What Is Church Planting?

The terminology "Church Planting" just seems like an old-fashioned, traditional, not out of the box approach to things. Granted there have been countless successful, innovative church planters. But the expression, "church planting" seems so uninviting.

When I begin to think of planting, I picture a sweaty, blistered, struggling man drudging his way through the fields planting seeds with a hopeful optimism that all of the agricultural aspects of a successful harvest are present. Granted, building a church is hard work and takes an extremely dedicated, resilient person. But our mindset must be adjusted a little bit into thinking that building a church is more than some painfully, arduous task that has to be a slow and even at times unproductive. Look at the words of Jesus when He begins to encourage the disciples to reach the lost, John 4:34,36.

Jesus said, "The food that keeps me going is that I do the will of the One who sent me, finishing the work he started. As you look around right now, wouldn't you say that in about four months it will be time to harvest? Well, I'm telling you to open your eyes and take a good look at what's right in front of you. These Samaritan fields are ripe. It's harvest time! [36] "The Harvester isn't waiting. He's taking his pay, gathering in this grain that's ripe for eternal life. Now the Sower is arm in arm with the Harvester, triumphant. That's the truth of the saying, 'This one sows, that one harvests.' I sent you to harvest a field you never worked. Without lifting a finger, you have walked in on a field worked long and hard by others."

In this text He breaks ALL the rules for typical planting and harvesting.

1. Successful Church Growth Must Take A Long Time- "... wouldn't you say that in about four months it will be time to harvest?" What Jesus is saying here is that according to your preconceived ideas of planting and harvesting that there are laws that should restrict you from experiencing growth. It's unfortunate that the guy who is experiencing rapid growth is always accused of doing something wrong. "Oh, well they are not really a church. They are just a social club." Or the ever more popular accusation "They really are not preaching the message any longer!" In doing this and mischaracterizing church planters that are experiencing tremendous growth we have almost severed the possibility of our churches experiencing similar results. When we look at the first church in the book of Acts growing from 120 to 3000 in the blink of an eye, we have to question if these statements would be accurate (Acts 2:41). The book of Acts church growth is further described as "growing daily" (Acts 2:47). It is a sobering question that is often worth asking "Are we like the book of Acts church?"

2. Sometimes We Just Have To Wait For Growth to Happen- "the harvester is not waiting... " There are countless fields that have already been planted, watered and are waiting for some brave, bold individual to step in to them and harvest the fields. I would never want to minimize the labors of those that have diligently plowed the fields and opened doors of opportunity for others to step through, but there are fields that are white and ready to harvest. Jesus is asking the question "What are you waiting for?" Our prayer must be that God would open our eyes to see the hungry masses that are longing for someone to come to them and offer them that hope that their heart has been searching for.

Lady Liberty stands in the New York's Harbor with this inscription at her base-

Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,

Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

This so aptly describes the spiritual state of people around the world. They are hungry, homeless, yearning to breathe a life of spiritual freedom. As God's church we have what they are looking for, but we have to be more than an immoveable statue standing with the Light lifted in the air. We cannot wait for the lost to come to the Light, we must take the Light to the lost.

3. Our Growth Will Be Equal to How Much We Work- "I sent you to harvest a field you never worked". I know this can sound like a misleading statement and be perceived by some that church growth is like winning the evangelism lottery. But again, let me stress, planting a church is extremely hard work and not for lazy people! But understand this is not merely some secular career path or something that can be done with just our own personal gifts and talents. This is more than doing a work for God, this is doing a work with God. Your growth is not confined or limited to the amount of work that you do, rather it is connected with a God who is able to give increase that breaks all the laws of the natural. We see all throughout the book of Acts that the first "Church-Planters" often times found themselves stepping into a city and entire communities were transformed by their message. It's easy for us to come to the conclusion that it was more than just hard work, sweat and perseverance. This came about by God giving increase.

There are principles and truths that we must gleam from in the first church. Our mission must never to redefine or change the church into what we think it should be, but rather, let us rediscover what the church was in the book of Acts and use them as our model. We must be a living, breathing body that is willing to change our approaches and methods, while we still hold firmly to the message of Jesus Christ.

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