Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and Missions. Thank you for joining us for episode 206 of Missions on Point. This is a series on church planting. It's a conversation that will talk about many of the different issues involved in church planting, both domestically and internationally. This episode will deal with universal issues to answer. There are a lot of resources out there on church planting. Many of them are academic in nature, some based on research, and some just based on practical experience. This series is our attempt to just be very reasonable about answering questions that come up to demystify the whole idea of church planting. I should mention that as of July one this week, the book Missions on Point, subtitled, the local church at the heart of Ecclesiology and Missiology, is now available on Amazon in hardcover and Kindle. We praise God for the completion and release of this book.

The whole first third of the book deals with the biblical basis for the church at the center of everything, and certainly that is the driving force of biblical church planting. So I would encourage you to go to Amazon, search for Missions on Point and take a look at it, buy it, share it with your pastor, your missions' leader at your church, or a mission agency executive that you might know. Let's get into today's episode. We're going to talk about five M words. The second one we're going to expand quite a bit. So the first one is meeting place. The second one is model of church plant. The third is marketing, fourth is money, and the fifth concept is melding. We'll talk about that when we get to it.

1. So the first universal issue to answer is meeting place, whether it is a home or a business space that's not used on Sundays.

It might be another church that's shared, maybe in the afternoon or the evening. It might be a public rented auditorium or a park reception area. It could be a renovated commercial space that's used regularly and leased or owned by the church, and in some cases it might just be outside. There's a humorous story about this from a majority Muslim country that I'm aware of. The church had been meeting in a home, but the police were aware of their meeting, and someone had complained, and so they went to the church and said to the leaders, "Look, it's really not good for you to meet in a home like this. Technically, it could be against the law, but we don't want to get you in trouble, so why don't you find someplace else to meet?" The leaders and the people of the church decided to meet outside in a public park.

So the weather was fine. They met in a circle. They sat on the grass and on some of the park benches there, they played guitar, they sang, they prayed, they preached just like normal. And what happened is people that were in the park came around and they were listening to them. They had never heard this message before. They had never seen Christians, people who were genuine believers in Jesus Christ. So the second week they did it again, and even more people came. The first people came from the first week, and maybe they told others, and they had more people watching. Well, the police of course are observing this. So after that service, they went back to the leaders and said, "We think it's okay for you to meet in the home again." A number of church plants that I'm aware of meet in a restaurant on Sunday mornings before the restaurant usually opens.

Some church plants in a country setting might meet in a cleared off area of a barn. And often church plants have to meet in more than one place. They usually don't locate in one place and stay there forever. They're forced by circumstances or by the lease agreement, or by their own growth, to move out of a place and find another place. You may recall from our previous episode that flexibility is one of the keys to coping with all the changes coming with a church plant.

2. The second universal issue is the model of the church plant, and this has two driving things.

One is, what is the causing force or source for the church plant that helps determine its model? The second one is what is the desired end goal? Those two are related, sometimes overlapping, but let me run through the thinking on these things.

First, the model of the church plant may be caused by a force or a source like one church wanting to plant another church that is very much like itself. So the mother church wants the daughter church to be much like itself. So the model of the church plant follows the model of the source church. It could be multiple churches, it could be churches that are within an association or a fellowship of like-minded churches, or a synod, and those churches have some expectations about what the model of the church would look like, and that is part of the causing force for having or adopting a particular model. It could be that the church plant is independent of a sponsoring church, that they decide on their own, so they have to think and brainstorm, with a clean slate, "What do we want to look like? What is our model going to be like? What is our aspiration?"

Another causing force would be a church split or a breakaway, or a mutual commitment of both the sending and the going parties in that church split or breakaway. Those usually have some challenging relational issues to deal with as the new church forms, but that's also a way that God sometimes uses to cause a church plant. It could be a church formed by departing from a church that has left its biblical foundations. And we're actually seeing quite a bit of this in recent days through some historical major denominations that have slid off the rails with regard to their doctrine or their biblical understanding of things, and the more conservative groups says, "Oh no, we want to either split off of the denomination and form our own church," a type of a church plant, or "we will move away and start our own church that has some of the better roots of the historical doctrine of the Bible than where our denomination or our association is going."

And then there is a causing force of a spontaneous commitment by a group of individuals seeking to plant a church. Just a group of families get together and say, "You know what? We really want to have a good Bible teaching church in our area, and there isn't one here, what if we form the basis of a church plant and we ask someone, a church or an individual or a church plant pastor to come and help us form as a new church?" I've actually been a part of two church plants that were that way. The first was a group of five families that got together and said, "We really want to have a good Bible-based church in our community." It was a rural community. The other one was a group of people that were meeting with a really good preacher that was visiting only on a rotation basis and they wanted to develop a church.

They had never had any structure of a church, but they just loved good Bible teaching and fellowship, and the ministries that evolved out of their group. A second factor or vector pushing the model of a church plant, would be the desired end goal. Is the desired end goal to be a video or virtual extension of a source church? Usually that's a mega church that wants to have a video extension. I frankly don't call that a church at all. And they have to make all kinds of accommodations for pastoring and shepherding because obviously the pastor is so far away. There's no way he could know the people or the people really know him. They just see him on a high-def screen. Another desired end goal might be that a particular association or synod or like-minded Fellowship of independent churches would like to get together and start an additional church plant of the same kind.

Again, that highly influences what the model's going to be, partly because there's more people involved in the discussion and decision-making than just the people directly involved in the church plant. One of the desired end goals might be to have a new church of a different type, seeking a different doctrine or affiliation, or even a different cultural leaning. It wouldn't be out of the ordinary for a predominantly white church to want to start a new church plant that has much more of a flavor of Hispanic or Asian or African-American inclination. And of course, the mission context would be a desired in goal in which a new church develops in a pioneering context where a church never existed previously. These two major categories can shape the model of the church plant, the causing force, how does it initiate or get started, and what does the desired end goal as the people involved discuss that and come up with a plan for how to attain that goal?

3. The third universal issue to answer has to do with marketing, and it doesn't seem like that should be such a big deal, but it really is.

You've got to think about it and agree together, because there is a broad spectrum of marketing and a lot of costs and effort involved, whether it is personal marketing or impersonal promotion via media. Or mail. Or television. Or social media through the internet in a variety of different ways. Of course, in a pioneering context, where the church might not even be fully legal, and the culture is opposing, none of the public, usual media ways are going to work. It has to be personal. In most cases, local churches that want to start with a high value on relationships do it almost entirely personally. They may have some printed collateral that they hand out, either at the church services or around the community, or past from those who are the early church members to others of their friends and colleagues and co-workers.

Those personal contacts are much more effective than all of the impersonal things. Marketing may include events that are taking place within the community, or events sponsored entirely by the church, inviting others to become a part of it so that they get to know and see the local church in a more social or event-oriented aspect.

4. The fourth universal issue to answer has to do with money.

Basically, it is how much subsidy takes place for an early church plant versus the long-term goal of financial self-sufficiency. Often a small home-based church plant will have no subsidy whatsoever. It's all done based on the volunteerism of whoever is the spiritual leader of the group and the group themselves. In one sense, the non-paid pastor house church has a lot of advantages because their funding can go almost entirely to ministry-oriented things. On the other end of the spectrum are churches or groups of churches that prefer to pour lots of money into a church plant.

They may fully subsidize them for one or two or three years, including all staff, multiple staff, salary, all startup expenses and benefits, and the location, and all of the marketing and media that takes place, even things down to the expensive musical worship service technologies. I remember hearing of a church plant near us, after they had gotten really millions of dollars on the front end, had a project for their church plant, that was trying to be a megachurch, of $500,000 just to improve the audiovisual stuff that they use in their worship services. Of course, part of the culture of the local church plant needs to be that the people ought to be supporting the church themselves. Ultimately, the goal is to have local churches, just like we say in missions, that are self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating.

5. Number five, the last universal issue area is melding, and what I mean by that is, the pre-launch training and expectations of all those involved in the early part of the church plant, becoming of one heart and mind about these initial issues.

I highly recommend that those involved in the church plant get together and spend time praying, spend time talking and discussing how it's going to go, what it's going to look like, before they ever start Sunday services. It's almost, in my mind, a mistake to just start Sunday services without thinking through how do we usher people into the auditorium? How do we seat them? What is the flow of the service going to be? What are we having with regard to our liturgy or the order of service of scripture reading, singing, prayer, congregational response, perhaps offering the Lord's table, the preaching of the word, and how does this all fit into a reasonable amount of time? Those church plant members from the very beginning need to be a part of the conversation of discussing, of laying that out, and having proper expectations in a pre-launch training sequence that could take anywhere from two to six months before they ever have their very first Sunday morning service.

Obviously, there are elements of all of these thoughts that can change with a particular environment or setting in which the church plant is started, because there may be prescribed answers to these things. If you're in a truly pioneering missionary setting, you've got to think about those things, and you have more time to think about them because you're basically starting with no believers except your church plant team to start with. And again, it's understood, as you develop, realism comes into play and you need to make adjustments. You've got to remain flexible and dependent upon God. You do not want to miss the next episode of Missions on Point, and hey, check out the Missions on Point book on Amazon. Thanks.

Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point. We trust that you'll find more help and resources on our websites at and We are so thankful for those who support us, enabling us to produce this podcast. Now to God, be Glory in the church and in Christ Jesus, forever and ever. Amen.

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