What Is Church Planting?

Defining the Task

By Ken M.

Church planting is central to Pioneers. Our mission statement and core values make that clear. But how does this priority work itself out on the ground in the Pioneers world? What does it look like on our teams?

There is great diversity in how teams interpret and engage in church planting on their respective fields. But there are also some important commonalities. The first commonality would be our agreement that the goal of each team is to “initiate church planting movements (CPMs) among the unreached.” This means that the resources of each team are focused not just on evangelism and follow-up—as vital as those activities may be. Teams agree that the evangelism and discipleship they catalyze must contribute to the establishment of communities of believers, not just believers.

Rooted in Scripture

Pioneers workers see this church planting as the primary way the apostles understood Jesus’ Great Commission. The book of Acts describes the result of the apostles’ work in new areas as the emergence of local churches. Jesus’ followers carried out the Great Commission by planting churches. That’s what Pioneers teams attempt to do.

Essential to the Great Commission

Even beyond that, however, our teams understand that the only hope for reaching this fast-growing world is to see movements develop. Churches planting churches that plant churches and so on. And to initiate movements, everything they do must revolve around this goal.

No two Pioneers teams look exactly the same in how they try to initiate church-planting movements in their people group.

This is where the diversity comes in. No two Pioneers teams look exactly the same in how they try to initiate church-planting movements in their people group. Around the Pioneers world, team members serve as teachers, social workers, doctors, nurses, farming consultants, drinking water technicians, businessmen, and in a host of other surprising capacities. One of our members even pilots commercial passenger jets!

Working Together

The beauty of a well-functioning Pioneers team is that each person’s role contributes toward the team’s plan of initiating church-planting movements. Effective teams relentlessly call members back to the question, “How does what I am doing fit into the overall team strategy?” Relatively few of our missionaries might see themselves as “church planters,” but virtually all of our teams see themselves as church planting teams.

Many Methods

Diversity also exists in actual CPM ministry practice and methodology. Many members prefer a model that prioritizes the seeking of “persons of peace” who can unlock existing networks of people in a society. This opens the way for seekers who meet regularly to “discover” truth from the Bible and then quickly reproduce themselves as groups.

Other teams focus on the use of stories from Scripture that resonate with that society’s learning style. Other teams might be less methodological. They see it as God’s responsibility to come up with a strategy. The responsibility of the team members is to be light and salt to everyone God brings across their path each day. Each of these teams, despite diversity of approach, would agree that churches reproducing churches is the goal.

No Silver Bullet or Golden Key

Finally, effective Pioneers teams also agree that there is not a single, one-size-fits-all approach to church planting. No model can be labeled the model of Jesus. Teams also understand that there might not be a silver bullet or golden key to reaching their people group. Instead they stand ready to think creatively, reevaluate constantly, and above all to persevere until the church is planted and reproducing.

Ken has been with Pioneers since 1983. He and his wife served as church-planting missionaries in South Africa and Indonesia for a total of 14 years.

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