It is no secret that the church in America is in decline. Many are searching for a new approach, a method or style that will capture the heart of the next generation and breathe life back into the church. It’s true that different strategies work in different seasons. But there are timeless principles that stay the same. As the culture shifts and changes around us, what proven church planting principles remain firm and reliable?
“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” —Isaiah 40:8
Found in Every Healthy Church Plant
1. Healthy church plants focus on making disciples.
The words Jesus left us with command us to make disciples. That is the purpose of the church: we are to make new disciples… people who live and love like Jesus did. Without that, we are nothing more than a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
2. Healthy church plants seek to find where God is at work and then join him there.
We do not pave the way and then invite the Holy Spirit along. We first engage in listening prayer and try to discern what God is already doing, where and in whom he is already at work. Then we consider how we can join him there. Doing this provides the bigger picture perspective for church planting.
3. Healthy church plants are about people, not programs.
People are not for the benefit of the church, but church is for the benefit of people. The church is a structure for helping people follow Jesus, living out the great commission and the great commandment. The church is a means, not an end in itself.
4. Healthy church plants include apprenticing and show-how training.
As leaders, we aren’t just to do the ministry ourselves, but to do it in a way that increases the capacity for more ministry. That means bringing others along, teaching them ministry skills in practical ways that ordinary people can do. In this way, planters are always developing people and increasing future ministry capacity.
5. Healthy church plants reorganize as they grow.
What worked in one phase of your church’s development won’t work in another. You’ll need to adapt your organizational systems and structure to accommodate ongoing growth. Find what works in this season, but recognize you’ll need to make changes to be effective in the next season of church development.
6. Healthy church plants multiply.
They develop new leaders and the seeds of new ministries from the inside… and they don’t stay inside, but move their energy outward into the world and into new ventures. They are outward-focused and growing. If you fully engage with the elements listed above, multiplication will be the natural outgrowth of ministry.
Methodologies Measured by Principles
If you are currently engaged in helping plant a church, take some time to reflect on and write out your vision statement. Of what is listed there, which are methods or styles (particular to your time and place) and which are principles (valid across all times and places)? It’s fine—and good—to include both. It’s just important to know the difference.
Whether you are following a traditional methodology or pioneering something new, it’s important to take a hard look at effectiveness of your church planting methods. Take an honest look by holding them up to these timeless principles. Here are some examples of low (L), average (A), and high (H) effectiveness in each principle. Where does your church plant land?
Focus on making disciples
- (L) Church growth is non-existent or solely believers transferring from another church.
- (A) You have a small group of people who love to do life together, however, new people have found it difficult to assimilate.
- (H) Your church plant actively seeks to meet new people and lead them to Christ. Church growth is largely new believers.
Seeks to find where God is at work and then join him there
- (L) Works to transform the community culture over discovering God’s hand in their unique history.
- (A) Is actively involved in the community and works to effectively meets needs.
- (H) Actively learns about the community, listens to and responds to the Holy Spirit for community involvement.
About people, not programs
- (L) Programs are poorly attended. Volunteers often burnout.
- (A) Programs start out strong but loses energy, it can be difficult to obtain volunteers to staff events
- (H) Programing supports the growth and transformation of people and is staffed by people operating in their gifts.
Include apprenticing and show-how training
- (L) Ministry is mostly done by the staff, who is edging toward burnout.
- (A) The church looks for ready-made leaders.
- (H) Lay leaders are developed according to their gifts and find ministry participation fulfilling.
Reorganize with growth
- (L) Change is not embraced by the church and has started to decline.
- (A) The church has hit a growth barrier; attempts to make changes in structure and flow often fail.
- (H) The church adapts in structure and ministry flow to better accommodate growth.
- (L) The church has become inward focused and ceased to grow.
- (A) The focus is on discipleship over disciplemaking, growth is made up of likeminded people.
- (H) The church maintains an outward focus on the mission to make disciples, the church is growing and the people are experiencing transformation.
Principle-based Church Planting
Where did your church plant land?
In what ways can you ensure that each of the principles listed above remain present and central in your church plant? What methods or trends are you using that are no longer working? What changes do you need to make so your church plant is better rooted in effective principles?
The Church Planting Journey- A fresh look at church planting tools and processes contextualized for today’s realities. The Church Planting Journey is packed with wisdom and simple, practical, reproducible processes that can be translated into any church context. From house churches to mega-churches, let The Church Planting Journey be your guide to fulfilling the unique call God has placed on you to multiply the church.
Editors note: This article was initially published at www.loganleadership.com – Church Planting Principles vs. Methodology – Logan Leadership