Planting Churches That Last (Part 3) - Study Others

(See the previous posts, Part 1 - Study the Past and Part 2 - Study Mistakes)

Guess what I know about you? You think that what you’re involved in is the best thing God is doing right now. You think you’ve got something desperately needed in the church. Of course you do. Why else would you give, serve, sacrifice for it?! The guys over in the PCA, EV Free, SBC and Acts 29 all think the same thing. Me too. We all think we’ve figured it out.  It’s a wonderful thing about how God organizes the body of Christ. We’re all part of the best thing around.

Faith for church planting assumes we believe God is at work in what we’re doing. I’m not just talking about gospel truth either, but the creation of communities with certain values. If we didn’t think so we wouldn’t be publishing, doing conferences, or planting churches—you know, we would work with somebody else’s wheel rather than creating our own. There’s a wise and understandable ambition for planting certain kinds of church to glorify God. Or to put it into church planting lingo -- its good to “promote the model distinctives.”  

But where that isn’t good is when our movement becomes the mission. Where seeds of dissolution get sown is when “our way” becomes the “only way” or we insulate ourselves against the influence of those who build differently. I’m not talking about doctrine here. I think most readers understand that theology informs methodology so the greater the doctrinal differences, the less we can learn from methodology. But where we have gospel agreement, we need to learn from each other. Because the mission of the gospel is greater than any one movement or denomination or association or network or family or partnership can possibly express.

When Paul said “the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’” (1 Cor. 12:21a), his instruction was just as relevant for groups as for individuals. A robust ecclesiology demands that we seek to understand what others are doing and why they are doing it. Church planters who spend their time defending their methodological turf wind up with isolated, narrow mission strategies that treat other streams as competition. And they’ll miss the great opportunities for fellowship and shared mission that come from aggressively looking to learn from folks who might be doing it a bit better, or maybe more efficiently or creatively.