A Working Definition of Missional Church Planting

During the month of May we are investigating what the Bible has to say about church planting. Here’s my “working definition” of church planting which provides the skeletal outline for this series:

Church Planting is:

  • Planting the SEED of the gospel
  • in the SOIL of a culture
  • and trusting the SOVEREIGNTY of God
  • to bring forth a THRIVING CHURCH.

We like this definition for a number of reasons: it is organic; it sees a visible church as the end rather than the beginning (people living as missionaries in their culture is the beginning); it involves both hard work and patient, prayerful dependence on God. The definition attempts to capture four important elements of any missional endeavor:

  • gospel proclamation and demonstration (planting seed)
  • contextualization (understanding the soil)
  • prayerful dependence (resting in God’s sovereignty)
  • gospel renewal (goal is a thriving church – Acts 2:41-47 – not just any church)

What do you like about this definition? Or, what adjustments would you propose?


Leave a Comment

  1. I like this definition because it’s easy to understand and remember :). However, would contextualization come before gospel proclamation, practically? I’m looking forward to next week – I am particularly struggling with how to plant seed in wealthy soil or culture. What does that LOOK like? (How is that for a subtle hint?) Are one’s efforts better spent cultivating the soil of their own socio-economic class?

  2. I really appreciated your sermon from Sunday and look forward to the rest of the series throughout May. I like the four elements of church planting that you highlight–it just seems to hit all the right buttons. My only reservation was in the way the second point of the definition was phrased. Maybe it is just because I am new to Coram Deo and am not up to speed on the lingo, but when I hear “culture” I think of what I learned in high-school sociology, where culture was defined as something like “the totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought.” (from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language on answers.com). In that sense, “culture”–at least in my mind–doesn’t seem like the proper target of the sowing of the gospel word. Rather, it seems to me that the word is sown among people. The gospel message must be communicated in a way that can be understood within the hearers’ cultural framework of understanding; nonetheless, the people who hear–not the culture of those people’s community–are the ones to whom the gospel message is being communicated and who must respond to it. Anyhow, that’s just how I understand things; I guess you’ll probably clear up my reservation when you dig into that second element next week.

  3. Bob,

    I like what you’ve put here. I work with David Nicholas @ The Church Planting Network, and we conduct a boot camp once a month (www.gospelbootcamp.org) for church planters and pastors to teach this very thing.

    The problem is that men assume too much of the gospel. First, they assume their people, even non-believers, know and understand the gospel. Second, pastors and planters think that the gospel is the first step, followed by many steps that walk us out and away from the gospel.

    The breakdown of this illustration however is at the point in which we realize that the gospel is the seed, yes, but also the whole point. The plant starts as a seed, and as it grows, it pollinates, and continually drops more seeds, encouraging the progressive growth of the organism and body. You’re last point “gospel renewal (goal is a thriving church – Acts 2:41-47 – not just any church)” can only be manifested if you continually preach the Bad News of our sin problem, and the Good News of Christ’s life, atoning death, and resurrection in a way that promotes new growth in salvation, and pruning for growth in the believer.

    As I said, many pastors don’t contemplate that last statement.

    Would you be OK with us launching this description on our website?

Leave a Reply