What Underlies the Underlying Drive in Church Planting?
Given my role to work with churches in regard to church planting, I spend a lot of time talking to church planters and people who work with and coach church planters. I also spend a fair amount of time reading material devoted to this topic. Over the years I have found a few prominent themes in this arena. Creating and communicating vision are always popular topics, as is building and implementing strategy. Leadership development and team building are also a common threads in conversation and writings. Interesting to me, however, is that evangelism is generally given only modest attention. I find this curious and disappointing because without evangelism, there is no church planting. Church planting is the outworking of evangelism, not the other way around. Evangelism is the underlying drive in church planting, and if it is absent, then something other than Biblical church planting is occurring.
What, then, is the underlying factor of evangelism? When evangelism is at the heartbeat of church planting, what is going on? When it is absent or plays a background role, why is this the case? There is probably some merit to the suggestion that evangelism is a skill that is unrefined in many*. However, people try and succeed all the time in things in which they are unskilled (especially in ministry). What makes these people able to accomplish their goal? Often it’s simply great desire and unrelenting drive. I don’t think evangelism is an exception to this general rule. I would suggest that many times our evangelistic temperature wanes because our awe of the gospel fades and this, in turn, affects our evangelistic desire and drive.
Any relationship, if not intentionally curated, will lose its initial allure. The young married couple falls out of being twitterpated and the childhood friendships you had lose their depth with time and distance. Given the fact that we have an adversary who is actively working to this end, it should be no surprise that our enamorment with Jesus and the good news of our reconciliation to the Father can become rather matter-of-fact. In these moments we might find ourselves asking, “Is the Good News still good news to me?”
So if the underlying drive of church planting is evangelism, and if the underlying drive of evangelism is an awe of the Gospel, perhaps one of the simplest things we can do to lay the foundation for church planting is to consistently ask the question, “In the last week, what has been the most beautiful part of the Gospel to you?” While the question is not mine (and I can’t remember where I heard it), I have used it often because I think it has great value in creating a pause to reflect and remember the glory of the Gospel. I’ll ask it of myself, or of our discipleship group, or at the start of a training or board meeting because I want us to be a people who are living in constant awe and gratitude of the goodness of the Good News. My friends, may this be something you and your leaders think of often; and may the passionate love of Jesus that flows from this ignite the lampstands of churches that presently only exist in the heart of God.
Together with you,
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PS – *if you are in a situation in which you feel that your evangelism strategy is missing refinement, please feel free to reach out to me. We work often with churches and leaders to grow in simple, transferable, Spirit-led ways to initiate gospel dialogue with not-yet-Christians and would love to share what has been helpful to many.