Tuesday, 28 October 2008

What is the goal of church planting?

It might seem like a rather obvious kind of question to ask: surely the point is to build a new local congregation in an area where there wasn't one?!! But as I think of it, that can't really be the goal because it would seem to imply that any old congregation would do. As long as people are gathered together in 'church' that is enough.... though there is much sin, heresy and unbelief! It's helpful to see this because it clarifies what we are really about in church planting: we are about the glory of God. We want to see the worth and wonder of God displayed to the local area through the congregation. What does this mean? It means that gathering people (i.e. the growth of the congregation) is no really a true indication of whether the goal is being reached. Yet, how often are church plants are assessed on that issue?! The real question is whether the gathering is glorifying to God. Do we have a congregation that is mature and holy and pure? Do we have people who honour God in their attitudes to Him? Do we suffer with joy? Now, of course, people are 'allowed' to mature and many have to hear the gospel many times before they trust in Christ. But, the big point is that the success of a church plant can only be assessed by the spiritual fruit it produces in the lives of new people, and not simply by the presence of new people. Thus, numerical growth might, at times, be a bad thing and it may well be good for a congregation to diminish in numbers so that Christ will be honoured. For people in big congregations this is much easier to practice. But believe me, when your congregation is small and you're desperate for it to grow there is a very subtle pressure to compromise on this. You just want to show that something's happening where you're working!!! Those of us trying to pioneer new work need to learn to bite the bullet on this and trust God for His church. We want real spiritual growth and not artificial growth through numbers.