A look at church planting
Church planting is one of the four pillars of Assemblies of God World Missions outreach and a primary building block of the church of Jesus Christ worldwide.
What does church planting look like? The New Testament gives a picture of the process. When the apostle Paul was sent out by the church in Antioch, he took with him one or more of his co-workers — Barnabas, Timothy, Titus and Silas. Together they went into an area and started a church. Paul worked to help it become established and then transitioned the leadership to someone else when he left.
In our church planting process overseas, we stress the importance of transferring leadership from missionary to national pastor once a church is fully established. One of the keys to an effective transition is to establish the church with this idea in mind from the start. The missionary must make clear to the church that an important part of his role is to prepare a national believer to assume leadership.
The Epistles tell of problems that sometimes arose in the New Testament churches Paul planted. Paul addressed them by sending the church some of his missives or by sending workers to take care of the situation.
Knowing that even the apostle Paul faced problems should bring us comfort. Often we expect leadership transitions to be perfect, and they aren’t. That should not discourage us from making such transitions, but instead serve as a reminder to look out for pitfalls and make sure we don’t repeat the same mistakes.
I planted and pastored two churches in San Salvador, El Salvador, while serving as a missionary there for 28 years. I pastored the Evangelistic Center for 25 years and Christian Temple for three years. A church planting principle I implemented at both places was to always have a national pastor working with me. From the beginning, the congregations grew accustomed to seeing both the national pastor and the missionary in the pastoral role. The church board also instituted a financial system that fully supported the co-pastor in order to make the transition from missionary to national leadership easier when the time came.
At Christian Temple, I had two national co-pastors. In addition, half the board members from Evangelistic Center came with us to give leadership for the development of the new church.
Using this same process, Evangelistic Center has since planted about 100 satellite churches throughout San Salvador, and many of them are leading churches in El Salvador today.
The church planting process will not look the same in all countries. Neither will the church that is planted. In restricted-access countries, political and/or religious systems often prevent the implementation of basic church planting principles. In these situations, missionaries find it necessary to become familiar with and understand the culture while looking for creative ways to plant the church and prepare national leadership. In all of our church planting efforts, we must depend on the Holy Spirit to guide us regarding what will work for that country and culture.
The Bible is clear that church planting — the “assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25) — is necessary to disciple those who come to faith in Christ and to further propagate the gospel.
For decades, Assemblies of God missionaries have implemented these church planting principles worldwide. Today, more than 5,000 missionaries are being sent to other lands by churches that once were mission fields and now have caught a vision for reaching their world.
L. JOHN BUENO
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September 2, 2007 • 4869