Lincroft Bible Church can learn much about church planting in our own country by learning from the experience of global church planters. In their book, Global Church Planting, author Craig Ott and Gene Wilson thoroughly breakdown the task of church planting by providing “best practices” and “principles” for aspiring planters to follow.
The first section gives the biblical rationale for church planting (pp. 3-64). The second section begins to look at strategic considerations for church planting. For example, they explore questions like, “How do gospel movements begin?” They also advocate for indigenous church planting and famous “selfs” of church planting (69). For a church to be truly considered planted it should be:
- Self-propagating: Evangelism is happening through the members of the church, not an outside planter.
- Self-governing: The planter raises up leaders from within the culture who eventually take over and run the church.
- Self-supporting: The church funds itself and carries out all of the functions of a biblical church itself
The authors then look at the developmental phases of a church from preparation to launch to reproduction (155-304). Finally, the authors conclude by examining certain critical factors which can contribute to the success (or failure) of the planting such as the planter’s personal life and partnership with other churches (305-395).
Global Church Planting covers a lot of the same ground that many church planting books do concerning the “nuts and bolts” of actually starting a church. Here are two unique contributions of the book and their applications to LBC:
1. The “Selfs” of a Church
The idea of a self-propagating, self-governing, and self-supporting church doesn’t just apply to overseas church planting. Those are good benchmarks for US-based church planting as well. They are the “scorecard” indicating whether a church has been planted…or not. We should use the three “selfs” when engaged in the church planting effort to see if the church can be considered planted, or if it needs work.
2. The Counterintuitive Convictions about Multiplication
The authors can help us navigate the tension between spiritual and numerical growth in the church plant. Obviously, for a plant to survive, it needs to grow in numbers. And yet, we don’t want to be driven by numbers. Further compounding the problem is trying to answer the question: “How do we measure spiritual growth?” Here are the convictions that a biblical church should hold concerning multiplication and growth (288-290):
- Success is defined by impact, not size: The vision of a church must include depth (spiritual growth), not just width (reaching more people).
- Growth is measured by the capacity to release, not retain: In other words, is the church a “sending” church? A church can still be (numerically) small but have a huge impact because it is constantly sending out laborers into the harvest (Matthew 9:38).
- Acting in faith is prudent (seeking security is not): Is the church stepping out in faith when appropriate?
- Begin with multiplying disciples and leaders, not programs or institutions: Models of ministry are nice, but they don’t lead to lasting change. Neil Cole has written, “If you can’t reproduce disciples, you can’t reproduce leaders. If you can’t reproduce leaders, you can’t reproduce churches.” (290).
- Simple beginnings, not big budgets and large numbers: Don’t think you need a lot of cash and resources to start. Just start. Don’t think that you can fully meet every need. You can’t. Just do something! Simplicity is key.
- Messy and unpredictable, not neat and calculable: The church planting team must be flexible. Obstacles will occur.