Sunday, March 25, 2007

Theology and Church Planting

Ed Stetzer, Dir. of Research for the NAMB, wrote an article on theology and missional church planting. This is an excerpt. Click on the link at the end of this excerpt for the full article.

How would we define church planting?

The best definition I know of which describes church planting is the word "missions." Church planters are missionaries. If church planting isn't about missions it's only about rearranging Christians. You can start a new church using attractive programs, dynamic worship, and fancy PowerPoint displays, but if all you're doing is drawing other Christians from other churches That's not missions. We call that "sheep-stealing," or "swapping chairs on the Titanic."

Church planting is about missions, reaching out to the unchurched.

The study of missions is called "missiology." Missiology includes the study of cultural and historical components, all of which we will study in this session. In order to understand church planting, there must be a theological base for our work. Otherwise, we simply end up establishing monuments to ourselves and our creativity. Calvin Guy wrote this:"We apply the pragmatic test to the work of the theologian. Does his theology motivate men to go into all the world and make disciples? Does it so undergird them that they, thus motivated, succeed in this primary purpose? Theology must stand the test of being known by its fruit."
Cal Guy is telling us that if our theology doesn't motivate us to reach the lost, then truth is aborted. We simply have a set of principles that we think about but fail to live out. Our theology has become something we muse over, but we're unwilling to lay down our lives for it.

Theology must be missionary theology because therein lies the heart of God. It has been said that missiology is the mother of theology because theology was developed in an emerging missionary situation. Churches were being planted and divine missionary principles were being brought to their attention through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to meet needs and answer the questions of the people.

Stuart Murray in Church Planting: Laying Foundations seeks to provide a theological framework for church planting (often missing in church planting literature). Murray's argument:

Why Theology?

If you hire a carpenter to build a house, one of the first things you have to decide is if you want your house to be built up off the ground on blocks or on a concrete slab. A house built on blocks is kind of an old-fashioned method of building, but many people still like it because of the accessibility of pipes that need repairing or air conditioning duct work. But the problem with a house on blocks is that over time, the ground settles and the structure of the house can shift. It's not unusual in an old house like this to find cracks in walls and problems with the floor. But if a house is built on a solid concrete slab, that's a foundation that does not change. Theology is like the concrete slab. God says, "I am the LORD, and I do not change." [Malachi 3:6 NIV]

God's ways, God's plans, God's purposes are the unchanging foundation upon which we build.

Therefore, Theology is critical because the foundation determines the building.

The church is the Bride of Christ; therefore, it must be pleasing to Him. So we must be careful that everything we do is pleasing to Him. "Cutting edge" keeps changing. There are new methods coming out everyday that seem promising to the church planter. And we have to be careful not to develop a critical spirit towards ideas that may seem strange to us. New ideas are important to explore to a certain degree. But if we look simply to new ideas rather than unchanging biblical theology, we find ourselves following fads rather than the Father because cutting edge changes. Remember 45s and 8 track tapes? We must avoid building our ministry on cutting edge and opting rather for a solid theological foundation.

Theology is critical because it determines strategies and techniques.

God has no obligation to the success of anything outside of His will. Man-made innovations mean nothing to God unless they are created in the center of His will.

Theology is critical because it brings us to the principle of Missio Dei.Missio Dei means the mission of God.

God is a God of action. The acts of God are occurring around us on a daily basis. He is constantly active and on mission to a lost world. Therefore as servants of the Lord, we carry out our mission in the world realizing our work is Theocentric not anthropocentric.
It is not based on us but upon God. John Piper wrote in his book Let the Nations Be Glad, "God has set in motion a missionary movement that will reach to all peoples of the earth on the analogy of the universal spread of God's glory," and "missions is for the glory of Christ. Its goal is to reestablish the supremacy of Christ among the peoples of the world. . . The goal of Christ's mission and ours is that God might be glorified by the nations as they experience His mercy."

The emphasis in the Missio Dei is seeing where God is already at work and that our involvement with Him is ultimately for His glory. So the church is not an end in itself. It is simply the means God uses to accomplish His work.

We must shift our emphasis from the life of the local church to the needs of the world because therein lies the heart of God. Our work recognizes the need for Divine empowerment because ultimately anything we do that is lasting must come from God. And His heart becomes our heart. His passions become our passions.

Church planting reveals God's heart for the lost.

Ephesians 3:10 says: "His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, and according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence" (Ephesians 3:10 NIV).

God's instrument through which He carries out His plans for the world is the church. The task of the church is to be His missionary to the world. So the church is not so much a mission-sending agency; the church is missionary at its basic core.

We use the term "the missional church." Simply put, the missionary endeavor draws the church to reach to its community, or "Jerusalem" as Jesus called it. Simultaneously, it will send out missionaries to "Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8 NIV).
So the work of the church as a whole is missionary. The task must not be relegated to a chosen few when in reality we are all called as missionaries. Paul wrote: "And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors" (2 Corinthians 5:18 NIV).

This is our participation in the Missio Dei... the mission of God. It is the eternal faith once delivered unto the saints, God at work in the world, touching hearts and lives, our participation with Him seeing men and women converted, their lives changed by the power of the Gospel, and establishing New Testament congregations.

© 2004 North American Mission Board

Full Document Here

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