plantMy wife and I have been challenged in many ways this year in what we think about church, mission, following Jesus and that sort of stuff. It is quite natural, I guess, as we this spring decided to leave the Christian community we were part of, to be sent out to start a new church. In that process we’ve tried to approach God with an open mind, with a blank sheet of paper, so to speak, asking him what kind of Christian community may grow out of the context we’re part of. In this process we’ve needed to deal with a lot of preconceived ideas about what church is and how it should be done.

One thing that has challenged us is that there is nothing in the Bible that tells Christians to plant churches (which is both ironic as this is exactly what the Baptist Union has sent us out to do, and a bit annoying as I’m passionate about this and spend a lot of my time writing, thinking and doing it!). New churches do in fact emerge as we read about the disciples traveling around the Mediterranean area, but Jesus never (at least what we can read in the Bible) told them to go and start Christian communities. What he did tell them to do is to go out and make disciples. Just that. Go out and make disciples. And that’s what they did. And when they did that, Christian communities emerged all over the place. It seems to be part of the DNA of the gospel that wherever new disciples emerge, Christian communities emerge as well. 

We still use the term “church planting”, however a bit reluctantly (partly because its a term that just doesn’t make much sense to many people). One thing I still like about the term is the implication that initiating new Christian communities is an organic process, rather than a mechanical “just follow the guidelines” project. Of course we hope that a loving, hospitable, serving, sending, full on for God’s mission kind of community will emerge out of all this. But what has to both precede all that and be the backbone of whatever will emerge is making disciples.

Alan Hirsch suggests in a post that instead of using the term church planting, how about gospel planting? Great, you might think, here comes yet another term for the Christian lingo dictionary! But, really, isn’t that what were sent out to do, planting the gospel in people’s lives, in our communities, neighborhoods, workplaces, schools and universities and wherever we might be? To both speak and be the good news of the kingdom of God? That is what we are to plant and sow, not an ecklesiology, church organisation, specific style of worship etc.