Planting Churches

Watch this short video (length 4:55) before reading my thoughts below.


There are particular buzz words within the church today. Some of them include such words as missional, community, discipleship, relevant, authentic, and, of course, church planting (well, that’s two words).

None of those words mentioned above are bad words, by any means. They are actually quite important words. But when words, and their concepts, become fashionable and hip, that is when they could become problematic.

That is what I believe has happened with church planting, at least within some circles. Like church growth in the 90’s, church planting has become the hip phraseology of the past decade, and now into the teen’s (2010’s).

But what really strikes me is that church planting seems to have become a fad amongst a particular group.

Did you notice anything about those speaking in this video?

All but one were white, evangelical, middle-to-upper-middle-class white males.

Being one who falls into that group myself, I am very aware that we can come up with fads left and right.

Remember, by no means is church planting a bad thing. I believe it to be a good thing (well, within a certain confines). But when our great goal becomes church planting, or anything else outside of following Jesus, then we will tend to get off track. When we become obsessed with growing our churches or being relevant or having a small group of young men meeting in a coffee shop and slapping on the label discipleship, then we miss the ultimate point.

And this is also true when it comes to church planting.

Listen, I cannot reiterate enough that I do believe that expanding outwards is the goal of God in mission, rather than building upwards. I have shared on this subject before. Whereas we can lose focus when we obsess over moving towards a particular number in our local churches – 100, then 200, then 350, then 500, then 800, then 1000, etc – I would rather see multiplying congregations gathering together across an area, a city, a state, a province, a nation, as I believe we will be more effective in fulfilling the call to be salt and light in our world.

Though I am not sure if I will ever be involved with such, I would love to see such happen in the Brussels area, and even across Belgium and Europe.

But I am also not up for church planting simply because it is a fad of today, a movement in which everyone is caught up in. I am more interested in doing what the Father is doing, hearing what the Father is saying (kind of like that guy Jesus, see John 5:19). Being sent out without the voice of God, planting out without the sending of the Spirit (i.e. Acts 13:1-4) will probably not accomplish much. Maybe we can market it enough to make it happen. But we will be tired, we will be frustrated and we will not ultimately see the hand of God at work.

So within this video, I simply had a flag raise as I considered why such a church planting network has formed. It seems a good idea, and really it is not bad. But it’s only good if God is initiating such. I cannot judge whether these people have heard God. I suppose they would testify they have, and to that I would say I am truly excited to know.

But I am desirous to guard against the need of marketing such – Hey, if you want to plant a church, we want to help. Come join our group.

It seems a little unauthentic. And remember, authentic is an important word today.

Listen, I am sure the NorCal Network is seeking God, pursuing God, and only wanting to do what God desires. But I simply wanted to raise a little guard that we not rush into such for the sake of doing what is popular. Everyone’s doing it – from NorCal, to Acts29, to the emerging church, to C3 Church Global, to Hillsongs, and I suppose even within more traditional branches of the church, not to mention a host of other networks and groups that highlight they are church planters.

But let’s not do something to be part of the trend. Let’s be ok with putting our hands to the faithfulness of building up the local body God has entrusted to us. If God’s Spirit speaks (again, like in Acts 13:1-4), let’s move into prayer of how we can move out, maintaining the relational manner which God has called us to (please, no lone rangers). But let’s not get caught up in a movement or a fad because this is what is in. Let’s get caught up in hearing the voice of the Father and responding as He leads. We shall see much more fruit – in our own lives and in the lives of others.

8 thoughts on “Planting Churches

  1. Hey Scott,

    Another Scott here. I really want to avoid hijacking this thread, but I have some honest questions I’d like to ask you, really regarding knowing God. Geoff Brown’s video you shared a while back also intrigued me. I looked for more contact options but didn’t find much by way of direct contact, so I figured I’d take a chance and post off-topic here.

    If it’s agreeable with you, and you have time, would you mind emailing me in response? If not, then no worries, I know you must be busy.

    God bless,

  2. Scott, your post rings a lot of bells for me. I’ve been exposed to the whole “missional/discipleship/whatever” thing ever since I started studying at an evangelical theological college. To be fair, there’s a lot of good in it. But there seems to be a lot of pointless over-analysis and wasted energy as well.

    When the purpose of church planting becomes church planting, something has gone very wrong.

  3. Dave –

    When the purpose of church planting becomes church planting, something has gone very wrong.

    Yes, this was the central theme of what I was trying to get at.

    Also, studying at an evangelical college, how have they taken to your theological background?

  4. “All but one were white, evangelical, middle-to-upper-middle-class white males.”
    And the non-white person makes a sweeping dismissal of African-American churches as spiritually bankrupt. But that’s another story. Thanks for sharing. We must always ask: church planting, to what end?

  5. Scott:

    Also, studying at an evangelical college, how have they taken to your theological background?

    Surprisingly well. Only a few people have asked me what I believe, and although they’re always very surprised when I tell them, I haven’t had any trouble. The staff already knew, since I was required to specify my beliefs in a face-to-face interview as part of the application process. I delivered a couple of class prayers during first semester, which seemed to go down well.

  6. I didn’t have many prejudices to break down in the first place, to be honest. I’ve always had a good experience with Australian evangelicals. I won’t be changing my theological views but I am gaining a better understanding of evangelical culture, which is very helpful. My community can learn a lot from evangelical missional praxis.

    As for prejudices against my background breaking down: it’s far too early to say, since so few people know what I believe. Some of them would be quite upset, I think. Tabor was established by the charismatic community and it’s a liberal institution by American standards (though moderate by Australian standards) but I reckon most students are passionate pro-lifers who accept charismatic continuation, YEC and verbal plenary inspiration, oppose female leadership in the church, and believe Christians should be strongly involved with politics.

    I am hoping that as more people learn about me, they’ll begin to realise non-mainstream Christians are no less human than everyone else. 😀

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