I have worked with church planters for over fifteen years. During that time I have spent hundreds of hours providing training, coaching and resources to a wide variety of planters. Regardless of the church planter’s approach to planting, I have discovered that in almost every case the planter moves too quickly towards pragmatism.
Planters want to know what “works.” They want to know what other “successful” planters are doing. What strategies or techniques are helping church plants start strong and grow quickly?
In other words, they put the ecclesiastical cart before the horse.
Instead, I have come to realize that our ecclesiology – especially in a post-Christian context – must flow directly out of serious theological and missiological reflection.
Church Planting within the Mission of God
As a result of the practical ecclesial questions that most planters ask, the vast majority of church planting resources are bent towards how to do church better. Most books deal with the nuts and bolts of church planting. An exception to this trend is a book written in 2001 by Stuart Murray called Church Planting: Laying Foundations. Murray’s book is one of the finest written on the topic of church planting. He offers a very helpful emphasis on both the theological and historical framework for church planting.
When discussing the theological foundation for planting, Murray argues that all church planters operate within some theological framework, but most often these frameworks are simply assumed, and not clearly articulated. He states that while inadequate theological reflection will not necessarily hinder short-term growth, it will limit the long-term impact of church planting and may result in distortions in the way in which the mission of the church is understood.
I appreciate how Murray sees church planting as one aspect of the mission of God in which churches are privileged to participate. The church can understand the scope and implications of participating in God’s mission, and the place of church planting within it, in relation to three important theological concepts; the Kingdom of God, incarnation, and missio Dei.