ethics in church planting – part mbili

J.D. Payne has suggested 11 guidelines to ethical church planting in an attempt to end “missiological malpractice.”  This is the second post of a 2-part series; this post summarizes guidelines 8-11 and my thoughts concerning them.  To see the first seven ethics rules for church planting, go here

  • Guideline #8:  Since one of the most critical issues in missionary circles is that of the stress on the family, we will not neglect our families for the sake of church planting and will begin our work with a strategy for nurturing our family life while serving as church planters. 

Agreed.  Though I don’t feel nearly as much stress here in Geita as I do in the United States.  I believe rural Tanzania is going to be a great place for Christie and I to raise children and enjoy our marriage.  Though it’s always been a bit of a temptation for me to put too much time and effort into “ministry,” while neglecting God, family, and friends.  That’s why loving others is the SECOND commandment.

  • Guideline #9:  Since we are Kingdom Citizens, we will not neglect our daily devotion time with the Lord by allowing ourselves to be distracted by the numerous tasks to be accomplished in the ministry. 

I touched on this in my last response, but only in loving God can I possess love enough to share with the people of Geita — or with my own family and teammates for that matter.  Think about it — I have a finite amount of love to offer.  If I divvy it up as seems necessary, God gets… 40%?  My wife ends up with 30%?  And my children 20?  That leaves 10% of my total love to divide between extended family, teammates, church members, and Tanzanians?!  That’s absurd.

And even then we’re only speaking to the quantity of my love.  What about quality?  As a mere human being, my love is not only finite, but imperfect.  Quite imperfect.  So I offer my wife 30% of my warped and distorted love?  No wonder marriages fail.

But when I love God with ALL my heart, soul, mind, and strength, he floods my life with his infinite and perfect love.  And after I’ve basked in all I can possibly enjoy, his love overflows into the lives of others.  So both my wife and the Tanzanian in the village receive, through me, God’s true and limitless love. How much more would they prefer that?  You can ask my wife — she’s experienced both.

I believe this to be one of the single biggest problems in ministry today — and in my own life for most of it.  Preachers, ministers, and shepherds alike have made the second command their first.  They’re attempting to love, serve, and minister to others out of the only 100% they’ve got.  Big mistake.

  • Guideline #10:  Since the task of missionary work involves effective communication, we will work diligently toward contextualization rather than bringing our preferred church traditions to the people.  

The last thing I want to do is plant a south Alabama Church of Christ in rural Tanzania.  Nothing against south Alabama churches in south Alabama — but every church should be relevant to its community and the culture around it.

  • Guideline #11:  Since integrity and accuracy are important when reporting statistics related or our missionary labors, we will strive to report only those numbers and descriptive details which are truly reflective of what the Holy Spirit is doing in our context.

Christie and I believe integrity, accuracy, and accountability are incredibly important in foreign missions.  We will never report larger numbers or better “results” than actually exist.  But we also have a lot of pressure taken off of us in this regard, because we wholeheartedly believe success is God’s task and responsibility.  We are merely here as servants, and ultimately have little control over how our ministry and service is accepted by others.

We also believe integrity and accountability are important in financial matters.  Too often paid ministers and missionaries misuse funds with which they’ve been entrusted as God’s stewards.  I’m not arguing ministers shouldn’t be offered some privacy in their financial dealings — but I am suggesting Christians should in general be more accountable to one another in how they spend God’s money — and all money is his.  Christie and I have decided if we err, it will be on the side of making public more of our financial dealings than is necessary.  So we share our all of our finances with anyone who asks.  Light shown on any issue encourages honesty and responsibility in that area.


What do you think about Payne’s guidelines?  Are there others we should be discussing?  Have you been witness to, or part of, missiological malpractice?

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.



Filed under church planting, mission

2 responses to “ethics in church planting – part mbili

  1. I am not an expert by any stretch concerning missions and church planting but will say this: one of my pet peeves is that for way too long we have tried to “Americanize” natives. “Do church this way because this is the way we do it in America” type of thinking. I particularly liked #10 for this reason.

    Side note: nice picture of family.

  2. You’re right, Bill, for years we’ve been asking / forcing churches all over the world to look like us. I’ve got several beefs with this but two of the biggest follow:

    1) Churches in different communities, contexts, and/or cultures shouldn’t act, look, sound, or function in the same way. There’s no “one-size-fits-all” format. So your average American church model won’t fit Tanzania, France, China, or Knoxville, Tennessee.

    2) Even if rural Tanzanian culture did look just like the community in which I live in the states, am I willing to say my congregation has completely figured out and perfected “church” in our own culture and context? So much so that we want to force our ideas on every community of faith with whom we share a similar culture? [Actually, this is a sad question because I already know how many Christians would answer it…]

    Side note: we still haven’t gotten a picture of the family in which all three of us are looking at the camera — and I bet you can guess which one of us messes it up EVERY SINGLE TIME…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s