For Church Planting In the 21st Century
- By Randy Knutson
If you're called to plant a church in the
21st century, you need the ability to declare a new future. You will also need skills
that allow you to learn and adapt as you go. The future leaders of tomorrow will redefine
reality in a culturally-shifting world. They will live as sojourners in
their own land.
Most postmodern sociologists today unpack the long list of changes which will color our
future. For the sake of this article, I will assume you're aware of the tectonic shifts
taking place in our theology, apologetics, evangelism, communication styles, and church
structures. If not, I suggest you dial up people like:
Brian McLaren can be reached at CRCC@aol.com
[www.crcc.org] Check out the taped sessions with Brian,
such as, "Planet of the Pomo Theologians: Amateurs Tackling Tough Issues" and
"Storytelling" which are available by visiting www.youngleader.org and clicking to the "YL
Rodney Clapp is another individual you can be reached at email@example.com.
You can read his bimonthly "porch enlightenment" essays on changes in our
popular culture at www.ivpress.com.
The designers of the 21st century church will be agents of change. Like
intercultural specialists, they will investigate their world. They will view their world
from a missionary point of view and try to understand their city with fresh assumptions.
The most obvious assumption will be to start their ministry saying, "I don't
know." When it comes to pre-determined strategies and plans, they will have an
attitude of "I don't want to know." Instead they will seek answers by
interacting with their mission-field. In the absence of know-how or plan, their answers
will come from on-site field survey. Out of respect for the lost and the exploration of
the uniqueness of every individual, they will instead seek to know people as the gospel of Jesus Christ
draws them together in Word and deed. They will not see their role as telling and selling,
but instead as sojourners asking questions as they explore what it really means to be
Declaring a new future isn't based on evidence. In fact, the people who declare a
new future without evidence can be called our heroes and visionaries. Martin Luther King
said, "I have a dream." John F. Kennedy said, "We will put a man on the
moon in ten years." Gandhi said, "India will be a free country without
violence." They declared how the future would look and it was not based on evidence
of the past.
Declaring has faith and eyes to see what is yet to be. Declaring is filling
ourselves with the imagination of God and stating out loud a "dream or a vision of
the future." Nothing will ever happen until someone stands up and declares their
dream. Poets, mystics, and philosophical theologians have dreams. They try to see what
others do not. By doing so, they bring the element of mystery to the front of our minds
where God can work. When they courageously speak out loud their vision, they are
reflecting the image of God. In Genesis, God spoke the world into existence. Literally, by
word of command (fiat) he made what was not! The leaders of tomorrow will speak into
existence the future from the findings of their research from their mission field.
Future Leaders Will Address The Issues Of Hope And Despair. The future reminds us
that the world is winding up its eschatological time clock. Deception, false teachers, and
despair will run freely. Jesus warned us in Matthew 24:12, "that the love of men will
grow cold." When change comes and people don't respond to it, they will begin to say,
"Nothing here is working!" Therefore, when the future looks dark, people of
light shine. Many will lose their faith. We should be warned. If we take despair into
ourselves, we will reap fate. If we look by faith into the future, we will reap destiny. The
leaders of life giving faith will see hope and opportunity to preach the gospel to the
ends of the earth. They will be able to connect others to the only real power source -
Christ the hope of glory.
The key to the church of the future is to
retreat regularly to pray, plan, and envision their findings. You will always be in
the first year of your five-year plan - for three reasons.
1) Because the terrain is constantly changing in front of you.
2) Because you will have to react to things you cannot see in your path.
3) And because retreated times of reflection keeps you depending and listening to
God to lead the Church. Future leaders will spend more time on the field but they will
also retreat away from the sounds of the city and lower their RPM's on a frequent basis to
reflect, pray, and intentional plan. One leader I know takes his team out for one
and a half days each month to envision their future.
What happens to a church that does not intentionally retreat to pray, plan, and
envision their future? The tyranny of the urgent will run their weekly meetings and
calendaring. Change will either be your friend or your enemy. Hurried, reactive,
marginless planning will do more to frustrate understanding the future than any other
attack of the devil. A new church that does not intentionally retreat to pray, plan, and
envision the future will immediately need resourcing to keep its momentum going. If
during this time they still don't retreat, the vision and energy of their momentum will
begin to slow down and they will need refocusing. If they still don't retreat their
momentum will slow down to a crawl, and relational fights will break out and people will
leave. At this point others will need to come in to help the church in a process of restoration.
And finally, if they don't retreat the vision dies and so will the
If you can keep standing for the vision God gives you, it will inspire others to
follow. It is true that declaring, and standing for your commitment, means that you
may be alone for a little longer than you like. A genuine commitment, inspired by God is
something people nearly always love to get behind or throw rocks at. Your confidence to
adjust, adapt, and listen to God's voice will yield people's respect if you can persevere.
One of my favorite movies is Rudy. It is a story of a little man from a steel town in
Illinois who declared at age eight he would play football for Notre Dame. Soon he was told
in he was not smart enough or talented enough to even be eligible. He was profoundly alone
in his declaration. His father, brothers, and teachers thought he was crazy. Notre Dame
rejected him. He got a job as groundskeeper on the campus and went to junior college and
got a tutor to get his grades up.
Finally he was accepted into the school. He joined the boosters who painted the football
helmets. Eventually he got on the squad because of his testimony of perseverance. He
practiced with the team with no hope of playing and took their brutal practices. With one
minute to go in the last game of his college life, with everyone watching, he played
football. He melted down the opposition's arguments with his passion and a dream. He is
the only player in Notre Dame history to be carried off the field in victory.
you want to plant a church in the 21st century, you need to learn from men like Rudy. He
was a Notre Dame football player, with all his being, until the people who had the power
to send him out on the field saw the same being. So the question you must answer from the
city where you want to plant your church- is what will you declare?
Randy Knutson works
for a mission agency called Church Resource Ministry. He also oversees the assessment,
placement, and coaching system for church planters of the Association
of Vineyard Churches in
the Western Region of the United States. You can e-mail Randy at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit Randy's homepage
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