Sunday, March 6, 2011

Gospel Planting vs. Church Planting

From the footnotes of Rick Love’s paper Following Jesus in a Glocalized World:

What about the term, “church planting?” I believe it miscommunicates at a number of levels, so I prefer the term “gospel planting” for three reasons:

(1) “Gospel planting” is more biblical and accurate. Nowhere does the New Testament imply that we plant the church. But it does teach that we plant the gospel. The parable of the sower makes this most clear.

(2) “Gospel planting” helps us envision our task more clearly. The term “church planting” implies that we bring the church from the outside. To use another metaphor, “church planting” implies that we plant the gospel seed along with a flower pot. The church is then foreign rather than indigenous. “Gospel planting” implies that we sow the gospel seed, and churches spring up from indigenous soil.

(3) “Gospel planting” is more Christ-centered than “church planting,” since Jesus is the gospel.

Paul the apostle linked his apostolic aims and ambitions with the gospel. His “apostolic self-description” indicates that his goal was the gospel. His work resulted in communities of Jesus’ followers. He loved and suffered for these communities of faith. But he linked his apostolic aims and ambitions with the gospel:

“Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1 NASB).

“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24 NIV).

“And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation” (Romans 15:20 NASB).

“I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it” (1 Corinthians 9:23 NASB).

“I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness … ” (Colossians 1:25).

“To me, the very least of all saints, this grace [of apostleship] was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8).

“But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear” (2 Timothy 4:17).

In my previous post, Decline of the Church Planting Movement Strategy?, “Mark” criticized church planting movements, but from a different angle.


Elnwood said...

I prefer the term church planting because it is a more comprehensive term than gospel planting.

Church planting includes planting the gospel, but it also includes forming a community of teaching and disciple-making. This, I believe, is more in keeping with what we see in the Great Commission.

If we narrow the scope to just "gospel planting," we may neglect the forming of churches and church leadership, and in effect be simply exporting the Western "me and my Bible" mentality. In an age where many things that pass for "missions" neglect the forming of churches, I don't think we can afford to move away from an emphasis on the church.

With regards to #3, I think you can argue just as easily that "church planting" is more Christ-centered, since the church IS the body of Christ. I don't recall the New Testament ever saying that Jesus IS the gospel, but rather what Jesus did.

AT said...

I think the analogy works better when viewing the gospel as the seed and the church as the flower. We plant seeds of the gospel, that God grows into flowers, saved people. These flowers together are the church, and pollinate the world around them. It could be viewed as a matter of semantics, but I realize that words and impressions are very important in these contexts.

Re: #3, see Piper's God is the gospel for why this comment makes sense. It does sound a bit strange if hearing it for the first time.

Warrick Farah said...

For me, there are three Christ-centered things that belong together in mission: gospel, church, and kingdom. I don't know of a simple slogan to describe what I believe Jesus wants to happen among the nations who do not know him yet. How would you guys tie those three things together?

AT said...

It's interesting that you add kingdom into the mix with gospel and church. The hell debate that's heating up around the blogosphere seems to me to have something to do with "Kingdom come" concepts. If I was part of a church that didn't sow the gospel, I too would want to redefine what it looks like to see the kingdom come in the life of a believer.

Warrick Farah said...

Hi AT, I don't really understand- are you against "kingdom" terminology? Could you explain more?

(In my understanding, the church is the sign and instrument of the kingdom.)

AT said...

I am all for "kingdom" terminology. You just can't get away from it reading the Gospels. Sorry for the lack of clarity, I was attempting to tread lightly and not hijack this thread by inserting a rabbit trail... thanks for asking the question, peace be with you.

AT said...

...and let me just add to your understanding of kingdom that I agree, and recognize the kingdom as God's right to rule in the hearts of His people as opposed to a physical kingdom.

Warrick Farah said...

I see positive and negative aspects of going with either "gospel planting" or "church planting," but how do we keep the kingdom in view?

I'm thinking of this post and comments:

What do you guys think? I value your insights.

AT said...

Stetzer's article was helpful, the book likely will be too.
Church planting has the potential negative effect of sounding colonialistic (it's a word).
There's a lot of overlapp in these terms so here's a way to look at it. Jesus is central to the gospel. The gospel is central to the church. The church is central to the kingdom.
To answer your question of how we keep the kingdom in view, one way is to remind each other - For example Galatians 2:10, we see Paul being asked to remember the poor - as if there was a chance he might since he was so focused on sharing the gospel (Rom 15). Paul's responding with eagerness showed that he had kingdom persepctive.

Warrick Farah said...

I'd like to hear from Elnwood too on this!

AT, I echo your thoughts. To continue with your line of thinking, Jesus is central to the Gospel, the Gospel is central to the Church, the Church is Central to the Kingdom, and the Kingdom is central to Jesus (in Jesus the kingdom is present). So we've come full circle on this. I've drawn a diagram on this before that puts mission in this perspective.

I'm looking for a biblical slogan other than Gospel planting or church planting do describe what ministry is...