Leading with a Church Planter Mindset

Church planting is a priority in God’s plan. The Great Commission, as seen in Acts, is a church planting strategy, not merely outreach to individuals. And the Pauline Epistles clearly show that establishing (strengthening) churches includes engagement with God’s plan and partnership with the apostles in the progress of the Gospel. Thus, even if I’m not a church planter, I need to lead with a church planter mindset.

“… whether or not you consider yourself to be a church planter, you need to have a church planter’s mindset!”

So, what do we mean by “leading with a church planter mindset?”

  1. Church renewal is closely related to church planting. Many existing and emerging leaders hope to bring strength and focus to churches that are faltering badly. Although their churches already exist, leaders who believe church planting is a priority in God’s plan approach their tasks in a manner that is much like a church planter. They try to put strong leadership in place and help the churches become strong and participate in the progress of the Gospel.
  2. Church maintenance may need a dose of church planting emphasis. Many people find themselves in churches that may not seem to be faltering, but in reality have plateaued. These churches are focused almost entirely inward (or on causes that are only tangentially related to the progress of the Gospel). Leaders need to be trained to help these churches refocus on the core of the progress of the Gospel.
  3. Church planting in small groups (without even knowing it). Contemporary Western Christianity tends to be focused on “Sunday church services.” However, there is a rapidly growing emphasis on small groups. Although most churches don’t refer to their small groups as “churches,” I heard one church elder say that “my missional community is more like a church than my church [Sunday morning church service] is.” The fact is that small groups may not just be ministries of a church. According to biblical definitions of what a church is, the small groups may actually be a network of churches that share much in common, such as Sunday morning services. And perhaps the focus of the pastoral staff should be the training of the small group leaders as shepherds of churches, not just facilitators of small group discussions.
  4. Church planting movement support. Regardless of whether you consider yourself to be a church planter, you need to care about church planting movements because they are at the heart of God’s plan for fulfillment of the Great Commission. The more you can think like a church planter yourself, the better you will be able to provide support to others who are directly engaged in church planting.

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Occasionally, I’m asked the question: “Do I have to be a church planter to enroll in the Antioch School?” The answer is “no, you don’t have to be a church planter to enroll with us.” However, even if you are not a church planter, BILD resources and Antioch School programs are designed to help you lead churches and minister with a church planter mindset.

Many students have enrolled in the Antioch School without any intention of becoming a church planter. However, as they use the BILD resources, particularly the Leadership Series course on Acts, they find themselves compelled by the priority of church planting in God’s plan. Some begin immediately to plant churches, even before they have taken the Pauline Epistles course to identify the characteristics of a strong, well-established church.

The point is that the priority of church planting is a compelling idea that may draw you into church planting whether you expect it or not. So, whether or not you consider yourself to be a church planter, you need to have a church planter’s mindset!

Mission Economics: How does 1 = 100 = 10,000 = 1,000,000?

A trend in mission economics seems to be underway in North America.  Investment in missions is shifting from traditional Western missionaries to indigenous missionaries.  In this post, I argue for an even more important shift to take place, namely to investment in key leaders of indigenous, large-scale church planting movements, church networks, and ministry organizations.

1 = 100

For most of the 20th century, missions was primarily the sending of Western missionaries to cross-cultural situations all over the world.  However, in the 21st century, there seems to be a growing dissatisfaction with the traditional missionary model.  Some think that Western missionaries are too expensive (sometimes as much as $100,000 per year), take too long to prepare (Bible college + seminary + mission orientation + language school), struggle to overcome cultural issues, and are sometimes not held very accountable for their efforts and results.  Many North American churches have concluded that it is better “mission economics” to support indigenous church planting missionaries.  Their cost of living is minimal, they are already deployed, they already know the language, they are already familiar with the culture, and they are perceived to be more effective (in terms of unbelievers converted, believers discipled, leaders developed, and churches planted).  In terms of mission economics, the ratio seems to be about 1:100 for North American churches who want to shift their investment from traditional Western missionaries to indigenous missionaries.

However, there are often unseen, yet serious problems implicit in the shift to support of indigenous missionaries. For instance, getting support for living expenses from North American churches often creates a relationship of dependency for the indigenous missionaries.  Further, dependency on outside funding often prevents these indigenous missionaries from training their indigenous churches and networks to be benefactors that support the indigenous mission.  Some members of indigenous mission organizations choose to leave the structure, support, and accountability of their agencies once they become financially independent (often through funds that most North Americans would consider to be minimal).  And while often quite sincere in their mission endeavors, many indigenous missionaries are poorly equipped for ministry in terms of character, ministry skills, and biblical knowledge.

1 = 10,000

A few North American churches are making an even more radical shift.  They are investing in the key leaders of indigenous, large-scale church planting movements, church networks, and ministry organizations.  Rather than providing support for ordinary living expenses, support is directed strategically toward important immediate needs that are beyond the economic and cultural capacity of the ministry to deliver.  For instance, an investment in the training of a “competency cohort” (the key leaders of an indigenous church planting movement, church network, or ministry organization) means that you are building much greater capacity for those key leaders to carry out their ministry.  Each member of a “competency cohort” who is enrolled in an Antioch School degree program using BILD resources is also learning by training their own cohorts of subsidiary leaders (who are also doing basic training of other cohorts of leaders to train others).  Investment in 100 key leaders (at nearly the same cost as a single traditional Western missionary or 100 indigenous missionaries) results in 10,000 leaders being trained for ministry.

1 = 1,000,000

Once 100 key leaders have been trained through “competency cohorts” (along with nearly 10,000 subsidiary leaders), there is now the capacity in these indigenous church planting movements, church networks, and ministry organizations to implement training systems that function entirely within their cultures and at their economic levels.  If each of these trained leaders trains an additional 10 leaders (whose training also includes learning by training others to train others), there are now 1,000,000 emerging leaders being trained.  This exponential growth cannot occur unless key leaders are equipped to provide the direction, support, and correction needed during implementation.

At BILD, it is common to hear from someone in North America who knows someone somewhere in the world for whom the BILD resources would be beneficial.  Some of these contacts have turned into significant partnerships in church-based theological education.  Most are indigenous missionaries or ministry leaders who are primarily operating independently.  In other words, they are in the “1 = 100” category, not the “1 = 10,000” category that leads to the “1 = 1,000,000” category.

It is rather uncommon for us to hear from someone in North America who simply wants to invest in the partnerships that BILD thinks are most strategic.  It is also uncommon for someone in North America to put us in contact with the key leader of an indigenous, large-scale church planting movement, church network, or ministry organization that could operate in in the “1 = 1,000,000” category.  However, some of the most effective Western missionaries are those who have aligned themselves with these indigenous, large-scale church planting movements, church networks, and ministry organizations in order to provide specialized support, such as for leadership development programs within these networks and organizations.

My plea is for you to consider partner strategically with us as a matter of mission economics. Regardless of whether you choose to continue to support traditional Western missionaries and/or indigenous missionaries, I hope you get a better glimpse of how far funding can go when it is invested in key leaders of indigenous, large-scale church planting movements, church networks, and ministry organizations.  The same level of investment needed for a single traditional Western missionary can result in the training of entire large-scale networks.

If you want to come alongside BILD as it works at the “1 = 10,000” level (which becomes “1 = 1,000,000”), please contact us at info@antiochschool.edu.

“One great opportunity to start your partnership with BILD at the “1 = 10,000” level is to attend our annual BILD International Conference being held Nov. 4-9, 2013 at our headquarters in Ames, Iowa.  You will be able to receive further training in the BILD resources, be exposed to some of the cutting edge things that BILD is doing around the world, and be introduced to some of the key leaders of indigenous, large-scale church planting movements, church networks, and ministry organizations.”

What’s in a Name? “Church Planting”

Why did we include the words “church planting” in our name?  The terms evoke a rich biblical metaphor that pictures the early stages of the Pauline local church establishing process that also includes watering and God generated growth.  In the fullest sense “church planting” points to the whole developmental process of starting, strengthening, and multiplying local churches as well as large-scale church planting movements.  This blog is the third in our occasional series that explains our name.

Our Lord is in the church planting business.  It’s His idea.  It’s His wise plan.  It’s His work for which He sends laborers into His field.  Evangelism and mission cannot be reduced to merely making converts or providing social relief and development.  Biblical evangelism and mission are primarily matters of planting strong churches and cultivating strong church planting networks.  We created the Antioch School as a practical tool to help local churches and church planting movements reproduce themselves in response to our Lord’s commission.  By including “church planting” in our name, we specified both what we believe to be the essence of the mission as well as what we hope to be the primary outcome of the Antioch School.

The Antioch School is not just an innovative way to do serious biblical studies or to get a credible theological degree.  Nor is it merely a home-grown way to train specialists for the initial stages of starting a church.  The Antioch School is a church-based way to equip both existing and emerging leaders for the work of strengthening a base church and also planting churches from that base.  It’s a tool to cultivate an expanding network of strong churches regionally and globally.  It’s a way to accelerate the large-scale church planning movements that God is using to renew the church in North America and to reach the Global South in our day.

To date, the Antioch School has been adopted by approximately 75% of the large-scale church planting movements in India as their primary tool for upper level leadership training to sustain and expand their movements.  It has similarly been adopted by hundreds of pioneer minded churches in North America in spite of the seeming hegemony of traditional theological schools.  The Antioch School is expanding exponentially and seriously driving the church-based paradigm of training the next generation of church planters in North America and beyond.  That’s why “church planting” is in our name!

On the Verge of Going Exponential through Apprenticeships

The Antioch School and BILD will have a presence at the 2012 Verge and Exponential conferences, two national events related to church planting and missional communities.

The vortex of influence related to church planting has shifted considerably. No longer are denominational departments the main place where intentional church planting strategy is being pursued. Here are two of the emerging networks that are serving all types of denominational and independent church planters:

 

Verge is a network of churches, church planting movements, and resources related to “missional communities.” They emphasize the intentional and incarnational roles of a church as a community living out the gospel. Verge is holding the Verge Missional Community Conference in Austin, TX on February 28-March 2, 2012.

 

Exponential is an “aggregator” of what God is doing related to church planting. They try to find champions who are providing leadership in various channels and then position them to aggregate others who could benefit from development in those areas. Exponential is holding the Exponential Conference in Orlando, FL on April 23-26, 2012.

 

We are right in the midst of this vortex of influence and will have a presence at both of these conferences. In both events, we will have exhibits and be recruiting church planting apprentices. We even have a limited number of discounted registrations for the Exponential conference–email our office if you have interest in those registrations.   Also, take note that we will have an After Hours session on “Church Planting Apprenticeships” during the Exponential conference.

There are three ways that church planters can take advantage of apprenticeships with us:

  1. Individuals who are called to church planting but don’t have a “home” to provide guidance and support can become part of an intensive apprenticeship program with the Ames-Des Moines CityChurch and earn certificates and degrees from the Antioch School.
  2. Others who are already active in church planting but need mentoring and further training can build apprenticeship programs right where they are through the Antioch School.
  3. Still others who are part of intentional efforts to reach key U.S. cities can take part in the Antioch Initiative’s Strategic City apprenticeships that includes Antioch School certificate and degree programs.

The apprenticeship concept is at the core of the use of BILD resources and Antioch School programs. We look forward to seeing how God works at these two upcoming events. It seems that we are on the “verge” of going “exponential” through apprenticeship.

Exponential 2011: Key Questions #6 & #7

Key Question #6: What is the author’s intention for the passage being cited?

Most of us are concerned about being “biblical,” but this can mean many things, such as being aligned with biblical truth or using the Bible as a point of reference. As you listen to someone claim biblical support from a passage, are they even considering the author’s intention for the passage (or is it just a good verse that alone seems to support a particular idea)? Few of us would say that it is proper to pull verses out of context, but many do it anyway. A good question to ask when thinking about the use of a passage is whether the biblical author would recognize it as being a legitimate use of the passage. Is the speaker really using the text to bring some other picture to mind on which his emphasis really relies? Is the passage itself a controlling force in the use of the text?

Key Question #7: What is the global significance of what is being said?

We hear much about the relativism of the postmodern world (even though relativism has been strong for a long time). What are the universal principles that undergird what is being said? On what truth should the claim be judged regarding its legitimacy? In light of how many churches have become focused inwardly, it is good to consider how their emphasis relates to the priority of churches focusing outwardly. How does this teaching relate to church planting and God’s spontaneous expansion of the church? It is also good to think in terms of the global church (as a teacher, not just a mission field). How does this speaker draw on lessons learned through the massive movements of God elsewhere in the world in the last 100 years?
During the Exponential conference, follow our blog and Steve Kemp on Twitter for updates. Please leave your comments below and check back tomorrow for the next question in the series.

 

Exponential 2011: Key Questions #4 & #5

Key Question #4: Where do they focus on leadership development?

Perhaps the question of where should be preceded by the question of if. Do they even have leadership in view? In the trend to focus on good things, such as community life and giftedness, some have intentionally or unintentionally disregarded leadership. If they do address leadership, where do they see leadership being developed? Is a formal institution like a seminary or Bible college assumed to be the normal place for leadership development? Or do they focus more on forms of on-the-job-experience? Further, is leadership something that can be developed in nearly anyone? Or is leadership development something that is construed primarily in terms of other things such as giftedness and fruitfulness?

Key Question #5: What do they mean by discipleship?

When someone refers to discipleship, they usually have some core things in mind. Are those core things mostly about knowledge, character, or behavior? Are they mostly about rules, principles, or worldview? They also usually have some core Scripture passages in mind. What are those passages and do you think that these are passages that the biblical author’s intended to be normative regarding discipleship? In other words, would the apostles recognize their emphasis as fitting with their imperatives about “passing on the deposit” or “the teaching?” You may also want to think about the process of discipleship. Does it lead to spiritual maturity in an explicit manner that measureable and attainable?
During the Exponential conference, follow our blog and Steve Kemp on Twitter for updates. Please leave your comments below and check back tomorrow for the next question in the series.

 

Exponential 2011: Key Question #3

Key Question #3: How do they picture Jesus?

Everyone points to Jesus as our model, but what does that Jesus look like? Here are some common recent images of Jesus, even though they aren’t always labeled as explicitly: Jesus CEO is like a business owner using lots of modern business and entrepreneurial skills; Jesus Servant-Leader with the emphasis mostly on the servant side; Jesus the Radical who is characterized more by the dynamic of stirring things up than any particular substance that is worthy of stirring things up for; and more. What form of biblical support do they use for their images of Jesus? How much is really just proof-texting? Ironically, one’s image of Jesus is really a mirror of one’s own values more than the product of careful Bible study. Here are a few biblical points of reference to help you compare how they picture Jesus. How does it compare with the description of Jesus that we get from the kerygmatic sermons of the apostles in Acts? How does it compare to the four portraits we are given in the Gospels?
During the Exponential conference, follow our blog and Steve Kemp on Twitter for updates. Please leave your comments below and check back tomorrow for the next question in the series.

 

Exponential 2011: Key Question #2

Key Question #2: How do they treat the Pastoral Epistles?

All of us recognize the Pastoral Epistles (the letters from Paul to Timothy and Titus) as legitimate parts of our Bible, but not everyone uses them in the same manner. It seems that they are being given less attention these days in the books being written about how to do church. As you listen to people give instructions about how to do church, do they consider the Pastoral Epistles as normative instructions for how to do church in all times and all places? If they are something else, such as artifacts about what the early church did from which we can find principles, on what basis can we conclude that the principles are normative? It may also be informative to think about what they mean by the “Paul/Timothy” model of 2 Timothy 2:2. Is it just about an older guy mentoring a younger guy (talking about whatever the older guy likes or dislikes?) Or is it about a training process that sustains the exponential growth and health of a Great Commission church planting movement?
During the Exponential conference, follow our blog and Steve Kemp on Twitter for updates. Please leave your comments below and check back tomorrow for the next question in the series.

 

Exponential 2011: Key Question #1

Key Question #1: What do they mean by “church?”

Most of us have assumptions in mind when we use the term “church.”  Some may think of local churches while others think of the universal church.  Some may think of denominations.  While most of us don’t define church as a building, we still tend to talk about “where we go to church” as if church is a location or event.  In the midst of the criticism of what is wrong with contemporary churches, there is a growing tendency to define church with the term “community.”  However, is it just an amorphous spiritual community?  What does it look like in local manifestations?  Does it have organization, membership, and leadership?  As you listen to people refer to church, consider from where are their definition or assumptions coming, particularly what parts of Scripture are being used and which parts are being neglected?
During the Exponential conference, follow our blog and Steve Kemp on Twitter for updates. Please leave your comments below and check back tomorrow for the next question in the series.