What Type of Church Will You Plant?
By Josh Bennett
“What type of church will you plant?” is a common question asked of church planters. Most of the time people are thinking of several questions: “What type of music will you have?” “How will people dress?” “What style of preaching will you use?”
Yet other fundamental questions need to be addressed. These are the questions Jeff Goodman and I wrestled with when we planted The Springs Church in Marana, Arizona. We had several conversations trying to get to the heart of what the church should be. Churches need to be grounded, both theologically and practically. As we begin our new mission of planting a church in Tifton, Georgia, we are reliving these conversations and focusing once again on what the church should be.
Clint Morgan, director of International Missions, preached a phenomenal message this past year at the National Association. One issue he touched on was the need to contextualize our ministry. A church should always have two aspects. On one hand, it should relate to the culture in which it exists. However, there is also a counter-cultural aspect to every church. With this in mind, I think the best question is, “What should a church in any culture look like?” In other words, if we strip all culture away from the church, what would be left?
No matter the culture, a church should be faithful to preach the Scripture. Paul instructed young Timothy that the Word of God is powerful, profitable, and necessary for believers to grow in the faith. First and foremost, no matter what the culture does or teaches, the Church always must be faithful to preach and teach the Word of God. I believe this is the heart of what Paul meant when he said to preach in season and out of season. We must preach the Word both when it is popular and when it is unpopular.
Second, every church should be dependent on prayer and the Holy Spirit. I am a huge advocate of ministry that is planned, prepared, and well executed. However, we must be sure we do not plan the Spirit of God out of our ministry. I don’t know about you, but if I am not careful, I can become cynical. For this reason, I have a sign in my office that reminds me, “There will be miracles.” I need to be reminded God does supernatural things, and He will do them in my life and ministry if I seek Him. The canvas features a picture of a lion. God chose many illustrations to describe Himself in Scripture, but the lion speaks clearly to me. We have an Advocate who can be both gentle and aggressive. If we seek Him, He will do abundantly more than we can think or imagine.
Third, a church in every culture should be compassionately concerned for the lost. The mission of the Church is simple: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). In every ministry we have served, the mission is simple. We are called to be His witnesses. The vision may look different. The methods may vary, but the mission Jesus gave His followers does not change. He has called us to seek the lost compassionately and to share the life-changing hope of the gospel. If a church loses this focus, it truly fails to realize why it exists.
Fourth, no matter the culture, a church should be extremely servant-oriented. I am reminded of the words of Paul in Philippians 2:5-7: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” Jesus demonstrated this when he knelt and washed His disciples’ feet. If Jesus was a servant, how much more should we focus on serving people around us? A church that looks like Jesus is a church actively serving the community.
Finally, and most importantly, every church in every culture should make much of Jesus. For every need, in all circumstances, our greatest need is Jesus. Jesus told Nicodemus, “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so also must the Son of Man be lifted up.” Our greatest responsibility is to lift Jesus up for people to see—Him and not us. When our students came back from teen camp this past summer, Jeff and Hiram, our youth and worship pastor, came back with a message from the camp directors. Our students, along with students from other churches, were asked to share their testimonies, and the camp leaders noticed a theme among the teens. In all their testimonies, Jesus was the hero. When we lift Him up, Jesus will be the hero people need.
Our church will look different than your church. Our church will look different than the church we helped plant in Arizona. Churches adapt and contextualize to reach people in their culture. However, these abiding principles will guide us in the right direction as we reach people with the message they desperately need.
About the Writer: Josh Bennett and his family are joint project workers with the state of Georgia and
North American Ministries to plant a new work in Tifton, Georgia. Josh helped Jeff Goodman plant The Springs Church in Marana, Arizona, before moving to Georgia. Learn more about North American Ministries: www.FWBNAM.com