Saturday, February 24, 2007

Why Church Planting? A Theological Reason

We've taken a look at some external reasons for church planting--it's biblical, it's effective, it's needed in America today. But what will this mean for us? How is this going to affect our church? Why is this our job? The answers to some of those questions begin to take shape as we realize that


I think that the concept of "faith" is kind of foggy and vague for most Christians; if they had to define exactly what faith is, most of us would have a hard time putting our finger on it. Fortunately, the Bible has already given us a definition; it says that "Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" (Heb. 11:1 NIV).

"That's all well and good," one might say. "But what about all those people who were 'sure' and 'certain' about things that never came to be?" The question is a good one. Essentially, How do we know what to put our faith in? How do we know that this is the right course to pursue?

I want to answer that question by asking another question: What or who is it, ultimately, that we put our faith in?

  • Do we put our faith in this vision? No.
  • Do we put our faith in the elders and other church leaders? No.
  • Do we put our faith in me as the pastor of this church? No.

Our faith is not ultimately in any of these. Our faith is in God the Father, and in his overwhelming love for us that caused him to send Jesus to earth. Our faith is in the work that Jesus did on the cross to reconcile us to the Father, and in the Holy Spirit that lives in us and empowers us. Our faith is in the Word of God that has been given to us, and in all the promises and commands contained in it. THESE ARE THE THINGS WE PLACE OUR FAITH IN!

People will disappoint you; everyone you know will eventually fail you, if they haven't already. Causes will come and go. Finances and jobs will change. Ideas may or may not pan out. Plans will adjust. We cannot put our faith in any of these things. Only God, his kingdom, and his will merit our faith.

So, the new question becomes, Is this vision an expression of God, his kingdom, and his will? It seems clear to me that the answer is an unqualified "YES!" Here's why:

  • As explained in other posts in this blog, the Bible teaches that churches should give birth to other churches; church planting is an expectation that the Bible has for the local church as part of its inborn DNA.
  • As explained in other posts in this blog, church planting is unmatched in effectiveness for reaching new people with the life-changing message of Christ; it's clear that God blesses efforts to birth new churches.
  • As explained in other posts in this blog, the spiritual need of America is overwhelming; this is a need that can be met only by establishing more congregations.

I believe it is inarguable that this is something God calls us to do. Therefore, faith in God demands that we respond in obedience to him. It is not faith in the vision, faith in the leadership, or faith in your pastor that drives our church; but faith in God alone. If God is calling us to it, then you can be sure that we can do it. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

So what about the others who made bold claims and "stepped out in faith" only to see their plans fall flat? Every situation is different, but here are some common reasons why this happens:

  • Some people confuse their own desires with God's directions. Everything should be tested against scripture, experience, and (spiritual) reason;
  • Some people fail to see God's plans through all the way. God never asks anyone to do anything that's easy. Some people give up too soon;
  • Some people are mistaken about God's ultimate destination for them, yet are still being led by him. Sometimes, he allows us to believe we are working toward one things when in reality we are working toward another. This should not be seen as a failure, but rather a reminder to keep seeking God each step of the way. For years, I believed I was preparing to become a theology professor when in reality God was preparing me to become a senior pastor.

Faith is proved by actions. "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?... Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead" (Jas. 2:14, 17 NIV). If we really have faith in God, then our faith demands that we respond to God in obedience.

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