Problems with church planting: Defining terms

Church planting has been a hot topic (quickly becoming an obsession) in the Souther Baptist Convention for the last few years. And after examining the issue, I plan on writing a series of 6 posts intended to outline what I believe are the pitfalls inherent in the modern church planting movement. But first, I believe a helpful foundation for any fruitful discussion on the subject will be to define a few key terms.

Church

Even though they are loathe to admit it, 501c3 non-profit orginizations with property and staff are, at the end of the day, businesses. True, they are not like traditional businesses. These masquarade under the otherwise organic term “church”, they enjoy special spiritual prominence, and through that they are able to solicit and extract large sums of money through what amounts to sanctified begging (or extortion, take your pick) rather than the production of a good or the performance of a service.

As Alan Knox rightly and frequently points out, there is only one Church, the body of Christ, and even though that body finds a tangible expression in the form of local group of believers, the only valid reason for drawing a difference between groups of believers is by their location. For example, the letters in the New Testament were addressed to “the church in..”┬árather┬áthan “the First Baptist Church of..”

Church planting

When one speaks out against church planting the common retort is that it is through the planting of new churches that the church of Christ has spread throughout the world. There are two distinct senses in which the phrase “church planting” is used. The first sense is more rightly understood as evangelism, the “making disciples” we are commanded to do in Matthew 28. The second sense, and the one I will be argueing against, is the establishment of new non-profit orginizations complete with staff, buildings (or other arrangements for a regular meeting place) and a clear affiliation with a larger denominational orginization.

In this sense, another name for “church planting” can easily be “denominational colonialism” since the criteria for establishing new churches in this second sense is not whether a body of local believers already exists but wether a body of local believer who are members of our denomination exists or not.

In the next 4 posts, I will be outlining the problems with church planting where the goal extends above and beyond the basic biblical mandate of evangelizing and making disciples.

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5 responses to “Problems with church planting: Defining terms

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  4. I read your article. Maybe if "theChurch in…" was doing its job of evangelism you wouldn't see so many church starts. When the demographics are read at the end of the day and the results in a SEVERAL MILE RADIUS show a very high percentage of people with NO church affiliation, many as high as 80%+, then this a danger sign. The area I live in has 70% admitted no affiliation, 20% once a year, and 10% regular attender church affiliation and there are 10 + churches in that 2 mile radius of 47,000 people! We are doing everything we can to reach them at our "First Baptist SBC church." Incidently our church is 163 years young. I have been here 6 months. So I think there are valid reasons for SBC church starts when other churches have chosen to let the lost die. It has nothing to do with SBC numbers but rather sharing Christ with every home. So be careful before you make judgments that may really be pet peeves. God bless

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