We make statements every day. Most are quite unassuming—small facts needed to navigate life, maintain a healthy marriage, or keep our jobs. Other times we make greater claims. We pledge lifelong marital fidelity, we affirm oaths of national allegiance, or we attest to our salvation in Christ through baptism. These greater claims have life-altering implications.
Great claims are made in public—providing accountability to those making the claims as well as openly declaring a deep resolve to embody the very substance that the claims articulate. Great claims become a public declaration of personal participation in a reality that transcends other obligations. It drives a stake in the ground, avowing what we truly believe and how that belief will affect our behavior.
Our day is one in which almost anyone can make bombastic, public pronouncements regarding any big issue from the comfort of their favorite coffee shop. With a few smartphone keystrokes, we can broadly pontificate about politics, theological preferences, sexual ethics, race relations, or any other topic that draws our ire or interest.
The downside to such access is that it’s difficult to discern credibility amid the innumerable capricious voices raging on any given subject. Many who hear the public cacophony either resolve to listen to those voices that correspond to their predispositions or they grow disheartened by the contradictory array of “truth” being purported – and back away altogether.
That’s why we at the Send Institute thought it wise to make a public statement regarding the mission of church planting in North America. Our day is complex, and many boldly declare prescriptions of what we should or should not be doing.
We find ourselves in “a new kindof mission context that requires a diverse and globally-minded mission force radically committed to disciple-making that is rooted in the Word of God and led by the Spirit of God.”
The Church Planting Manifesto for 21st Century North America is an attempt to articulate missiological priorities for those navigating this new reality. Crafted by a diverse team of experts, the statement gives public voice to what we discern to be the priorities and practices that are necessary to guide church planting into the twenty-first century.
The Manifesto’s Rationale
The Manifesto was designed with two priorities in mind. First, we wanted to speak to the major themes shaping North American missiology, including some which are often minimized or deemphasized in current practice. For example, we begin the manifesto with the topic of prayer, arguing that “any genuine church multiplication movement is birthed out of prayer and sacrificial obedience in cooperation with how the Spirit of God is already at work.”
Such a prayerful posture is necessary to combat the overall pragmatism and entrepreneurship that pervades much of the church planting conversation. This is an example of how the Manifesto attempts to bring into focus the main subjects that must be considered by anyone doing mission in North America in our day.
Second, we felt necessary to craft a public statement that gave missiological voice to the shared priorities of those leading this conversation. These leaders come from a from a wide diversity of backgrounds and denominational families. We deeply “believe that improving communication and meaningful interaction among different movements honors God and is the biblical intent for the unity of the Body of Christ in North America.” A unified statement aids God’s collective church in synergizing our voice and our missionary efforts.
The Manifesto’s Structure
The Manifesto lists key priorities for North American church planters who are intent on participating in an evangelistic harvest. Included are 12 hope-filled, biblically robust statements of missiological consequence that are uniquely crucial for our day. One such statement suggests that “multiplication movements require local churches taking responsibility for raising and spiritually parenting future church planting teams.”
Another argues that “men and women leading in mission—from different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds—is a demonstration of the power of the gospel.” Together, these statements and their corresponding descriptions give voice to shared priorities that are essential.
The Manifesto’s Vision
The Manifesto’s vision can be traced to its rationale and structure. What is sought is a unified voice that can serve as a rallying point for God’s church to effectively honor him in his kingdom advance. Nothing in the statement is novel or altogether new.
What is new is the collective voices of leaders who are mutually advocating for a different trajectory in church planting than that in which we may have grown accustomed. Our prayer is that this manifesto will give a point of orientation, as all great Christian statements do, to the necessary ways that we must recalibrate and lead.
Ultimately, the vision of the Church Planting Manifesto is:
1. To model collaboration - We are laying a foundation for future leaders to work better together. We want to remove barriers to the sharing of ideas. We want to model the openhanded nature of God’s kingdom, believing that movements are often a result of a convergence of multiple streams.
2. To model innovation - We want to stress contextual-approaches to church planting because we believe that it is foundational to effective evangelistic engagement to lost communities. Templated church planting models assume too much knowledge about a specific context, which are not safe assumptions anymore. Understanding our King’s mission, we want to give permission to the next generation of church leaders to missionally innovate before locking into an ecclesial praxis.
3. To model humility– We want to align ourselves with, and learn from, the global Church and the unique and powerful ways that God is at work around the world. This Manifesto is a declaration of a needed posture of humility in North America, and for a learning openness to truly transformational ideas and methodologies that God is birthing outside of our continent. In this next era of Christian history, we understand that we are the students and not the teachers.
We believe that this manifesto could be one of those great statements that has eternal consequences. We believe that it could be a culture shaping statement that prepares God’s church for a future for which we are not currently well-equipped.
Perhaps you agree with our Manifesto.
Jeff Christopherson is an author and Chief Missiologist of the North American Mission Board (NAMB). He also serves as Co-Executive Director of the Send Institute, a partnership of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College and the North American Mission Board.