The following extract is taken from Multiplying Churches, new and updated from Christian Focus Publications. Written from Acts 29’s years of experience, Multiplying Churches unpacks how church plants can be used not only to reach people with the Gospel, but to encourage an entire church family to be actively involved in doing so. This serves as a timely reminder that mission needs to be our identity rather than our event.
Contributors include: Matt Chandler, Steve Timmis and Tim Chester.
Motive: Grace-filled church planting
Church planting is becoming trendy. There was a time when it was what the weirdos did on the fringes of evangelicalism. It was the province of misfits and malcontents who wanted to do something different. But increasingly church planting is becoming mainstream. Now the church-planting world is populated by cool dudes. In many ways this is a hugely encouraging development. But it comes with certain dangers. Church planting has become a way to make a name or build a kingdom for yourself.
WHAT ARE YOUR MOTIVES?
What is it that drives us? What is the anchor for the church planter and his team? It is the gospel. For all other motivations will fail you. The difficulty of the work, the sinfulness of your own heart, the desire to be applauded and the longing to be seen as a success are all powerful forces. They will chisel away at us. We may start finding our worth by how many people show up each Sunday. We may begin to expect a type of entitlement that God considers offensive rather than the humility that understands that we are the servants of all.
So a key question you need to process in your own heart is this: What are your motives? Whether you are investigating church planting or already moving towards planting or an existing church that wants to get into planting, you need to ask what it is that is really driving that desire. We need to wrestle when we see things that are inconsistent with a gospel motivation. We must confess and repent of them.
This will require a type of humility among the leaders of leaders that I have found to be rare. For it is in our weaknesses that the gospel is often seen most clearly.
Some time ago I received an unhelpful, negative email. I knew the Bible says I should respond with gentleness. So I typed up a kind and gracious response, and then copied in the elders of my church. Later Brian Miller, our lead pastor and chairman of our elder board, came to my office and said: ‘I’m so proud of you, Matt. I think that type of godliness is rare. I so appreciate it.’ In that moment I could have puffed up and thanked him. I could have pretended that I had sought the Lord in prayer and felt that what this brother needed was compassion. But that would have made me a liar. It would have represented a false kind of strength that is built on me and not Christ. So instead, by the grace of God, I took the opportunity to confess my sinful attitudes. Together Brian and I prayed for heart change. It was an opportunity for me to build my foundation again on Christ instead of trying to build it on me. We must get over ourselves! As John the Baptist said: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’ (John 3:30).
You need to do the work of evaluating the motives of your heart for they will spring up often and surprise you. Do not be surprised by your surprise. Be willing and diligent to do the hard work of confession and repentance. You are not above it. When Luther said that all of life is repentance he meant that there will be an on-going discipline in your life of confession and repentance. It means there will never be a day for you when you are not in need of saying, ‘Oh, I have done it again. Help me, Lord.’
And if you can anchor your heart in the gospel, then if it takes you thirty years to grow a church of three people you might walk in holy discontent, but you will not walk in sinful discontent. I think we are going to be surprised in heaven at who is well rewarded and who is not. That is because the Lord sees the heart. He knows our faithfulness. He does not celebrate bigness over smallness. He is the God who said: ‘Gideon, if I let you beat that army you’re going to get big-headed. So I’m going to cut down your army.’ ‘It’s still too big. Cut it down further. You need to know it’s just me who wins the battle.’ This seems to be the habit of the Lord – paring down and then working for the glory of His name.
So may your motives be as pure as possible. And may you be quick to repent when they are not.
“From the heights of biblical theology, to the plains of who does what, these brief chapters are again and again both practical and wise.”
Mark Dever, Capitol Hill Baptist Church and President, 9Marks.org, Washington, DC
“Fifteen years ago, the church planting movement was in its infancy. Today, many things have been learned but new challenges lie ahead. Therefore I am glad for the new edition of this book, in which those early lessons can be reviewed and the new horizons faced.”
Tim Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City
Where to Buy:
Multiplying Churches: Exploring God’s Mission Strategy is available at any good Christian bookstore. If you don’t have a Christian bookstore near you, you may want to consider purchasing a copy from one of the online book retailers listed below: