As I’ve been consulting with denominations, networks, and churches regarding their strategy to assess, train, coach, and fund church planters, there are a few trends that I’m beginning to notice. In fact, a few of these trends were the focus of Ed Stetzer’s and my writing in the newly updated edition of Planting Missional Churches: Your Guide to Starting Churches that Multiply (May 2016). Not only did we overhaul every single chapter, but we also wrote several new ones. If you read the previous edition, it would be worth your time to take a look, since it’s practically a new book.
Here are the three major trends that I’m beginning to notice for the future of church planting: Kingdom collaboration, bivocational ministry, and residencies and theological education.
In this blog post, we’ll focus in on the first trend, and leave the other two trends for future posts.
Trend #1: Kingdom Collaboration
Together we can accomplish more than we can ever do alone.
This is the buzz phrase of the new generation of church planters. In the future of church planting, church planters will be less focused on building their kingdom and more focused on seeing Jesus build God’s kingdom. They will be less focused on denominational lines and rules, and more focused on reaching their city. They will be less focused on the superman model of leadership, and more focused on team leadership.
A Focus on God’s Kingdom
In the future of church planting, we will see church planters have a strong foundation in missiology. They will understand that their mission in life is not to plant a church and grow it by sheep stealing, but rather, their mission is to join God on his mission, and do whatever God wants them to do to reach and disciple the nations.
As a result, instead of turning to church growth books, they will read missiological books like, The Mission of God by Christopher Wright, Transforming Mission by David Bosch, and The New Global Mission by Samuel Escobar.
When someone mentions the name Ralph Winter, church planters will think of the missiologist, rather than the X-Men movie producer.
In other words, church planters will approach church planting as missionaries with Romans 15:20 as their theme verse, “My aim is to evangelize where Christ has not been named, so that I will not build on someone else’s foundation, but, as it is written: Those who were not told about Him will see, and those who have not heard will understand” (HCSB).
A Focus on Reaching Their City
In the future, church planters will be so focused on reaching their city that they will not allow denominational lines to keep them from discerningly working together. In other words, instead of partnering together solely with sister churches in their denomination or network, they will collaborate with likeminded churches in their city.
I’ve seen this happen where I used to pastor. Anglicans, Lutherans, Baptists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, and the Christian and Missionary Alliance came together in an evangelistic campaign with Alpha to reach Edmonton, Alberta with the gospel.
A Focus on Team Leadership
Church planters will also understand that their greatest contribution to the kingdom will be when they focus on their strengths, and manage their weaknesses. Planters will lead with their strengths, and staff to their weaknesses. They will build a team around them, and treat them as co-equals, rather than as hirelings. They will serve them, rather than command them. They will seek to develop them for God’s mission, rather than use them for their own mission.
By doing this they will see a higher level of engagement and ownership amongst their leadership team, while also moving their church towards a culture of multiplication.
In the future, church planters will lay down their cape, and take up the cross.
Now obviously, there are many church planters today that are collaborative, kingdom minded, and are living out these three focal points. However, in the future, my hypothesis is that this will only continue to grow as our culture increasingly becomes post-Christian and as the next generation of pastors (millennials, post-millennials, and future generations) step into positions of leadership in the church.
In my next post, I will be elaborating on Trend #2: bivocational ministry and the future of the church.