Church planting & missions success? How would you define it!

We’ve been discussing some pretty interesting things in my class, God’s World Mission. One of the most profound is it evaluate the elitist mindset we can have as Western Christians that think “missions” happens when some Anglo-Christian folk waltz into a foreign community, begin to tell people about Jesus and claim that that is when God started working in said area.

It seems that the same could be said for N. American Church Planters at times. Now, as a whole I think that most missionaries, church planters and agencies that support them all, have very good intentions; we want to see people come to know Jesus Christ in real and transforming ways. But often times our methods and attitudes can be tainted more with elitism, than with humility and true, practical, Biblical theology. So, as a would-be church planter, its good to get some perspective check on these matters.

This thought comes from Ben over History in the Making:

“‘It just didn’t work out’ is a bad excuse by cultivators when God’s whole purpose for the plant was to tenderize a community. Likewise, when harvesters make headlines without acknowledging the yeeears of cultivating work that went-on before them in their cities… they strip God of credit.”

We neglect the reality that every corner of this world is His, and He has been working – sometimes ambiguously, sometimes quite clearly – much longer at redeeming His world and the people’s within it than we ever have.

So when it goes well with a church plant, and they are growing and engaging their community and the culture at large – lets praise God! And when it doesn’t seem to panning out, only a handful of people give their lives to the Lord, even though the pastors and leaders are sharing the gospel and teaching it faithfully – lets praise God for that too, that His word will not return void (ultimately, at least) and that He has begun a good work in that part of the world, that someday will be reaped. After all, “from Him, and to Him and through Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever!” (Romans 11:36)

Thoughts, anyone? Agree? Disagree? Too naive? What do you think: How would you define success: as missionaries, as church planters, as commissioned members of Christ in extending the kingdom of God?

[Caveat and Disclaimer: This is not a post about the shortcomings of any particular agency, group, or even socio-political group of Christians (i.e. Western). This is about the presupositions that often times go unchecked, even amongst the most strategic, thoughtful and well intentioned people and groups. I for one am a big fan of many such agencies, like MTW, MNA, Acts 29, Redeemer Church Planting Network, the Sovereign Grace and 9Marks folks, etc., etc.. So, don’t hear what I’m not saying! Thanks for letting me clarify.]


4 thoughts on “Church planting & missions success? How would you define it!

  1. I’m not sure the scriptures call us to success – I think they call us to be faithful in ministering the gospel (in its entirety). One caution though: I’ve met many ministers who’ve become complacent and when challenged have responded “I was called to be faithful not successful”. That’s a bit of a cop out. True faithfulness equates endlessly desiring more growth and depth. Its faithfulness with intent not merely random faithfulness.


  2. Chris,
    This reminds me of somehting my RUF pastor always reminded me of; God is always at work. The form of work he may be doing is the softening of hearts, or as Romans 9-11 would seem to suggest although I do not fully understand it, heardening hearts. The advantage to serving a sovereign God is that we know no matter what he is in control, he will see that his word is affective, and he will not let one of his perish without being restored to covenant union with his Son and his people. “Success” may look a lot different than we think. Which means, in responce to the comment above, complacency is not an option for the pastor, missionary, Christian, who believes that God is at work through his Spirit to recconcile all things to himself, to bring about the redemption of the sons of man, and therfore to release creation from its bondage to sin and decay. The it boils down to the simple fact that a “complacent pastor” is not being a pastor at all.


  3. I’m not a math guy, but a fellow church planter once told me: success = obedience + faithfulness. Please don’t let this little equation sound trite- it’s certainly a situation that involves great dependence on Christ and wisdom and discernment in regards to vision, mission, and calling; things that even seemingly “successful” people or ministries can sometimes lack.


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