The critical question in church planting is not primarily why we plant, much less how we plant, but what we plant. Not to put too fine a point on it, we already have too many of some kinds of churches! In fact, one church leader once told me to stop talking about church planing because they had enough problems with the churches they already had, so why would they want more. I was impressed with his honesty, if not his cynicism! Our concern should be to plant and grow healthy churches. Churches that commend Jesus and are the means by which his kingdom extends.
But what does a healthy church look like? What are some of the main features? A full answer to those questions is beyond the scope of this short article, but one distinctive feature of a healthy church is particularly germane.
In Acts 29, we have a phrase which helps us to focus on one vital aspect. It has become something of a mantra, and appears in much of what we produce. The phrase is concise and, we hope, compelling: Drill Deep. Reach Wide.
It is, of course, the responsibility of every church planter to ensure that the church they are planting is working hard to Drill Deep into their local community.
But equally, every church plant should also be looking to Reach Wide around the globe. It’s not that you merely focus on what’s on your doorstep first. Rather, from the start, you ensure world mission is part of the DNA of the new church.
If this is true of church planting, it must remain true as the church grows. It should also be the focus of a church revitalisation. Also when nurturing a robust, gospel centred church at whatever life-stage it is at.
Why? Because we can so easily talk about our gospel ambition. But that only has validity because of the gospel’s own ambition. The gospel is insatiable in its desire to see Christ named and known everywhere on this planet where sinners are found. I love that statement by the Dutch 19th century theologian and politician, Abraham Kuyper: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”. We should never be satisfied until “the knowledge of the glory of the Lord fills the earth like the waters cover the sea”. Local Church. Global Mission.
That was the vision given to Habakkuk. The reminder that for all the turmoil about to be experienced by the people of God, YHWH was no tribal deity. As Sovereign over all, he could and would use the pagan hordes to his own ends. But it was never just about judgement. It was also, always about grace. God wanted the world to know him. He wanted a people for himself from every nation, tribe, people and language. His people, and his dealings with them, were his means to that great and glorious global goal. The New Covenant has intensified rather than diminished that intent. Being a light to the nations is not merely our function; it is our identity as the people of God.
Steve Timmis, CEO Acts 29
Steve is the main speaker at this year’s Local Church Global Mission Conference, taking place at Oak Hill College, London on Sat 25th May 2017. You can book your place here.