I met a guy recently and we were talking about our ministry roles. I told him that I was beginning to transition from my position as youth director into the position of leading a team to start a “daughter church.” He responded, “Oh… so you’re a church planter.” It wasn’t really a question, but more of a statement – a statement that left me wondering if that was a good thing or a bad thing in his mind. Then I began to wonder if it was a good thing or a bad thing in my mind.
“Church Planter.” The label was like trying on some new clothes. My initial thought was, “wow, this is new and stylish!” But then I realized that it felt a little uncomfortable. The reality is that we are living through a time when we are tying to be careful and intentional about our language when it comes to the “church.” I’m not so sure that when people hear about church planting they think in terms of what we are trying to do with the Mountain View “daughter church” (I’m not sure I like that term either – I’m too picky!).
For starters, if I am a “church planter” then everyone else that I am working with is too. Our discernment team members are “church planters,” our session elders at Mountain View are “church planters,” our Presbytery leaders are “church planters,” and on it goes. Secondly, I’m concerned that when people think of a “church planter” they think of someone going in, getting a building, putting out advertising, and creating the next slick Sunday morning experience. In some ways, it is not unlike starting a new small business. But in this sense a “church planter” becomes a sort of “church supplanter” because they are simply pulling in people from the existing churches. Or, as I heard a speaker say recently, “circulating the saints.”
I’m also aware that I’m reacting a bit to the idea that when I hear of “church planter” I think of someone going to a place where the Church (I use that capital “C” on purpose) does not yet exist in an organized form. Take, for example, some parts of Senegal where our church and other are trying to reach “unreached people groups”. The truth is, God has been at work ahead of us, and the “Church” already exists and is active in Stanwood and on Camano Island. However, there does seem to be the need for some new expressions of the Body of Christ in those communities. There definitely seems to be the need for “more workers.” (Luke 10:2).
In some ways, what we are doing is like planting something new in a garden and nurturing it to see what kind of “fruit” it produces. I’m ok with being a type of “gardener” – watering, feeding, tending and working to allow new growth. All the while knowing that we are working with the mystery that the life created is the work of God alone. So how about you? What comes to your mind when you hear “church planter?”
4 thoughts on ““So you’re a church planter…””
When I consider the term, “church planting,” I think about gardening as well as Jesus and His apostles visiting existing synagogues and other gathering places of teaching/learning.
Those who were interested in learning more about the “seeds” of the Gospel would follow and meet separately in a new “garden” – just as John’s disciples followed Jesus to “where He was staying” (John 1) in order to learn from the Lamb of God.
Jesus’ followers (i.e. Nicodemus – John 3) were told they needed to be born again. I think of that as starting all over again; born into God’s “kinder-garten” – a garden for children. As children, new parents and teachers will be required.
Paul described himself as a father of children. He also talked about working (like Apollos and Peter) in tilling the soil, planting, and watering.
When it comes to establishing gardens, I turn to Genesis and God’s intentions for the Garden of Eden. I also turn to the parables of Jesus; especially Matthew 13. Parable of the Sower (soils). Parable of the Weeds. Parable of the Mustard Seed and Yeast…
Jesus calls Himself the Vine, us the branches, and the Father as the Gardener who does the pruning. There are all kinds of references to gardening and planting of vineyards in Scripture. So many allegories and stories. Which one fits this area? I guess you’ll find out as you start planting seeds of the kingdom – the truth spoken in love – and listen and watch to see what happens.
Luke 8 – The Parable of the Sower
9 His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,
“‘though seeing, they may not see;
though hearing, they may not understand.’
11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God.
12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.
13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.
14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.
15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”
I wonder what “crop” will be produced?
P.S. If it is a soil problem, we have mostly clay in this area. (In order to landscape and create gardens in our new construction yard, we first had to dig up truck loads of clay and buy 13 dump truck loads of new soil.)
I wonder if a “church model garden”‘ is necessary in order to illustrate what a Garden of Eden is supposed to look like (without the thorns, thistles, curses, and serpent)?
“Without vision, the people perish.” (Prov. 29:18)