This week, Pastor John hands over the TAGD keyboard to Pastor Brent Whitefield, Northpoint’s Pastor of Missions and Outreach.
The Necessity of Church Planting
It has been a wonderful summer of cross-cultural ministry so far here at Northpoint and it is far from over. We have had teams in India, Greece, Alaska already, and you can add Tuba City and Botswana to the list over the next couple of weeks. Over 50 people from our church have gone on these trips and participated in many different kinds of ministry including: camp ministry, evangelism, church planting support, teaching, and training, just to name a few. It is my hope that the number of people participating in these summer outreaches will continue to grow in the years to come.
In the course of my summer of ministry travels, I have had opportunity to observe different types of ministry and various strategies at work on the ground. The most important observation I have made, reinforcing what our church leadership already understands, is the desperate need for church planting. Though there are many types of outreach ministry, none of them seem to bear much fruit in the absence of church planting. What good is an evangelistic campaign if there is no church into which to plug new converts? How will unreached people be discipled if there are no churches for them? Where is the visible witness in a community without churches? Are we training pastors just to replace retiring ministers?
I have also observed that there is a similar problem for churches in India or Greece that we experience in the U.S. Namely, that existing churches tend to see their capacity for making new disciples diminish over time. Some churches grow complacent and tired. Some become preoccupied with maintaining their traditions, or worse, view church plants as competitors in a zero-sum game of attracting and retaining parishioners. Whatever the reason, churches tend to decline from their peak rate of making new disciples. Thus, church plants are needed not only in unreached areas, but also in reached areas as well; in places that do not need a first witness, but perhaps a fresh witness.
Church planting ministry is exciting and energizing. It attracts people who are entrepreneurial, risk-taking, and outside-of-the-box thinkers. To be around church planters is to be inspired, to see and participate in desperate prayer, and to set ambitious goals that are only forlorn dreams if the Spirit of God is not in them. To be with church planters is to understand what it means to count the cost and what it means to suffer in big and small ways. I always find myself spiritually refreshed and encouraged by my interactions with church planting ministries and this summer has been no exception.
Church planting is not the only ministry with which we will or should be involved. Just as there are a variety of gifts, so there are a variety of legitimate ministry endeavors. However, church planting should always be a top priority and other ministry work should in one way or another, support this priority. The local church was the means by which Christ meant us to disciple the nations. May God richly bless our efforts to work through new church plants to make disciples who make disciples.