We need to rethink three key themes in order to make church planting churches normative in the future:

  1. Rethink ecclesiology
  2. Rethink complexity
  3. Rethink pathways

Here’s what I mean. As leaders, we should always be carrying out aggressive assessment under the Spirit’s guidance in order to steward resources at our disposal. The Covid-19 moment provides a unique chance for leaders to hit the pause button and do the type of evaluation that we’re often prone to neglect.

First, we need to rethink our ecclesiology. We understand that the church is not the building, nor is it a worship gathering or event. The essence of the church is the people of God. However, often our language betrays our ecclesiology in this area. This matters for our church planting endeavors because we are sending out leaders who replicate in practice what they hear us describe. They often feel pressure around buildings or worship gatherings, which then shapes their scorecards of success and their planting methodology.

Next, we need to rethink complexity. There is often an inverse relationship between the complexity of our strategies and how likely they are to be reproduced. Or, said another way, the more complex something is the less likely it will be reproduced by others. Most leaders want more people involved in church planting but our practice wars against this when the cultural structures and methods of planting are highly complex. Only a few people can replicate these systems at this high level. But if we can reduce the complexity, we can widen the church planting table and invite more people into the process of multiplication.

Finally, we need to rethink our pathways. When we go to the Scriptures, we see that the early apostles would go into a new context, make disciples, establish a church, and appoint elders out of these newly converted believers. The work of church planting started with the harvest. In our day, we often start with finding pastors or church planting teams and then send them into a context in the hopes that an evangelistic plant will emerge. The future will require smaller groups—one who two people—who begin the work by sowing seeds of the gospel and raising up leaders from those whom God saves.

What a great day to be alive. Let’s lean into what God is doing. We need to pause from the frustrations of the present moment and harness these new paradigms that God might create in the wake of COVID-19.

Check out this video for more from J.D.

JD Payne
Author

J. D. Payne serves as an Associate Professor of Christian Ministry at Samford University. Prior to this, he was the pastor for church multiplication with The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama. Before moving to Birmingham, he served for ten years with the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and as an Associate Professor of Church Planting and Evangelism in the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where he also directed the Center for North American Missions and Church Planting.

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