Let’s face it: we have a problem in working in God’s harvest within the church-planting context. First is the concept! It’s a North American concept, it’s good but not very biblical.
I’m a church planter, so don’t take it wrong very quickly. It’s not very biblical for two reasons:
1) Jesus never commanded his disciples to start/plant/initiate churches as a command. Instead He said: “Go, preach the Gospel”, “Go, make disciples”, Go, heal the sick and raise the dead”, Go, freely receive and freely give”, GO.
2) Apostles never went in cities to plant churches, they knew that Jesus builds the church. They went and preached the gospel and taught believers to become disciples. Later they organized the believers unto a church.
The reality today in North America is that a lot of people have an experience with church: good or bad. So from the era of Billy Graham who was inviting once-churched to come to Christ, now we have the era of church planting.
I believe in church planting and I personally think that church planting models with the expectations inside are failing to reach the spiritually lost. The usual church plant is reaching the once-churched, not the never-churched. Or is reaching the wondering spiritualist, but not the devouts of other religions/expressions. One might say: “I don’t care! As long as people come at our meetings I’m doing my job”. I might reply: “If your job is to fill your rooms with people who listen to your songs and your sermons, than your job is not complete”.
The biggest challenge we have as church planters is to be “successful” and that’s usually translates with having within a certain timeframe a considerable group of people who come regularly in meetings, take responsibilities and contribute towards a stable financially group. So to be “successful” are we able to shift our focus from never-churched to the once-churched? Mostly, it is easier to bring in once-churched. Just make sure you have a “positive, non-judgmental, come as you are” environment. Don’t push any buttons on sins. Make people happy, give them a positive break from their normal life. And the truth is that many times, people find Jesus in these environments. But to make that happen, often requires a lot of start-up people who know the Lord and are passionate for the wondering spiritual people. Requires a lot of preparations and resources.
My thoughts are for the never-churched, the atheists, the agnostics, the Muslims, the Buddhists, the Satanists, the occultists, etc. Why? Partly because I was raised in such environment, the Albanian community mostly is like that and many other communities are like that.
How can we be successful church-planters in North America reaching these “other” groups? Do we really want to reach these “other” types of lost people? What’s is the cost? Can we calculate the cost and the level of the successful within a five-year plan?
Sometimes I ask people: If your model is the right one in church planting, does it work successfully similarly in every region of the world? If you send a missionary at Indonesia, or Kosovo or Turkey to work among Muslims, do you expect them to be self sustained in 5 years? What if you start a church in Toronto reaching Muslims from Indonesia, Kosovo or Turkey, do you expect the same results?
Nothing is easy in the work of the Kingdom because we fight against the darkness! I hope this article helps you to be faithful and not picking your fights, but allowing the Holy Spirit to lead where God wants you to be and to do. In the end all we want to hear is: Well done, my good and faithful servant!