As the editor of the Church Planting and Mission blog for Job 31 I am tasked with the responsibility of providing excellent content to help men live on mission. With this in mind I cannot think of a better resource to recommend than Church Planter Magazine and the Church Planter Podcast. Peyton Jones is the editor of the magazine and co-host of the podcast. He leads the New Breed Church Planting Network and is the author of Church Zero; another excellent resource. I encourage you to grab a free subscription to Church Planter Magazine and get a copy of Church Zero. You won’t be disappointed.
By Peyton Jones
The most frequent question I’m asked is “how do I start?”
When you get ready to take the plunge, and dive into church planting, there are a few rules. Number one, you need to build your team. Being hasty and dropping out the hatch without this in place is tantamount to dropping without performing your safety checks.
Out of impatience and supposed “faith” in the power of God to do anything, you might be tempted to jump alone from the pinnacle of the temple and see if the angels will hold you up. The problem is that’s not faith…it’s stupid…and it’s church planting suicide played to the tune of rock-and-roll bravado.
Last year I watched a documentary on illegal base jumping and found that the few guys brave enough to jump off of cliffs and skyscrapers with flying suits always feel compelled to have a jumping partner. Think about that. These guys have more balls than the pit at Chucky Cheese yet they still want a partner with them at all times.
They’re not afraid to jump… just afraid to jump alone.
If nothing else, it might just be to have somebody to scrape them off the ground if the jump goes wrong. When I first founded New Breed, I realized that there were other jumpers ready to strap on the parachute, but like me, they just didn’t want to do it alone. Therefore New Breed began to form up networks of church planting, with the first two churches serving as sending agencies, so that the other guys coming up behind us would never have to jump alone.
When you’re a year into your church plant, on the “No Man’s Land” side of the front line, knee deep in mud, guts, and fear, you’ll be eternally grateful that you’ve got a band of brothers who can stand next to you and shoulder the burden of leading the troops. That’s right soldier, you need a team. The team you serve with is your platoon of like minded commandos who are willing to jump on the grenade in your foxhole. They’re not just your team mates, they’re your brothers in arms, and sometimes they pull you out of the soup, throw you on their back, and carry your bullet riddled body to the safety of an airlift.
When New Breed co-founder Dai Hankey planted in a rough Welsh council estate, there were a number of Monday mornings that I peeled him off the ground with a phone call and when I was low he returned the favor. He helped me to stay in Wales as I fought my transition from Californian reptile (where there is 6 days of rain a year) to Welsh amphibian (where there is 6 days of sun a year). I can’t even tell you how much of an encouragement we were to each other during those initial years through turning up at each other’s churches and making phone calls. It just helped to know that there was some other nut out there who considered me normal. I’ve come to the conclusion that there is something about tying two foxes together by the tail and having them carry a torch through the harvest fields that sets Philistine country ablaze! Nonetheless, be it Paul, or any of the church planters, they never go it alone. To do so is unwise, unsafe and discouraging.
Some guys go at church planting haphazardly…almost recklessly, resembling Daffy Duck drinking the potion in the devil costume on the Vaudeville stage. “I can only do this trick once” they shout, and spontaneously combust into flames, leaving a black residue on the floor. Finding the right team is essential to preventing you from the church planters crash-and-burn.
Many planters get the great commission like the disciples in Matthew 28 but struggle with the “tarry in Jerusalem” part of Acts 1. Slow down turbo. You’ll get your shot, but first we gotta build your squad.
Reflecting on planting the Corinthian church, Paul said that he “laid a foundation like a wise and master builder” (1 Cor 3:10). Compared to our padawan efforts at planting, Paul was a Jedi master at it. Paul used a team approach that wasn’t too much unlike the building of modern houses. When building a house, you need a team of plumbers, electricians, foundation layers, carpenters, and otherwise. God left behind a five-fold aspect to ministry wherein a pastor supplies what an evangelist is lacking and an “apostle” (little ‘a’) does what a pastor can’t do. There is a pattern in the New Testament of traveling in teams of apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers. Guys who can complement your weaknesses. One guy leading isn’t enough. Jesus sent them two by two.
Paul knew he should never walk alone because his Master’s method was to send them in teams of two, propelling the disciples out into the towns of Judea in dynamic duos like double-barreled shotgun blasts. Did you notice the breakdown of the teams in Luke 10? There were 36 teams of two. Similarly, check out Barnabas’s Method of Operations. In Acts 11:25 when Barnabas is sent by the twelve to go and check out what’s happening up in Antioch, the first thing he decides to do is find a partner. That’s going to be step one for you too. Barnabas too took lessons from the Master, tagged his bags for Tarsus, and booked a passage to recruit a once legendary figure named Saul, who after 11 years had faded into obscurity. Therefore, recruiting your team is the first step to laying a foundation if you’re going to do it like a wise and master builder.
Paul’s 1st century Church planting network enabled multiple teams to strategically hit numerous targets throughout a broader area, operating in a bartering system of interchangeable men with interchangeable gifts who travel to an area when needed. Paul’s network was Asia Minor, and he moved his carpenters, plumbers, and electricians all around this little piece of Turkish real estate as and when needed.
Job 31 Ministries wants to thank Peyton for his support to our ministry. Peyton Jones is the co-host of the, editor of Church Planting Magazine, author of Church Zero regarding Apostolic church planting, and he’s also a church planter with New Breed. If you’d like more information about Jump School and church planting, or about Peyton’s podcast, go to his site ChurchPlanterMagazien.com
From the outset of this article I want to be clear that my intention is not to beat up on Western missionaries or organizations. Rather, I hope through this article to help you see things from a different perspective that may be beneficial to our efforts to expand the kingdom of God to the ends of the earth. The problem mentioned in the title is the problem of fragmentation. What do I mean by fragmentation?
In the West we are inclined to break things down into individual units. With regards to global engagement and mission we divide the task into many separate components. We have ministries that focus on segments like church planting, evangelism, orphan care, development and poverty alleviation, justice, human trafficking, etc. The list is almost endless and the specifications abound. As a result we have a myriad of denominational and parachurch organizations working and overlapping one another.
One benefit to this approach is that specialization/expertise in specific areas is helpful when addressing very complex issues like poverty and all of its social and spiritual implications. However, let’s think for a moment about the downside. To put this into perspective lets zero in on one hypothetical community. We’ll call it Example Town (ok so I’m not very creative). Example Town is a very poor community in the developing world and, as is expected, has many different spiritual and social problems. These problems are typically addressed by numerous ministries from the various segments listed above.
For example, Ministry A is a church planting ministry working in Example Town. This in and of itself is very unusual. Normally, church planting ministries from the West do not focus their efforts on very poor communities. Instead they usually invest their resources in middle and upper class communities where the church can quickly become financially self-sustaining. That being said, in this case, Ministry A has decided to work in this needy community.
In keeping with their Western propensity to break things down into individual components Ministry A focuses their church planting efforts on the spiritual needs of the people. They do evangelism and preach at multiple services a week. They do an excellent job of caring for the souls of the community but are not very effective at caring for bodies. This is okay for them because, in part, they know others will come and minister to the bodies while they do the “more important” work of winning souls.
Enter Ministry B which is a group that focuses on feeding the hungry. They are staffed by godly people who love Jesus and want to feed him by feeding the poor. Thus they arrive in Example Town and setup a feeding center. They serve three meals a day and give the children in the community vitamins. They really help the poor families in Example Town to avoid malnutrition. They even do some Bible stories with the children but they have no real ties to Ministry A or to the local body of Christ, except that hunger forces some members of the church to eat there on a regular basis.
There are lots of orphans in Example Town. Aids has really taken a toll here. Ministry B is able to feed some of the orphans but they are not able to get them off the streets. Thankfully Ministry C shows up and builds an orphanage to care for these children. The Western couple who runs the orphanage love the children and, as best they can, treat all 80 of them as if they were their own. Now that they have arrived the orphans don’t have to eat at Ministry B any longer so they are able to help other families. This is a great help to the community as well, but outside of this the two groups have little to do with one another and even less to do with the church that Ministry A is planting.
Ministries A, B, and C are doing good work in Example Town. Souls are being won, the poor are being fed and orphans are being cared for. This is all excellent news, but unless something changes in the community the people will always be poor and need ministries A, B, and C to care for them. Fortunately, Ministry D is sending a team to Example Town. This is wonderful because Ministry D is focused on poverty alleviation and development. They jump right in and begin making micro-loans and teaching job skills in the community. As Christians they are governed by the gospel, but their focus is structural change, so they decide to leave the spiritual work to Ministry A.
Example Town is a lucky place. They have foreigners from four ministries caring for their needs. Meanwhile the members of the church that Ministry A is planting show up like clockwork for services and worship events, but they aren’t very engaged in the community. As non-Westerners they have a deep concern for the whole individual and community. However, their church says the soul is what is really important and besides those nice people from overseas are taking care of the orphans and the hungry for them. As a result they continue to learn about Jesus and want to be involved in ministering to the community but they can’t compete with Ministry B, C, and D so they will just keep winning souls and watching from the sidelines.
Before I go any further let me be clear. This is a very simplistic generalization to hopefully make a point. The examples above are not intended to represent any particular ministry, but are intended to point out a very typical approach to global engagement by the West. If Ministry A, B, C, and D actually represented any specific ministries I would adamantly affirm their love for Jesus and desire to serve him by engaging the world. That being said I would like to propose an alternative approach.
Now imagine Example Town is a needy community among the global poor. Currently no one from the West is working in the community and the people are struggling with spiritual and physical poverty. One day Ministry E shows up. Ministry E is a church planting ministry, but they are different from Ministry A described above. Ministry E thinks like the local people think. They believe that Jesus loves whole people and they don’t divide them into souls and bodies. Instead they believe that their church planting efforts should be comprehensive in nature. They want to bring total transformation in the community so that it reflects the kingdom of God in every aspect of life and they want this to be done by the local church, the local hands and feet of Jesus.
With this in mind Ministry E begins working in the community in much the same way Ministry A would. They visit homes and lead cell groups. They organize corporate worship services and even have Sunday School. However, as they enter people’s homes and spend time with them they quickly realize that the people in Example Town are hungry. Rather than contacting Ministry B and asking them to send someone to open a feeding center they decide to dedicate some resources to equipping the small number of new believers they have reached to begin feeding the hungry in their community.
The church plant explains to these new followers of Christ that they are to love God and love their neighbors. This love is a sacrificial love that sets aside self and serves others. With this understanding and minimal resources from Ministry E the local body begins to deliver food to the community and prepare meals. In the process, in a very green and unpolished way, they begin telling their neighbors about the one who died to give them new life. The one who was hungry, tired, and rejected so that they would not have to be.
As they continue to feed the hungry among them, their numbers grow, and they take notice of all the orphans in their community. They search the scriptures to see what obligation they have to these orphans. They learn that as Christians they have a responsibility to care for widows and orphans. So, naturally they begin helping them. Even in their poverty they determine to do something. Some of the church members give their blankets and warm clothing to the elderly widows. Others take orphan children into their homes. Realizing that they cannot do this alone they approach Ministry E, who is helping to plant the church in their community, and Ministry E joins them in working together to care for the widows and orphans.
Finally, the members of the church plant realize that unless some things change structurally their community will always struggle with these issues. They develop plans to help the young people stay in school and provide job skills training. They develop ways to begin breaking the cycle of poverty. The problem is they too are poor and in need of these things personally as well. They go back to Ministry E and share their vision. The leaders of Ministry E, wanting to encourage the local body as they seek to transform Example Town for the glory of Christ, join them and begin equipping the local church to implement their vision. They even provide the seed money to begin several projects the local leaders have planned and will execute.
I hope you see the difference between the two examples. The most significant is the involvement the local church has in the approach Ministry E takes. Of lesser significance, is the cost savings that result from one organization taking a comprehensive approach and joining with the local body, rather than four separate entities working in Example Town. In this example the approach of Ministry E represents the approach of Living Bread Ministries. Living Bread is the organization I founded for the purpose of comprehensive church planting among the global poor. We are currently working in Brazil, Thailand, and Kenya and all of our church planting efforts follow the comprehensive approach demonstrated above. To learn more visit www.livingbread.org.