I am all for church planting as it relates to missions, but I am afraid there has been too much of a focus on church planting to the point that it has hurt the overall cause of missions. I am all for the local church – especially in the arena of missions, however, to only stress church planting or for churches to only support church-planting missionaries hurts the spread of the gospel around the world.
Here are five ways focusing too much on church planting has hurt missions.
1- It has limited the number of workers who go to the foreign field.
As pastors, missions agencies, and other missions personnel have pushed the need for and importance of church planters, they have passively told those who have not been called to preach that there is no real place for them. I believe there are many people who may have been called to the mission field, but wrongly believe that since they are not a church planter, they are not needed. As a result, they have remained where they are, failing to give their lives to missions.
These are people who could have been a tremendous help as it relates to the cause of Christ, but because they were not a “church planter,” thought missions was not for them.
2- It has led to the de-emphasizing of discipleship.
By focusing so much on church planting the focus on disciple-making and discipleship has been neglected. The focus has been on planting as many churches as quickly as possible. This has resulted in many doctrinally weak churches.
In reality, the command of the Great Commission is not to plant churches; it is to make disciples who will then gather together. It is a focus on making disciples that leads to new churches being started.
3- It has minimized the importance of bi-vocational missions.
This is related to some of the other points, but I can’t help but wonder how many people God has called to work as a business man or woman, as teachers, as farmers, or as baristas in other countries with the specific task of communicating the gospel in their everyday lives on the foreign field. No, they are not specifically planting a church. No, they are not pastors or teachers. No, they are not full-time missionaries, but does this mean they cannot have an impact? Of course not.
In many cases their impact will be greater than that of a full-time ‘missionary.’
4- It has minimized the importance of other Christian workers on the foreign field.
Many missionary endeavors on the foreign field are in need of assistance from those who may not be in vocational missions, especially early on in the ministry. We need to be telling them to go, help, serve, and be involved in the process of making disciples.
To only highlight those who have been called to serve in official ministry and pastoral positions is to create an unnecessary barrier to people going to the field.
5- It has put the gauge of success in the wrong place.
By over-focusing on church planting we have taught those in our churches that a successful missionary is one who plants multiple churches. Perhaps this is inaccurate.
What about the person who teaches in a school and impacts thousands for Christ, but never plants a church? Is that individual a failure? What about the nurse who travels from village to village helping the sick and sharing the gospel along the way? Has he or she also failed? Absolutely not.
How we measure success cannot be solely linked to the number of churches that have been planted.
By only stressing the need for full-time church-planting missionaries, we have told those who do not fall into this narrow category that they are not needed. We have passively turned away thousands of missions workers by over-focusing on church-planting.
I think its time to balance this out by stressing the need for ‘laborers in the harvest’ who will be committed to making disciples wherever God has called them to serve.
What are your thoughts?