Over the past few months, God has been giving us clarity on our church planting vision for Queens, NY.
Without even planning it this way, the vision God has given us has become more than a vision of what we will see happen. It is also the process to accomplish the vision. In fact, our vision is our disciple making process, our church planting plan, and an embodied apologetic.
First, here is our mission:
Our mission is to glorify God by making disciples of all peoples.
The mission is larger than us. It’s simply the mission that Jesus gives all of His followers. Our church in Queens isn’t going to accomplish this mission entirely on its own, but, as far as it depends on us, the above is what we will strive for.
Our vision on the other hand, is how we will pursue the mission in our particular time and space.
Our Church Planting Vision
We will be a multiplying community of Jesus’ followers in the heart of Queens who will go on mission, grow in grace, and gather in His name for the glory of God among all peoples.
I know. I know. What good are statements like these, right? However, when God gives you a vision for what He is calling you to do it helps to capture it in a clear statement. Otherwise, you might find yourself building something flashier and trendier and otherwise different than what God intended.
Each aspect of our vision statement has meaning, but the “go, grow, gather” aspect can be applied several different ways.
A Disciple Making Process
To begin with, our church planting vision is also our disciple making process.
As we go on our mission (see above), we gather disciples in Jesus’ name, we grow them in His grace, and then they go out to do the same.
This is an abbreviation of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus tells His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations.
Next he tells them to baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit. We know from other passages on baptism that this baptism is also an identification with Jesus and his Body. Disciples are baptized into the Body but where that plays out is in and through the local church. Disciples aren’t “made” in isolation. It doesn’t take a village, it takes a church. So, we gather disciples together for the sake of community, communion, baptism, worship, fellowship, prayer, and more. This is what the church does. The church gathers. The church is a gathering.
Next, Jesus told His followers to teach disciples to obey all that He had commanded them. Disciples are learners. There are things we need to learn about God and there are things we need to learn to do for God. We show our love by our obedience to Jesus’ commands. Disciples need to grow in the grace that they have received and, in complement to the larger gathering, a smaller group of like-minded believers is the best environment for that to take place. Jesus nurtured 12 men and His investment in their lives turned the world upside down.
Finally, if disciples aren’t mobilized to go on the mission to make disciples of all nations then they become selfish, lazy and ineffective. I believe new disciples should be taught on day one to share the gospel. In fact, if all disciples do is gather and grow then they will reach a point where they stop growing and start dividing.
A Church Planting Plan
Our vision is also our strategy to plant churches. I’ve heard of a lot of different methods to church planting. Some churches send a couple of hundred people to a new area and start a church. They basically start with a large event and invite members of the community to come and see.
Maybe it’s because I don’t have those kinds of resources but I’m not excited about attracting people to an event. I think we get the order wrong if we don’t start with disciple making. In other words, the first thing we want to do in an area is share the gospel, not advertise for an event. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…”
Next, out of the harvest we want to establish several small groups where new disciples can grow in their new faith. Other groups can also be formed for those who have lots of questions. Once there are several of these groups established and multiplying, then we can move on to the next “phase” of church planting: the gathering.
Ultimately, we will gather all the disciples together on a weekly basis. I haven’t heard a satisfactory (Biblical or practical) reason why we shouldn’t do this. Some in the house church movement are content to simply meet in homes. I personally don’t know why I wouldn’t seek fellowship with ALL gospel-centered disciples in my area. If there are 5 houses filled with disciples who love each other then why not come together regularly for mutual edification, corporate worship, and fellowship?
An Embodied Apologetic
Last but not least, each part of our vision (go, grow, gather) answers a basic need of all humans. Everyone (consciously or subconsciously) wants fulfillment in their lives. They are looking for purpose, relationships, and transcendence. By fulfilling these longings, the church becomes an embodied apologetic.
As Francis Schaeffer famously said in The Great Evangelical Disaster,
After we have done our best to communicate to a lost world, still we must never forget that the final apologetic which Jesus gives is the observable love of true Christians for true Christians.”
Together, the local church becomes an embodied defense of the faith. The world is looking for purpose. We have a mission. The world is looking for relationships. We have a growing community. The world is looking for transcendence. We gather to worship and glorify the God who created us. Simply by going, and growing, and gathering in Jesus’ name, we are displaying the glory of God among all nations.
Note: I owe much to Tim Morey for his discussion about the church being an embodied apologetic his book Embodying Our Faith: Becoming a Living, Sharing, Practicing Church.
A Final Thought
Our church planting vision is our disciple making process, our church planting plan, and an embodied apologetic. This is the vision God is giving us for our particular location in Queens, NY. I’m not suggesting that this is THE way to approach disciple making, church planting, or engaging culture, but I believe it is based in Scripture. Nothing here is new or innovative. It’s simply a desire to articulate our vision in a way that makes sense to us and to others who might want to join with us.
Also, just because each part of our vision is laid out in a linear fashion doesn’t mean they will always happen that way. As I said before, I teach new disciples to share their faith (go) from the very start but I also teach them the importance of joining the local church. As we plant churches, we don’t just make disciples until we’ve got enough and then we move on to growth and gatherings. It’s ongoing. So, each may build upon the other but it’s important to also view going, growing, and gathering, as three legs of the same stool.
So, I’d like to get your feedback. What are the strengths or weaknesses of this vision as articulated above? Please feel free to share your vision for your community as I believe it will be beneficial to all of us to see how God uses different people and methods to accomplish His purposes.