Missional church

Church planting

Church planting is a process by which new churches are established. This is usually accomplished with help from a denomination, a church planting center, a local church or churches, a network, an association, and/or other church planting resources. The term can be applied to the establishing of churches as a legal entity and organization, as well as establishing an organic simple church or house church, which may or may not be formally organized.

In an international non-American missiological context, church planting may be defined as "initiating reproductive fellowships who reflect the kingdom of God in the world. Another similar term, Church Planting Movement (CPM), is defined as a rapid and multiplicative increase of indigenous churches planting churches within a given people group or population segment.

Views on church planting

Widely divergent views exist within evangelicalism regarding appropriate methods for "church planting," although as a concept it has won broad support quite rapidly. Some people advocate a very simple, uncluttered, unstructured approach to planting a new church, beginning with a few families and meeting in homes. Others pursue a "high-yield" or "high impact" strategy, requiring months of preparation before a formal launch designed to attract hundreds of people to the first worship service.

Models of church planting

These are some of models for church planting. Any given church plant may include a portion of each of these models. The model of church plant will be determined by the leaders and is best chosen to fit the needs of the community in which the church will be started.

Parachute Drop – A church planter and their family move into a new location to start a church from scratch. The planter has very little connection with or existing support within the new area. The planter and their family are “pioneering” new territory. Where there is great risk, there is great reward, but this approach is not for the faint of heart and requires a person particularly gifted in personal evangelism.

Pros Cons
The church plant has great flexibility in possible mission, vision, and adaptation to the local culture. A church planter that is new to an area may not be able to connect with the population.
There is great potential for a church plant in an area where there are no existing churches. The church plant may suffer from lack of support, financial and otherwise.

Mother / Daughter – An existing church or church planting organization (Mother) provides the initial leadership and resources (money and/or people) to get a new church (Daughter) started. This includes the selection of the church planter. Often the church planter is selected from within the organization and already agrees with the vision, values and beliefs of the sponsoring organization, or has been employed with a view to planting. The existing relationship allows for a close working relationship between the “mother” and “daughter” churches. Although the new church is autonomous, the sponsoring organization often has significant influence in the new church (including decision making during the pre-launch phase). Advantages often include increased financial resources and the ability to draw core team / launch team members from the sponsoring organization.

Collaborative Network / Partnership – This is a rapidly growing trend where an organization (or many organizations) committed to church planting work together to plant churches. These informal alliances are referred to as collaborative or partnership networks. The participating organizations often share common beliefs and a passion for starting new churches. Planters often get many of the benefits of the “sponsoring church” model but with increased autonomy in decision making. This pattern often crosses denominational boundaries in a spirit of co-operation.

House Church / Cell Church Network – Small (5-20 people) groups / cells form and multiply via a network of people meeting in homes. In some cases, the individual cells are connected in a larger network that meets together periodically in a large group setting. This relational model focuses on personal growth, care and teaching through one-on-one and small group discipleship. Groups are birthed through multiplication, and, often die, only to resurface months or even years later. This model requires very little funding.

Satellite / Campus / Multi-site – An existing church opens new locations. The idea is for one church to have many meeting locations. Motives range from reaching more non-Christians to making more room at an existing location. The evolving multi-site model is proving important in creating an entrepreneurial spirit of multiplication / replication within existing churches. It is still to be determined whether this model will spark an increased rate of new autonomous church planting. It is obviously attractive to larger churches, which explains why Willow Creek Community Church has moved in this direction, but smaller churches have also successfully implemented the strategy.

Restart / Re-launch – An existing struggling church decides to bury the old and plant a fresh new church. The restart may or may not be at a new location and may or may not be with the same leadership. The resources of many older stagnant churches are a good way to bring new life to the community being served.

Church Split – Unfortunately, this model of church planting most often results from disunity and as a result, it is the most dangerous form of planting. A split typically occurs when competing groups conclude there is less energy required to “split” or “divorce” than to resolve differences and reconcile. The underlying factors causing the split often develop over years, only to “explode” in what seems like a spontaneous act. In many cases, the dysfunctional character traits of the old church carry forward to the new churches, but the passion on both sides of the argument can often lead to surprising growth. Not to be recommended as a strategy!

Also, see the expansion of the Church in the Third world and in places such as China and North Korea.

Stephen's Model - This internal apostolic planting model derived from the book of Acts is designed as an in-house people-focus (ta ethne) language church plant. The premise of this planting model centers on reaching different language groups within the community surrounding the church for the spread of the Gospel with an in-house mission's representative from the church who can communicate to the different language group. The purpose of this model is to maintain the unity and accord of Christ's Church while indoctrinating the new language group into the Word of God and the church through contextual assimilation. This model is not two churches within a church but one united churches evangelistic approach to different cultural language groups within the same community who may have a different language that limits their ability to integrate into the churches cultural environment. The new language people group have their own worship service (undistracted vertical devotion to the LORD) within the church while sunday school and all other groups, committees, or functional church teams (the horizontal fellowship) are set up with all people groups participating together as One Body united in Christ. (Designed by Pastor Earl Wentzel,his wife Maria, Pastor Scott Johnston and Pastor Frank Dooley. Implemented in Maugansville Baptist Church in Maryland)


Leading church growth writer C.Peter Wagner famously observed that Church Planting is the most effective evangelistic strategy under heaven, and for its advocates, this remains church planting's greatest rationale. Recent practitioners have developed sophisticated theologies of church, place and community, which have gone a long way to answer the criticism of earlier, cruder models. Among the most important are Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church Manhattan (with a church planting arm, the movement, Ed Stetzer, and Steve Childers of Global Church Advancement Although all three are Americans based in the US, their organisations are aiming to have a global impact.

Theological Objections

Church planting literature tends to focus on methods, which shows that it is often situated within modern culture, although a minority of recent material shows awareness of this and is being more subtly developed. Attention still needs to be given to interpreting the Biblical text so that an adequate account of the nature of church may be used as a starting point. Equally, the fact that a community of faith socialises its members over a long period of time to live a particular shared lifestyle is often neglected. A vision of church that shows an understanding of process, together with a renewed Biblical ecclesiology would go a long way towards remedying inadequate church planting hermeneutics.

The difference between methods and methodology is this: whilst there may be a number of methods for church planting, the decision as to which method is chosen is determined by methodology. In other words, the key question is found in the way that such a decision is made. Is priority given to organisational features, or spiritual features? Will the church be shaped by the needs of the congregation for discipleship, or will it be shaped around the desire to offer congregation members a choice? These questions may not matter as much as acknowledging the paradigm within which such questions are being asked. An appropriate methodology may well arise from this sort of theological reflection. Where the right questions are being asked, methodological rigour may lead to appropriate methods. It is in this sphere that the major challenge to church planting lies: developing an appropriate ecclesiology as a precursor to church planting methods.

Practical Objections

For Anglicans and Catholics, churches are usually built under the jurisdiction of the local bishop.

The Church of England has begun its Fresh Expressions initiative, which is seeking to encourage the development of new congregations even when they are across parish boundaries, for the sake of mission, under the bishop's permission. The recent Anglican conference GAFCON contained a broad hint that it would consider offering oversight to churches that have been planted without authorization from the local bishops. Other patterns are being developed by the Anglican Diocese of Sydney.


See also

Additional reading

  • Mark Driscoll, The Radical Reformission: Reaching Out without Selling Out
  • Mark Driscoll, Confessions of a Reformission Rev.: Hard Lessons from an Emerging Missional Church
  • George Hunter, Church for the Unchurched
  • Ralph Moore, Starting a New Church: The Church Planter's Guide to Success
  • Aubrey Malphurs, Planting Growing Churches for the 21st Century: A Comprehensive Guide for New Churches and Those Desiring Renewal
  • Steve Sjogren and Rob Lewin, Community of Kindness
  • Andy Stanley and Ed Young, Can We Do That? 24 Innovative Practices that will Change the Way You Do Church
  • Ed Stetzer, Planting New Churches in a Postmodern Age
  • Rick Warren, The Purpose-Driven Church
  • Bob Logan, How to Plant a Church, Beyond Church Planting, Be Fruitful and Mulitply
  • Neil Cole - Organic Church - Growing Faith where Life Happens.
  • Pete Ward - Liquid Church
  • Stuart Murray - Church Planting: Laying Foundations

External links

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