Monday, June 01, 2009

church plant training

recently, we were given a wonderful gift. the evangelical covenant church invited us to be a part of their church plant training -- at their expense, with no strings attached, even though the bridge is not a covenant church (though we are covenant friendly!). they offered the trip to me and up to three members of our church. so on may 27, three of us (me, m, and bridge pillar ng) packed up our bags and headed for minneapolis, mn for the four day training.

the training was well-conceived, informative, and very practical. i really wish that i had done this before we started our church, as i am certain that we could have saved a lot of people a lot of trouble! hopefully, the adage is true -- "better late than never."

among the things we learned there:
  • there was a strong emphasis on church planting as a work that depends on God. for that reason, prayer cannot be incidental -- it must be central.
  • they encouraged us to have a single verse or passage that encapsulates our vision and values for the church. they used the hebrew word 'zera' (seed) to communicate this idea of a compact package that carries the entire dna of the new plant -- vision, core values, and even the name of the church can be derived from the zera. it didn't take long to see how this process was better than the complicated and piecemeal one i led our team through.
  • they emphasized the importance of having a church that is evangelistic from the very beginning, and shared statistics that demonstrate that churches that begin this way tend to grow evangelistically, while those who have few converts in their early formation tend to have few throughout the life of the church. sobering stuff. for this reason, they strongly encouraged assembling a launch team that is highly missional and outreach-oriented.
  • they used the metaphor of the lifecycle of a biological plant to describe the necessary phases of a viable church plant: seed (vision and values), roots (a healthy launch team), leaves (preview service stage), branches (strengthening core ministries), fruit (bearing fruit and going public), orchard (becoming a church planting church). the steps and the reasons behind them made a lot of sense. i found this both helpful and painful, as it was not hard to see where we (mostly i) had made glaring mistakes that are costing us.
  • they made the strong case for planting churches that address the emerging reality that america is becoming increasingly post-christian, post-modern, and multi-ethnic. their deep commitment to the whole gospel, reaching the unreached, and missiological flexibility reminded me that i really like the covenant church and want to continue to learn from them.
how we apply these things in a setting where we have already planted, already have a congregation (albeit a small one), and already have a mission and core values is not entirely clear to me. what is clear is that God is calling us to lay down our lives in faith that he will produce a harvest.

unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies
it remains by itself alone
but if it dies
it bears much fruit

john 12:24

1 comment:

Bevy said...

What a GREAT blessing! I'm glad you learned so much and I'm sure better late than never will certainly apply. :)