I haven't blogged about the Exponential: Made for More Conference last week. It was AWESOME. I personally love conferences, ESPECIALLY one that gives me an opportunity to talk about Discipleship and Church Online!
One of the highlights for me was seeing Ed Stetzer speak. At the conference this year he released a one page document sponsored by the Send Institute... essentially it's a Church Planting Manifesto for the 21st Century Church with twelve points. Not 95 points. Just twelve.
Now, Ed is the king of research, so when I see this document, and hear him speak about how these twelve points need to be engrained in our church plants... complete with scriptural support... I pay attention.
Then I realize. This document isn't as much about planting churches... it's really the ground level for discipleship-oriented Churches. Taken a step further... does Send Institute's Manifesto work in context of a discipleship-oriented Church Online?
I'm tired of the argument. You can't have Biblical Community in Church Online.... There's no way to do discipleship thru Church Online... Let's set aside preconceived notions on both sides, and see if Church Online can exist to the Send Institute standards for Church Plants.
(Italics included below the main points are direct quotes from the Manifesto's PDF. Download to get Send Institutes full take.)
01. Prayer and obedience to the Holy Spirit in light of the Word of God take priority over systems and structures. (Luke 6:12-16; Acts 16:6-10)
Church Planting Manifesto: "We affirm that any genuine church multiplication movement is birthed out of prayer and sacrificial obedience in cooperation with how the Spirit of God is already at work."
Does it work for Church Online? Sure! I've never known prayer to stop working cause it's on a technological platform. Heart of this point is that Church Planting isn't about a denominational system, or network formula. It's not a process. It's about people passionately following after the Holy Spirit. I long for the day when our Churches Online are given this opportunity. I believe the church who aggressively prays over the digital mission field will find God ready to move.
02. Church planting is both the impulse and the result of multiplying disciples who hear and obey God. (John 10:27; Romans 15:18)
Church Planting Manifesto: "Church planting methodologies have often focused more on executing a project plan for launching large group gatherings rather than on developing appropriate disciple-making strategies... The multiplication of new disciples from the harvest into biblical community and mission becomes the modus operandi and the expectation of a new church."
Does it work for Church Online? Yes it does. At least it should. Confession is good for the soul, right? I'm guilty. I admit it. I've spent too many years in ministry building the large group gatherings and not focusing on the disciple-making opportunities for the church. The real question is can Church Online be used to multiply disciples healthily who hear and obey God? Without hesitation I would say yes, with the asterisk that the parent organization... the church running the Church Online... needs to understand this. If the American Church has a vision for this level of discipleship, we will see revival, but probably not the revival we would expect.
03. Every believer is a disciple-maker with a holy calling and vocation. (John 4:29; 1 Peter 2:9)
Church Planting Manifesto: "The tendency to professionalize the work of church planting can create an unbiblical and unhelpful divide between clergy and laity. This divide often restricts faithful and faith-filled believers from meaningful participation in the work of church planting."
Does it work for Church Online? If Church had a vision to work this way, the Church Online would as well. Our mega-buildings, our professional staffs... they're a lid for today's Church. A high lid, but still a lid. What if Church Online became the vehicle to empower the people with the Gospel? Church Online isn't a virtual building where people gather... it's the virtual distribution network we use to equip people with the Gospel. We've talked about this before. For Church Online to work well, it really needs to work at the level of a Church Plant. Don't hire staff. Decentralize ministry. Empower your lay people to lead. While this is a challenge for Church Plants, our Churches today would look drastically different if WE ALL took this approach.
04. Planting contextually-appropriate churches will require much innovation and risk-taking, and much of this new learning will come from the Church from around the world. (2 Corinthians 4:7-12; Romans 1:8-15)
Church Planting Manifesto: "Churches in North America need to learn from a humble position what God is doing all over the world... Our intention should not be to imitate their methods and models, force fitting them into our context. Instead, we praise God for how he has worked, and humbly and introspectively search for points of cultural adaptation."
Does it work for Church Online? I just want to highlight some key words here. Contextually-appropriate. Innovation. Risk-taking. Well, dang, if that doesn't sound like Church Online... here's the reality. Church, as much as we think we know the answers, we don't. It's not ours to know. God knows. To say that He cannot use contextually-appropriate churches who are willing to use innovation and risk taking to humbly examine new learnings from Church Online? Seems to me it's a limitation of vision on the Church side.
This is just the beginning. Next up will be numbers 5-8, which will be addressed in a future blog post. Stay tuned.
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.
06. Multiplication movements require local churches taking responsibility for raising and spiritually parenting future church planting teams.
07. Biblical churches that are culturally relevant exist in a variety of models and sizes.
08. Honor leadership from the harvest and contextualized pathways of leadership development.