He’s authored at least a couple of books and is currently working on two more. J.D. blogs at Missiologically Thinking.