Sunday, July 10, 2011

Church Planting Thoughts

I wrote this a few days ago, but forgot to publish.  Since it has to do with "Sunday" topics, it's appropriate for Sunday:

First off, let it be known, I'm no expert in the field.  These are just a few of the thoughts that have come to my mind lately.

I was talking with Angela this morning over our last breakfast at the Mountainview Guesthouse by the North Gate in Chiang Mai.  We were talking about where we would go to church this year, but the conversation shifted to my deeper thoughts (as happens on occasion). 

I started thinking about how the primary goal of many missionaries and church-planters has been to establish a system in order to make evangelism more sustainable.  To say it in a way that is less "church friendly," to convert and keep converts.  I began to wonder how this style could be effective at all when a foreigner comes in with the answers and tells others that what they thought they knew wasn't actually right at all.  Especially in a non-western culture where saving face is very important and arguments are not won by reason, it seems that this would be a big turnoff.  And, in fact, I think it was for many years here.

But one thing that translates across cultures is when a church truly becomes a church:  a body that is measured by its love for one another and for others.  A man here in Chiang Mai who was not a Christian but married a Christian woman expected the church to give up when a recent tragedy struck them.  It was the support and love that followed that revealed the character of Christ through the church.

Yet I still wonder how it is effective when church gatherings become just more learning rather than living. 

Churches out here -- just like in the States -- are focused primarily on evangelism and membership, almost to the exclusion of social concern.  Occasionally it will pop-up in the form of a one-time service project.  But that's not help; it's making ourselves feel better.

When the church allows itself to become a body of believers that reaches out for justice, the body catches a glimpse of "the age that is to come;" the age where our world will be made right again. We become God's ambassadors for representing that age in this present age.

If we view the purpose of planting churches as evangelism through preaching and logical arguments and the sharing of our spoken "testimony," we deny God's power to reveal himself through the body itself and its function as a community.  The body is there to love.  People will see that and then follow.  The testimony is the community.  Like St. Francis wrote, ". . . use words when necessary."

These are just a few more of my rambling thoughts.  I'll leave the conclusions to you.


  1. This was again emphasized this morning when a young guy from the States talked about help he and church members were able to give victims of major flooding in the central part of the country. He said it allowed them to "share the gospel" with the people. I thought to myself, "Does he not understand that he is sharing the good news of love and community simply by helping?" When will we recognize our call is both bigger and simpler than what we have made it?

  2. Amen to your comment...about your comments. Why does helping have to be a means to an end (i.e. evangelism)? Why can't we just help for helping's sake??

  3. That's what I'm saying, though: Helping is more than just helping for an end or for "helping's sake." Helping is the gospel.

  4. "Truly good news [...] would confront systemic injustice, target significant global dysfunctions, and provide hope and resources for making a better world-along with helping individuals experience a full life. If only [we] could find a faith community with good news like that..."
    Brian McLaren, Everything Must Change

  5. Helping is part of the Gospel, but usually just the begginning. We see Jesus helping people with their physcical needs, but He does not leave it at this point, He continues to more important side of their spiritual needs. Many organizations help the physical needs of man, but Christians are called to do both, not just one or the other.

  6. I agree that both are important. But that is not how we usually live. We usually put the significance on "being saved" spiritually, and then allow for helping in our spare time. We focus on being the brains of God rather than the hands and feet. We focus on intellectual conversion rather than doing for the least of God's children. That's what I'm saying. It's not that we shouldn't do both; it's that we only care about one [in how most of us currently practice Christianity]."