(continued from a post on August 19; you can get to part one by clicking here.)
Dr. C. Peter Wagner, formerly of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, is well-known in church planting circles for his oft-quoted, emphatic declaration that “the single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planting new churches.” (Church Planting for a Greater Harvest, 1990.)
My gut feeling is that church planting ought to be the most effective disciple-making methodology under heaven, too. It tells me, too, that no serious transformation or impact will ever be made until we recognize and implement a strategy that acknowledges that church planting is not the objective of our efforts.
That statement alone is enough to give some people in the church planting world pause. I have met many planters and leaders in the world of church starting that believe the ultimate “end game” is to plant churches. So naturally, such a statement may rile such a person. Not me.
Now granted that Wagner’s words are not “inspired” and that he is subject to error like any other human, I still often ponder the significance of the word choice in his declaration. What especially gets my attention is his use of the word “methodology.” Dictionary.com defines this as “a set or system of methods, principles, and rules for regulating a given discipline.” Wagner acknowledges that church planting, as an method or system of evangelism, is the most effective means to be found. But if it’s method or means to an end, then what’s “the end?”
In my opinion, it’s disciple-making. This is the “end game,” the ultimate objective of our church planting efforts. After all, Jesus NEVER commanded or even suggested that his disciples plant churches; in fact, He told them HE would build His church (Matt. 16.18). What He did command them to do was to make disciples (Matt. 28.19).
The disciples under the leadership of the Holy Spirit gathered them as the church in Jerusalem (Acts 2). As a result, they quickly realized that disciples could not be made in isolation, but only in community. And the local church–wherever they went–was “the methodology” to do that.
So church planter (even the term seems somewhat misdirected), starting the church should NEVER be your ultimate objective. Even establishing it, so that it survives and thrives over time as a self-supporting, self-governing, self-propagating entity, is not enough. Be a disciple-maker; make that the “end game.”
My belief is this: you can plant a church and not make disciples (in fact, many do), but you cannot truly make disciples without it resulting in new churches. So, focus on joining the Holy Spirit in creating and shaping “fully devoted followers of Christ.” If you do that, He’ll take care of the rest.