Church Planting for What?

Over the last few days I’ve been in Atlanta meeting with the Send Network, a family of pastors, planters, and church multiplication catalysts from the major cities in North America. The goal has been an ongoing strategy and partnership for the sake of starting new, healthy churches in our country’s most influential metro areas. I’m touching back down in the Cities partially encouraged, partially overwhelmed. There’s a lot of work to do. 

Cities Church has been committed to church planting from the beginning. It grows from our conviction that the most effective way to spread the gospel in a metro is not by having one big church, but by multiple, agile churches with local presence. At Cities Church we explain that our mission is to make disciples, and our vision is to plant churches. That is, the mission is what we do; the vision is what it looks like when we’re doing it. As disciples are increasing and maturing (mission), it leads to multiplication, which eventually leads to more churches being planted (vision). 

One key piece of church planting that often gets overlooked, at least in my opinion, is the “maturing” piece in discipleship. Typically, the disciples who are most drawn to planting are the disciples most equipped. In a word: leaders. You can’t plant churches without leaders, and you don’t get leaders unless you have a deliberate pathway to develop them — and one that grows out of the discipleship ministry already happening in the local church. So we’re trying to do that. We want to develop lead church planters, leadership teams, and founding memberships made of men and women who get it. We want to disciple everyone to become mature worshipers, servants, and missionaries of Jesus, with some of those disciples taking the step of being equipped for church planting. 

Okay — so all of that is really catching on across the country. Most planters know that you can’t plant without developing leaders, and leadership development must grow out of discipleship. But I want to back up a little and add a couple bookends. What comes before discipleship? What comes after planting?

What comes “before” discipleship is actually the first part of discipleship. It’s evangelism. Simply put, discipleship starts with the dead being raised to life. God must save, and he saves when his gospel is preached. And that’s the calling of every Christian. Whether you’ve ever thought twice about church planting, you have a role to play in it. Share the gospel. Love your neighbors. Build relationship. Tell them that Jesus died on the cross to save them from their sins. That is church planting work. It’s the only way the church still exists to this day. It’s why the gates of hell will not prevail against us. Those saved by Jesus tell others how to be saved by Jesus, and it changes the world.

And that’s what comes after planting. 

So say Cities Church and our church plants — Cities Network — say we plant 50 churches in the Twin Cities metro by 2050. Just say we do. So what? What does that mean? What impact would that have? The answer is change. 

Evangelism, discipleship, leadership development, church planting, change.

If we continue to plant churches in the Twin Cities — and I mean, healthy, Bible-saturated, gospel-centered, Christ-exalting churches — if we keep planting churches like this in the Twin Cities it will change the Twin Cities. Yes it will. We can change an entire metro for the glory of Jesus. We can make Jesus impossible to ignore in the Twin Cities. That’s what we’re trying to do. 

It starts with how you talk with your neighbor today.