There are two dangers to avoid before planting a church: the danger of planting too fast, and the danger of planting too slow. There is a tension to be honored in our quest to plant churches. We must not be guilty of the sin of commission by planting too fast and we must not be guilty of the sin of omission by planting too slow. Perhaps, it is the temptation of the younger generation to plant too quickly while the temptation of the older generation is to plant too slowly. @@In our zeal for growth, we must be careful about replicating an immature or unhealthy church.@@ In our zeal for health, we must be careful about not replicating a mature and healthy church.
So, how can we best navigate this tension so that we stay out of the ditches of “planting to fail” on the one hand and “failing to plant” on the other?
Two Doctrines to Apply
The best way we can navigate this tension and prepare to plant another church is to carefully tend to the doctrinal and spiritual health of the sending church.
Key to the mission of the Sojourn Network is the health of local churches. This is because the only churches that should plant churches are healthy churches. We see this focus on church health in Paul’s letter to Titus.
Titus was essentially a church planter. He was instructed by Paul to “put what remained into order” (Titus 1:5) after Paul brought the gospel to Crete. In light of this, it is interesting to note what Paul focused on in his instruction to Titus. The entire focus of his letter is on church health.
In chapter 1, Paul focuses on finding good leaders, qualified men who can serve and lead the church as elders. In chapter 2, Paul focuses on good character, as Titus instructs those leaders what to teach their people regarding grace-shaped, gospel-centered, Christ-like character (Titus 2:1-10 with 2:11-14). Finally, in chapter 3, Paul calls the church to good works. Just as Christ has saved us for good works (Titus 2:14), so we are to be ready for every good work (3:1) and be careful to devote ourselves to them (3:8, 3:14).
This means that there are at least two essential doctrines to apply to get the church to a place of health for church planting. Those doctrines are the doctrine of salvation (soteriology) and the doctrine of the church (ecclesiology). Understanding what the gospel does in saving and transforming people and how those saved and transformed people are to relate to each other and the broader culture are critical doctrines to apply for the health of the church and the effectiveness of its mission.
Two Dynamics to Activate
So, how do we get there? What are the dynamics that need to be activated in a church, by the gospel and through the power of the Spirit, in the pursuit of health for the purpose of planting?
Taking our cue again from Paul’s letter to Titus, we must focus on the life of the leaders. Notice that the health of leaders is the first thing Paul addresses in his letter to Titus. The leaders themselves “must hold firm to the trustworthy word” (Titus 1:9). This is why Sojourn Network places a premium on healthy pastors. Healthy pastors plant healthy churches. Paul believed that, Titus believed that and Sojourn Network believes that.
A second and equally important dynamic is that we must focus on the leadership of the leaders. Where exactly are the leaders leading the church? Are they leading the church into conformity to Christ in its character through public declaration and personal exhortation (Titus 2:15)? Are those leaders “able to give instruction in sound doctrine” (Titus 1:9) and to teach what accords with it (Titus 2:1) so that the church might be transformed and an agent of transformation.
In our quest to avoid the danger of planting churches either too fast or two slow, we must apply sound doctrine and activate healthy dynamics for the goal of having healthy pastors planting healthy churches.
Ted Christman is the founding pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Owensboro, KY. He has served the church as one of its pastors since planting it in 1973. You can connect with Ted on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tedchristman.
Mark Redfern has served as the Executive Pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Owensboro, KY since 2014. He is married to Katie and they have three children. You can connect with Mark on Twitter @markredfern2.