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January 30, 2013Church Planting, Leadership

5 Things to Learn from International Church Planting #5: We Must Recover Respect for and Reliance on the Holy Spirit in Church Planting

This series was birthed from conversation about global church planting, particularly from places where we are seeing exponential growth. The speakers were Pentecostal, Evangelical Free, Charismatic, and Baptist. They had many things in common, some things that were different, but everyone talked about the work of the Holy Spirit in church planting-- and His work in spawning movements.

If you have not read parts 1-4, you can find them here:

Be a Learner, not a Leader

Be Simple and Reproducible

We Need Greater Commitment to Discipleship

Empowered Non-Staff Leadership Marks Church Planting Movements Around the World

But I truly believe this last part is the high point, leading us to the final principle.

We must recover respect for and reliance on the Holy Spirit in church planting.

Throughout the entire CPLF meeting this past fall, we consistently heard a theme of reliance upon the work of the Holy Spirit regardless of the theological family of the various speaker.

One might expect this kind of conversation to come from Pentecostals, and there were certainly some in the room, and some who shared with us about their work overseas. They shared how healings in Southeast Asia led to new churches-- on a receptive basis. God did miracles, churches were started.

However, it was not just from Pentecostals and Charismatics at the meeting. At each meeting, we give out books-- some new and some old-- to the members of the CPLF. This keeps everyone sharp as we think about church planting and missiology in North America.

Two of those books were from the same author-- who also happens to be an Anglican priest. He was often called the "missiologist of the Holy Spirit". His name is Roland Allen.

Why was he called this? Because, as an Anglican, he believed in trusting the Holy Spirit to guide His people to accomplish His work, and he challenged the rest of us to do the same. Allen would often challenge us to our "Missionary Methods: [are they] St. Paul's or Ours?" Roland Allen reminded us that we must trust in the power of the Holy Spirit to plant churches and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to sustain and guide these new churches.

For example, one of our CPLF speakers was Southern Baptist-- so much so that he squeaks Southern Baptist. ;-) He can't help it. As you read his writing, though, you'll see consistently over and over again his emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit. This is not a denominational, or even a movement, issue. This is a biblical issue. One of the recurring themes we heard during this meeting is sometimes we trust in horses and we trust in chariots, and we don't trust enough in the Spirit of God.

As we examine the landscape of global movements, we cannot help but see there is a great emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit and a great reliance upon the necessity of the Holy Spirit.

In the Western church, we love to systematize and analyze what we do. To be honest, I think systems and analysis are helpful-- which seems obvious considering my job. I lead a research firm, so I clearly am committed to research, administration, and analysis.

I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation on church planting systems, but I fear we are placing too much hope in our systems. We need our systems-- and if we love planters we will have systems to support them-- but we cannot hope in our systems alone.

We have to remember our systems and analysis serve a greater purpose, and that is to facilitate the purposes of God.

He is first, and His movement trumps everything else. That does not mean we avoid systems, processes and analysis. In fact, I think it means the opposite. We value those things, and use them widely, while remembering our ultimate success or failure is dependent on God through the person of the Holy Spirit.

Our hope is in Him. Our success is in Him. Our Church Planting Movements will come from Him.

Lord, let us lead our movements with all wisdom and planning, but in the power of the Holy Spirit.

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