Church Planting: Western Style

We are experiencing unprecedented population growth and prosperity in Western Australia. God is putting a great opportunity before us. In the words of CJ Tinsley, “We must evangelise or fossilize, we must become a mission force or a mission field.”The Baptist Church in Western Australia is in the process of developing a church planting strategy that draws on Scripture, our current culture, and lessons from our past. A series of foundational questions form the framework for our strategy.

What is a church?
In the New Testament we see that the church comprised people of different ages, class, and race. The church ranged from large groups meeting in the temple or other public meeting places, to small groups meeting in homes. Scripture tells us that church is a group of people committed to following Jesus and, together, sharing him with the community they are called to reach. In today’s culture, our community may not be geographically defined: it may be demographic. A church may consist of multiple congregations and multiple sites.

Who should plant a church?
Churches plant churches. In Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas are commissioned by the church at Antioch to make a missionary journey and plant churches. Acts 14 records their report back to Antioch of “all the things that God had done.” Paul and Barnabas had a sense of accountability to their sending church. It is to the local church that church planters are accountable, rather than the denomination.

If that is the case, what is the role of the denomination? In our context the denomination may encourage and assist a local church, or group of local churches, in ways such as:
• Assisting church leaders and members to gain a vision for church planting
• Assisting in the training and equipping of church planters
• Coaching church planters and their teams.

What is the purpose of a church plant?
Church plants are intentionally missional. Our experience tells us there is little use planting churches to gather those from the local community who are already Christians. It’s like the farmer who buys more land but doesn’t increase his stock. All he does is spread his resources more thinly, give each sheep more room to move, and increase his debt.

Who should plant a church?
Leading a church plant is different to pastoring an established church. We have discovered that church planters and their teams often need to be re-trained. Many people have grown up with an understanding that church exists within their buildings. This is far from truth, both biblically and practically.

Church planters are often the entrepreneurs who are willing to try new things, take risks, fail, and then keep going. I think the biblical word for that is faith. In today’s pluralistic culture, innovation and experimentation should to be encouraged. We need to think outside the parameters of the traditional church.

What is our commitment to church planting?
The church at Antioch sent out some of their best leaders. We too need to give our best resources to church planting. Too often in the past we have relied on the people who are not otherwise involved in their local church ministry, or who are perceived as trouble makers. We need to challenge, encourage and equip the best people we have to become church planters.

Where is the mission field?
God is bringing the mission-field to Australia. People from over 150 cultural backgrounds are settling in this country. It is an incredible mission to reach these people with the good news of Jesus Christ. In the last few years, most of our new churches in Western Australia have been formed with different groups of new arrivals to Australia. Churches with their own buildings can support these churches by sharing their God-given resources with a congregation from a different background.

Church Planting: Western Style (prac9).