A Cross Cultural Church Planting Strategy

LIBERTY UNIVERSITY

A CROSS-CULTRUAL CHURCH PLANTING STRATEGY

AN ASSIGNMENT SUBMITTED TO DR. SMITH

GLST 650 –B01

BY

PAUL HORNE

July 24, 2015

 

Table of Contents

 Introduction                                                              1

History of Church Planting                                      1-2

Methods of Church Planting                                   3-6

Developing Your Church Model                              6-8

What Does it All Look Like                                     8-9

Conclusion                                                             9-10

Bibliography                                                          11

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Introduction

There are some modern day evangelicals who are so naïve as to believe that church planting is a new movement. Not realizing that it has been around as long as the church has existed. There are many different ways to plant a church and many different forms said church could eventually take. Depending on those ways and means will ultimately determine the look of the church not only internally, but also externally to the world around it. This author’s goal is to take a look at what church planting is and how it can be done effectively in a cross-cultural scenario. While admitting to never have actually planted a church, but being part of a church plant it is my hope to do this topic justice.

The History of Church Planting

As eluded to in the introduction the history of church planting is a long and glorious one. As you glean from the pages of Scripture you will notice one figure in particular shines a little bit brighter than the others in this area, and that is the Apostle Paul. He is church planter par-excellence, and sets the bar high for those who would follow in his footsteps. The problem with a lot of modern church plants is that they have become mono-ethnic, at least the ones witnessed by this author in the United States of America. There tends to be more segregation on the Lord’s day than any other time. As we look at the Bible we can see that is not what was intended. The question then becomes what was the mission of the early church? Thorsten Prill in his article Migration, Mission, and the Multi-ethnic Church says, “…the picture presented by Luke in the book of Acts of both the first Christian churches and Paul’s missionary activities seems to suggest that it was the formation of multi-cultural and multi-ethnic churches which dominated the mission of the early church.”[1]

Since we have established that Paul was a great example to follow, why then do we not set out to follow his example? This may sound pretty harsh, but sometimes harsh words are needed. While not every church falls into this category, some do and those need to be addressed. When a church is multi-cultural or multi-ethnic it can show a greater love of the gospel, because it is reaching beyond the norm and loving outside of its comfort zone. An example is the early church in Jerusalem. Prill points out, “The overall picture of the early Jerusalem church, presented by the author of Acts, is that of a caring community united by faith. This fits with the main theological purposes of Luke i.e. to strengthen the faith of his Christian readership and to encourage them to get on with their mission, which is to all people, whatever social or ethnic background they may have.”[2]

While we have been talking about church planting it may still be unclear as to what it actually is. Richard Yates Hibbert quotes Malphurs’ definition as this, church planting is, “a planned process of beginning and growing new local churches.”[3] As the centuries progressed church planting kind of came to a halt and started becoming the “state” church after Constantine. Which meant that Christianity was the national religion, which slowed actual church planting. It was a sad state of affairs when “very little cross-cultural missionary work was engaged in by Protestants until the Pietistic movement began.”[4] With the rise of the Pietistic movement the focus went from being on large mass conversions back to the individual. The change in focus allowed church growth to truly take place and the need for more churches began to arise.

Methods of Church Planting

Like many things in life, church planting has many different forms and manifestations that have developed over the years. Since around the 1960’s there has been a surge of church planting both domestically and internationally. There are some who would say that up until recent history there have not been very many models of church planting written about for one to choose from. Keep in mind that when speaking of recent history that covers a wide range of time mainly from the latter portion of the 1980’s until present day. The question that arises is “What is the big deal, you have a church service and members and you have a church, right?” However, there are many different factors that must be considered when planting a church, and those factors will play an important role in whether or not the church is a success. When one speaks of success one of the first things to come to mind is the financial side of things, that is not what is being referred to here.

Tom A. Steffen in his article Selecting a Church Planting Model That Works goes on to list about five different models of church planting that he goes over, each with its own perspective on how things should be done. In this section we will take a look at some of these models and decide what is the best portion or aspect of each method and attempt to create a framework that will work for a general context. Steffen begins his analysis with looking at Hesselgrave’s model called “The Pauline Cycle, a step-by-step church planting model applicable in the United States as well as abroad.”[5] This is a particularly interesting model because it covers a wide spectrum of perspectives, dealing with a whole host of different topics. Those topics include: “(1) missionaries commissioned, (2) audience contacted, (3) gospel communicated, (4) hearers converted, (5) believers congregated, (6) faith confirmed, (7) leaders consecrated, (8) believers commended, (9) relationships continued, and (10) sending churches convened.”[6] All of these are very important aspects to any functioning church no matter the context in which it may arise from. Later in the paragraph Steffen points out some of the flaws found in this model, “For example, leadership selection and training begins in the seventh cycle. In reality, this begins the moment church planters enter an area.”[7]

The next model that Steffen examines in not necessarily a church plant in most peoples eyes, but it did lead to churches being planted which is as good or better. It is a Bible institute developed by a man named Patterson; he had six distinctives or rules for the institute that should be somewhat easy to replicate. The ultimate teaching was centered around obedience to Christ basic commands, “of which he has isolated seven: (1) repentance from sin, (2) baptism, (3) practical love, (4) communion, (5) prayer, (6) giving, (7) witnessing. He supports this thesis from the following verses: James 1:22, John 14:15, and Matthew 28:18-20.”[8] This obedience houses a simplicity that the average believer should easily be able to grasp a hold of. Patterson would later argue that Scripture has a simplicity that church planters needs to keep at the forefront of their ministry.[9] While this is not the most practical model for what we think of as traditional church planting it is effective in the right context.

The next method is based on the work of Logan, Beyond Church Growth. Again this was written in time when you take this many steps and you will see results, so his work discusses ten things to deal with church growth in the form of planting. Those ten principles are as follows: vision, effective leadership, cultural relevance, celebrative worship, disciple making, cell groups, leadership development, mobilization of believers, appropriate programming, and reproductive church planting.”[10] In Logan’s model the principles are guides for church growth, which he believes in turn, should then create daughter churches that should then continue the pattern to create more daughter churches. While having an impact in certain areas it leaves much to be desired meaning, “Church planters will have to look elsewhere for extensive principles for exegeting a culture, planting a church, discussions addressing an exit-strategy, prophetic critiques of social injustice, and tools for analyzing a culture.”[11] Again this is another method with some great insights into how to do things but it still misses the mark.

The next model being examined is that of Neighbour’s; his method is that of cell groups, also known as small home groups. “Neighbour assumes that community develops best in small, intimate groups meeting in homes, as evidenced not only in the early church, but currently in such places as Thailand, Japan, Korea, Africa, Australia, and England.”[12] Something that is important to remember is that not every country is as religiously tolerant as others and meeting in homes can be a dangerous undertaking. Steffen makes the observation that cell groups “…will most likely work better in urban settings than rural in that the social structure of those living the cities tends to fit the cell group model better.”[13]

The last method or model as they are being called in the article to be analyzed is McIlwans Building on Firm Foundations. It seems that in this method he goes back to the beginning and starts new believers, mature believers and non-believers all in Genesis and works his way through the Bible, developing a solid biblical theology along the way. Two of his major theses are, “(1) Scripture should be taught chronologically and panoramically because this is God’s method of teaching (progressive revelation), and (2) the New Testament cannot be understood in isolation from the Old Testament.”[14] The danger in this approach is that the gospel may take a long time to actually be presented, and conversions will not be taking place depending on how the material is delivered. However, Steffen points out that there is an upside to this model of church planting, and that is “it recognizes that conversion is a process as well as a point.”[15]

Now that several different options have been presented it is the job of the church planter to determine what method or combination there of is going to work best for him. As it has been mentioned throughout this section each position has its strong suits along with its own weaknesses. This is the time to garner from each method and create a functional one that will prosper and flourish in the setting in which it is planted. You would not want to establish a church meant to target inner city 20-30 something’s in a rural area, just as you would not plant a church in Middle America the same way you would in Haiti.

Developing Your Church Model

As the church model starts to come together there are certain decisions that need to be made rather early in the process. For instance a vision statement of the church will help to guide the church on the path it wants to go and the role it wishes to play in the community, without it the church is just another entity of the system. But, with a well-written vision statement it can start to transform lives for the sake of the gospel. Not only does a vision statement need to be established, but like mentioned above understanding the demographic in which you are going to be ministering in will play a huge role in how effective the ministry is in context. According to Charles Uken, “The shape of the mission church and the methods used must be culturally appropriate. For this reason, the missionary should engage at the outset in a demographic and ethnographic study of the people, including learning their language and reading about their history and culture.”[16]

The question arises “Why are these studies necessary?” and the most honest answer is, how can one expect to have an understanding of the people without getting to know about the people. True, a person gets to know others by intermingling, but to have a grasp of what is being entered into is of great value. While one should not change their character based on their surroundings, the use of a certain type of vernacular may be employed. For instance in a lower socio-economic area a person may avoid using certain words not to feel superior but to ensure those being spoken to do not feel inferior or belittled.

While keeping these things in mind, we need to heed the words of Susan Brown Snook,

Choosing where to plant and whom to reach is a matter of discernment. Who is untouched by the gospel? Who is in need of God’s saving grace? Who is underserved by our church? The underserved may often reside in growing, affluent suburbs, whose spiritual emptiness can be satisfied by Anglican spirituality. But God’s heart also yearns for other groups of people, and God may inspire us to plant Episcopal churches in nontraditional communities.[17]

 

While there is much in this quote to be agreed with, this author does not hold to an Anglican or Episcopalian theology, and is not able to endorse such a theology. Overall the theme of this quote hits home to one of the major points this author is trying to make. That being said, finances in life and in ministry, cannot measure success. Snook does an excellent job in discerning what a successful church planter looks like, when she says, “A successful church planter discerns the gifts of others and calls those gifts into service, making the church plant a team effort. The best work a planter can do in establishing the DNA of a new congregation is “to equip the saints for the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12).”[18]

Something else that comes to light is how will leadership in the church be handled? Will the pastor stay there forever and lead the congregation or will he serve a set amount of time and then hand over the reigns to a local? These are things that must be considered, but sometimes are neglected. If thought about from the genesis of the church plant it may avoid some confusion and frustration later on down the road. Uken makes a rather profound statement about the role of leaders in the church when he says, “In a new paradigm, church leaders emerge among their own people and are able to help their people become a force for education and entrepreneurial business development.”[19]

What Does it All Look Like

The discussion has covered a multitude of things but not the meat and potatoes of what a church plant should actually look like and how it should be conducted. That is partly for a few reasons. As it has been shown there is no “one way” to do church planting work, but to do it successfully it requires a move of the Spirit and a willingness of the planter to look like a fool or a failure to the world around him. It is not easy work pursuing a church plant.

With all that said the church should be the least segregated place on earth because Christ died not to separate us but to unite us. For example, “… the core group of the church in Philippi is portrayed by Luke as a very diverse community. Luke stresses that they had not only been brought up in different cultures but also belonged to different social classes.”[20] That is one area that the church in the West, especially the United States of America has struggled with, there are very few churches (at least in SE Virginia) that are truly multi-cultural or multi-ethnic. Mostly one group will stick with its own and not verge away from it. The example we have from the Scripture paints a different picture of how things are to look, there is to be no separation between us as believers, Prill points out, “Luke demonstrates that there is no place for racial discrimination in the Christian church.”[21] This is not only limited to racial separation, but socio-economic status is no reason to separate either.

In the end what this all looks like is a Spirit lead congregation meeting in a manner that is conducive to its surroundings, while impacting its community with the gospel. This congregation is not divided along racial, social, or economic lines. It is well blended because the blood of Christ covers it. The man in charge of planting the church understands that his role in the church is to lead the people in a Christ like manner, loving one another like believers in the New Testament.

Conclusion

While there is no one method for creating a cross-cultural church plant, there is one ultimate goal and that is to glorify the name of Jesus Christ. Church planting is hard work and requires much from the man who would attempt to do it in his own culture, now imagine how much more difficult that situation becomes when you are working among a people different from you. Not just a little different but coming from a whole different social structure, speak a different language, and believe in things that to people back home would think are purely fictional. But you learn to be one of the society no longer living on the fringes of it but become fully immersed in it, the language, the lifestyle (not to the point you loose your distinctiveness) and everything else that goes along with being part of a different culture. Once you do those things you slowly become accepted by the people you are trying to impact with the gospel. As was mentioned earlier it is not just a point in time it is a process.

It is my hope for you that this paper has opened your eyes to the need of cross-cultural ministry, shown you some of the models available, and encouraged you to step out of your comfort zone and do something you never thought possible.

 

Bibliography

“ABSTRACTS OF CHURCH PLANNING STUDIES AND RESEARCH REPORTS.” Review Of Religious Research 14, no. 3 (Spring73 1973): 194. Religion and Philosophy Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed July 13, 2015).

Erwich, René. “MISSIONAL CHURCHES: IDENTICAL GLOBAL ‘PLANTS’ OR LOCALLY GROWN ‘FLOWERS’?: Christian A. Schwarz’s ‘Natural Church Development’ revisited.” Journal Of European Baptist Studies 3, no. 1 (September 2002): 19-38. Religion and Philosophy Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed July 13, 2015).

Hibbert, Richard Yates. “The Place of Church Planting in Mission: Towards a Theological Framework.” Evangelical Review Of Theology 33, no. 4 (October 2009): 316-331. Religion and Philosophy Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed July 13, 2015).

Pero, Albert. “Ministry in a multi-cultural church.” Currents In Theology And Mission 17, no. 1 (February 1990): 66-68. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed July 13, 2015).

Prill, Thorsten. “Migration, mission and the multi-ethnic church.” Evangelical Review Of Theology 33, no. 4 (October 2009): 332-346. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed July 13, 2015).

Snook, Susan Brown. “Reaching New People through Church Planting.” Anglican Theological Review 92, no. 1 (Winter2010 2010): 111-116. Religion and Philosophy Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed July 13, 2015).

Steffen, Tom. “Selecting a Church Planting Model That Works.” Missiology 22, no. 3 (July 1994): 361-376. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed July 13, 2015).

Uken, Charles D. “Global church planting: Biblical principles and best practices for multiplication.” Calvin Theological Journal 47, no. 1 (April 2012): 165-167. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed July 13, 2015).

 

[1] Thorsten Prill, “Migration, mission and the multi-ethnic church.” Evangelical Review Of Theology 33, no. 4 (October 2009): 332-346. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed July 13, 2015)333.

 

[2] Ibid., 336.

[3] Richard Yates Hibbert, “The Place of Church Planting in Mission: Towards a Theological Framework.” Evangelical Review Of Theology 33, no. 4 (October 2009): 316-331. Religion and Philosophy Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed July 13, 2015)317.

 

[4] Ibid., 318.

[5] Tom Steffen, “Selecting a Church Planting Model That Works.” Missiology 22, no. 3 (July 1994): 361-376. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed July 13, 2015)362.

 

[6] Ibid., 362

[7] Ibid., 362.

[8] Ibid., 363.

[9] Ibid., 363.

[10] Ibid., 363.

[11] Ibid. 364.

[12] Ibid., 364.

[13] Ibid., 365.

[14] Ibid. 366.

[15] Ibid., 366.

[16] Charles D.Uken, “Global church planting: Biblical principles and best practices for multiplication.” Calvin Theological Journal 47, no. 1 (April 2012): 165-167. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed July 13, 2015)166.

 

[17] Susan Brown Snook, “Reaching New People through Church Planting.” Anglican Theological Review 92, no. 1 (Winter2010 2010): 111-116. Religion and Philosophy Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed July 13, 2015)114.

 

[18] Ibid., 115.

[19] Uken, “Global Church Planting”, 166.

[20] Prill, Migrataion, 339.

[21] Ibid. 344.

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