In the old days of the attractional church plant, you’d try to gather a crowd and then build a church out of it. That church, in turn, would then go do missions and reach people for Jesus. I’m not knocking that type of church… I’ve planted them myself and reached a high percentage of unchurched people with that approach. But times have changed and the methods that worked then aren’t working now. We need to change the way we think about—and plant—churches.
As our culture grows more secular, we increasingly need to act as missionaries: being part of the culture, building from the grassroots up, starting with those who don’t know Jesus. This approach is what I’m calling missional, incarnational church planting. Form doesn’t matter, but the substance of being Jesus in the world today is critical. We need a much greater focus on serving as the hands and feet of Jesus in the world around us. From there we can gather a core of people established out of the harvest, living in this kind of way. It takes longer to get going, but is much more powerful in terms of creating a sustainable long-term movement.
I have to say, as someone now planting a network of missional house churches along these lines, I’m have a great time doing it: trying different things, figuring it out as we go. As my wife said, “Oh Bob, isn’t it exciting? We get to go back to not knowing what we’re doing again!”
And with not knowing what we’re doing, we’re finding the need to pioneer new resources for missional church planting. I just recently created Journey Together Now, designed to help lay leaders engage the process of missional living. I’m also starting work on a new Toolkit for planters in partnership with Missio. There’s a definite need for new research and resources for people who want to plant missional churches. I’d love to hear from you about what you see as the key questions and issues that come to mind as we’re building this. You can leave a comment here or on my blog. Exciting things await us on the horizon of the church planting world.