|Church Planting Process|
Becoming a church planter within the community of Mission Alive is a four-step process of discerning the will of God, equipping for ministry, planting Christ-formed churches, and reproducing by equipping and sending out apostolic leaders. We will walk with you through each of these stages, providing equipping and encouragement.
The first step of the journey is listening to God. During this period of discernment, spend time in prayer and meditation both at home and in spiritual retreats. Acknowledge His role in your life, how He has shaped and molded you for ministry. Declare your desire to live and serve within the giftedness that He has placed within you. Ask for His direction. Include your spouse (and children) in these times of mutual discernment.
The second step is equipping. Church planting requires new instincts of life and practice rooted in biblical theology. Equipping takes place in the Discovery, Theology, and Strategy Labs and through personal coaching and spiritual direction.
Discerning in a Discovery Lab. The beginning of equipping is self-understanding.
The Discovery Lab is a three-day assessment lab that enables you to discern your personal and family readiness for church planting. How natural are you in building relationships, bringing people into relationship with Christ, and helping them grow to spiritual maturity? To what degree are you a learner and a facilitator of learning for others? How well do you utilize and develop the giftedness in others? To what extent do you have the resilience to sustain yourself during difficult times and rebound from setbacks, losses, and disappointments? How firm yet flexible are your boundaries? How does your family work as a team? How deep and wide is your faith? The Discovery Lab will enable you to discern with us the way forward in church planting.
Forming Spiritual Instincts in a Theology Lab. The Theology Lab is the fulcrum of Mission Alive, a time when your spiritual identity is shaped and formed. Learning the themes of the biblical story (kingdom of God, missio Dei, incarnation) during this three-and-a-half-day lab will help you develop formative instincts that attune your heart with God’s heart. Randy Harris uses his unique ability to lead Christian leaders to apply theology to practice in facilitating the second half of the lab. He begins with "humanity" and takes church leaders through the major tenets of the Christian faith, concluding with a theology of "church" and the nature of spiritual formation. During this lab you will develop tangible understandings, shaped by scripture, which will guide your practices as a missional church planter.
Equipping for Practice in a Strategy Lab. The Strategy Lab is a boot camp for developing the practical instincts and rhythms of life necessary for planting missional churches. You will learn to engage the local culture, form community, make disciples, and equip leaders on mission with God. You will be nurtured to commune with God, practice community, and be on mission with God. The kingdom of God will become tangible, enabling the Gospel to spread spontaneously through your life and ministry. You will learn the practices and hear the experiences of Mission Alive church planters, who like the apostle Paul, are meeting people for whom Christianity is a foreign idea and communicating the Christian faith in ways contemporary society can understand. Their daily practices and experiences will keep the Strategy Lab fresh and immediately applicable. As a result of this lab, you will develop a contextual working plan for church planting.
Refining Practices and Skills through Coaching and Spiritual Direction. While planting churches can be an exhilarating experience, it can also be exhausting. Although starting a new church brings deep satisfaction, it can also be confusing and challenging. Thus you will work with a coach and spiritual director for the first two years of your planting effort. Working with a coach will help you focus on God's leading and implement plans that reflect the kingdom of God. Coaches help you listen to God's leading regarding your ministry, maintain focus in the midst of chaos, reflect on experiences and increase learning, recognize God's activity and respond appropriately, respond effectively to obstacles and struggles, think through and prioritize options, and develop action steps to move from vision to reality. You will plant a church within a network of support, encouragement, and equipping.
Collaborating with other Church Planters. You will also have the joy of collaborating and learning from other church planters through monthly video-conferences and tele-forums, church planter retreats, and on-line discussions.
Mission Alive exists to equip church planters and provide church planter care within a collaborative community.
Church planting, the third step, organically emerges out of the equipping stage. It involves engaging the culture, forming community, making disciples, and equipping leaders. These steps emerge as you join God on His mission.
Engaging the Culture. The first step of church planting is engaging the culture with godly compassion. You will spiritually nurture yourself to love like Christ, who had compassion on the people “because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36). You will pray to the Lord of the harvest “to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matt. 9:37) and soon find that the harvesters are “worthy people” (Matt. 10:11) or “people of peace” (Luke 10:6-7) already living within your context—in your family, neighborhoods, work places, and Third Places. You will prayerfully listen to God, seeking his leading, because you realize that mission flows from his initiative through his Holy Spirit. You might covenant under God to discover 50 friends over the first 6-12 months through loving hospitality and Christian service. In your relationships you will reflect Christ who touched the untouchable, loved the unlovable, and proclaimed the Gospel. You will not only learn the contours of the local culture but also gather people who are on journey with you to know God.
Forming Community. A community of faith emerges out of these personal relationships. As people see Christ in your life, they desire to know more, to participate more, to know how this God-thing works out in practice. They become part of your nurturing community of focused prayer, praise of God, obedience to scripture, and compassionate service. In this process Mission Alive nurtures you as you nurture others. Over time these communities multiply in new neighborhoods and within new family units. The holiness and love of these communities leads disciples to “declare the praises of him who called [them] out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Pet. 2:9). Worship gatherings bring these emerging communities together for fellowship and equipping.
Making Disciples. The purpose of this Christian community is to lead searchers to become disciples (or apprentices) of Jesus. At an appropriate time you will, like Jesus, call searchers who have witnessed God’s goodness within your fellowship to make a commitment to follow Jesus (Luke 5:27). These searchers, witnessing that “the Lord is good” (1 Pet. 2:3), will “crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it [they] will grow up in [their] salvation” (1 Pet. 2:2). Many, like the apostles, will become “fishers of men,” who proclaim the kingdom of God through both words and compassionate service. You will learn applications of Jesus’ commission to “go and make disciples . . . , baptizing . . . and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20).
Equipping Leaders. Christian leaders are spiritually formed within the context of disciple-making. You will discover both divine and human elements in equipping leaders. Christ is the prime mover because by his grace he has provided specific gifts to the body (Eph. 7-8, 10). These gifts prepare leaders (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers) to nurture the body (vs. 11). Your role is to serve as God’s servant “to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up” (4:12). You will learn to discern how God is working within lives, maturing disciples and equipping them according to their giftedness.
Joining God on His Mission. These disciples and leaders grow to maturity through joining God on his mission. In a real sense mission is the very lifeblood of the church. As the body cannot survive without blood, so the church cannot survive without mission. As God’s person on His mission, you will cultivate spiritual friendships with searchers. You will reflect the ministry of Jesus by serving the poor, sick, and oppressed. You will practice hospitality by inviting neighbors, friends, and maturing Christians and leaders into your home and visiting searchers in their homes. In all these relationships you will tell the story of God’s salvation. You will seek to walk intimately with God reflecting his love and holiness.
Planning for Planting Multiple Churches. Your ultimate goal is not to simply plant a church but to plant churches that plant churches that plant still other churches. Your goal is to ultimately be used by God to develop a church-planting network. You will realize that this is only possible when the church planting is made simple and thus replicable. Only then can it develop the momentum to spread like a virus—like the early church or the church in contemporary China (Hirsch The Forgotten Ways 2006, pp. 18-22).
Identifying, Equipping, and Sending Apostolic Leaders. The beginning of missions is prayer because ultimately missions is done by the leading and power of God. You will thus “ask the Lord of the harvest . . . to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matt. 9:38). As Christians come to maturity and leaders develop, you will ask the Lord to identify those with the apostolic gift. Apostolic leaders are missionaries sent by God to be at the vortex of a movement drawing those searching for Christ to Him, nurturing them to Christian maturity, and equipping them for service to God. You will equip and send out these leaders in an on-going partnership with Mission Alive.
Nurturing New Churches to Maturity. The end result is mature churches. These churches “grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body joined and held together by every supporting ligament grows and builds itself up in love as each part does its work” (Eph. 4:16). You will give glory to God for his work in leading you forward in his mission. You will realize that you are only a “jar of clay” shining forth the light of the Gospel “to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Cor. 4:7). You can only be employed by God as his equipper in his mission.
This church planting process—discerning, equipping, planting, reproducing— is ultimately the work of God through and within us.