Hey Church, we're on a little bit of an academic exercise here. Send Institute recently released a Church Planting Manifesto for 21st Century North America. The document is a charge to new churches to create disciples who create disciples. There are plenty of implications directed at the North American church... we can learn something here from our International brothers and sisters.
But for argument sake, let's pause here. Send Institute, chaired by Dr Ed Stetzer and a number of people far smarter than me, are saying that this Manifesto is the benchmark for churches that are disciple-making, movement-creating organizations or if they're, well, "unbiblical and unhelpful" (Send Institute's words, not mine.) So, my question is how does the relatively-untested model of "Church Online" operate in this space? Can Church Online be capable to meet the standards, the guidelines of a disciple-making, movement-creating force used by God!
We've already discussed #1-4 on the blog, so swing over there if you want the full picture. Today we'll discuss #5-8.
(Italics included below the main points are direct quotes from the Manifesto's PDF. Download to get Send Institutes full take.)
05. Planting churches that bear witness to the redemptive presence of the Kingdom of God in the world requires a holistic engagement of the community with the whole gospel.
Church Planting Manifesto: There is a temptation to bifurcate mission into word or deed, or to overemphasize one at the expense of the other. But true Kingdom engagement necessitates both word and deed approaches. To a spiritually hungry world, our good news will clarify, and our good works will verify.
Does it work for Church Online: There's a common misconception today of Church Online that it only produces consumers. I agree that in today's American Church their execution of Church Online leans heavily towards a word and not the deed. Wrapped up in this is the American church's inability to properly decentralize its ministries. Our Churches Online are creating consumers because our Churches are creating consumers. In this situation Church Online is really a mirror image of the Church. Ouch.
I long for a church who will look at Church Online as an opportunity to look at its attenders not as attenders, but Pastors-in-training. Train your people with the Gospel. Teach them how to do ministry and unleash them in their communities.
James 1:22 - Do not merely listen to the word [ONLINE] and so deceive yourself. Do what it says [IN THE REAL WORLD.]
06. Multiplication movements require local churches taking responsibility for raising and spiritually parenting future church planting teams.
Church Planting Manifesto: While at times it has become necessary for denominations and networks to catalyze new churches, we believe that a healthy pattern for ongoing multiplication is through a local church’s internal disciple-making processes.
Does it work for Church Online: They're not wrong. Local support is phenomenal. The chance to sit down with people who have done church planting, in your city, in your context... to be coached by them... great stuff!
What if a local church utilized Church Online as the vehicle to create to plant churches? Instead of teaching our people to be teachers/preachers first, we taught them to be shepherds first? What if we empowered these shepherds to do church anywhere in our city... in homes, in office conference rooms, in prisons, in hospitals. What if we utilized Church Online to create micro-locations, taking the church to the people?
Crazy? Probably. But First Capital Christian in Indiana is doing it, and growing tangibly at a rampant rate, due to Church Online. Learn their story how.
BTW, is it possible to disciple someone as part of a multiplication movement even though they're not in the same city? Here's an example of how it happened.
07. Biblical churches that are culturally relevant exist in a variety of models and sizes.
Church Planting Manifesto: We recognize that throughout history, as today, our creative Father has been transforming the world thorough churches expressed in various models and in a wide array of sizes... We believe churches should plant churches in the particular way the Holy Spirit leads them, especially as they are contextual to the domains of society and the people they intend to reach and disciple.
Does it work for Church Online: Hearing the terms "various models" and "contextual to... society" encourage me. But "people they intend to reach and disciple" resonate.
Here's the reality. In today's age, there are people who will not set foot in our buildings. We can try whatever marketing campaign or event we want... some people just won't go. But what if we used Church Online to connect with people in a new way, Online, and discipled them towards their "Holy Calling"? Seems to me Church Online is now a model worthy of discussing.
The Digital Mission Field is just how it sounds... there are people today that the only way to reach them is digitally. And Church Online is one of the best tools on our belt to get started.
08. Honor leadership from the harvest and contextualized pathways of leadership development.
Church Planting Manifesto: While it is not wrong, and often necessary to import leaders with cross-cultural giftings from other geographies to initiate a church plant...The reliance on importing leadership will prohibit young disciples from attaining maturity, stunting any natural pathways for multiplication.
Does it work for Church Online: Here's really the question: Is Church Online as effective to disciple someone locally as doing it in physical environments? The idea of honoring, featuring even, from the local city is of huge value. What if we challenged future pastors, before we invest up to six-figures in their church (lease, audio/visual, physical marketing, personnel, etc)... what if we birthed these multiplication movements through Church Online and disciple the up-and-coming Pastors in the relatively inexpensive context that Church Online provides. Church Online creates a financially risk-free way to train these young disciples towards attaining maturity. Wait, plant a Local Church Online? That's crazy. Oh, wait, #4 said planting churches would require "much innovation and risk taking." It's so easy to forget that part.
See, this is a fun exercise in reimagining Church Online through the lens of Church Planting! Next up will be #9-12, and here's a sneak peek.
09. Healthy communication and collaboration among groups, especially at local levels, is an essential dynamic for multiplication.
10. Regular and ongoing evaluation of mission strategies, structures, and systems is necessary for contextually-appropriate methods and models.
11. Mobilization for mission is rooted in a hopeful belief in the progress and future reality of God’s completed work and the renewal of all things.
12. Men and women leading in mission—from different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds—is a demonstration of the power of the gospel.