Alot of folks ask what in the world we are teaching church planters in our Church Plant residency so that they are seeing themselves as missionary to a local context and culture. I thought I would attempt to fly at 10,000 feet and attempt to answer that. I want to start by saying that nothing is new that is under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9) and that what we are doing and training toward in our Church Plant Residency was developed and implement by “Craig Whitney” with Emerging Leadership Initiative. Craig has been active in the Church Planting for years and has helped many folks start churches. He has a dream of helping to plant thousands of churches across the United States. Craig has helped us (West E. Free Church) in our development of church planting Wichita and in our training of Church Plant Residents that we assess, train and equip, and then send to plant a church.
The image of the wheel that you see below is the training pattern and the rhythms of life that the church planter has to live in the residency process. I’ll briefly describe them more below.
The cultivate wheel is built on the ‘solid foundation’ piece of the image. The planter that is going through residency must have a solid foundation in their own life before they are able to lead others toward what it means to be a missionary to the culture. They must have
- Calling – The planter must be aware of and convinced of calling in his life so that he can withstand the crazy things that will be encountered as they plant a church. They must be totally convinced that God has called them to ‘plant a church.’
- Context – Who is that God has called the planter to reach? If the planter’s heart doesn’t break for a specific people in a specific place, then there may not be a clear calling to that place. Developing this heart is an important part of the process. Understanding information about an area and group of people is important here.
- Clarity – What sort of church will we create? This has to do with the philosophy, the understanding of what the church plant will have in it’s DNA and culture creation. If there isn’t clarity with this, then mission drift and mission extraction has a likelihood of occurring.
- Core – The church will be started by a group of people gathering. But the planter needs to be aware of who is strategic to starting. If the planter has weaknesses that need to be shored up by someone’s strengths, thinking through this is important for the planter.
The wheel itself is simply a description of rhythms that the planter will need to live in the residency time period (and beyond) and then train and equip the core team to do the same. The outcome of living the cultivate wheel is that a church should be planted ‘out of culture’ meaning the people that are gathered are new believers and there is a conversion growth rate that happens. When this happens, and they are seeing people come to faith, we can celebrate the fact that church planting is doing what Tim Kellar points out that it should do, and that is reach people that will not go into an established church context.
- Building Relationships – This is everywhere a planter and his core team go. They are meeting new people, building new relationships, attempting to see people and hear their stories, and connect with those. This is a step in the cultivate wheel that can’t ever stop. When it does, the water that is moving can become stagnant.
- Create Community – As relationships are built, inviting those relationships together to experience some sense of community is healthy and helpful. Making sure that the community that is created is intentional can be a key part of the strategy.
- Serve Your Neighbors – This goes along with building relationships and creating community. As we add the element of serving, it’s a peculiar part of the process, but there seems to be a part of scripture dedicated to the notion of serving people with the love of Jesus. It’s an important part of the process.
- Lead People to Faith – This is an important part in the training process and the life cycle of a church plant. If this isn’t happening, then there may not be any conversion growth. If there isn’t conversion growth, then the purpose of planting is thwarted.
- Help them Grow – We want to make disciples. Helping people grow after conversion is important.
- Develop Leaders – To continue a movement of disciple making, we have to have leadership development. Others who are sent to start this cycle again is extremely important.
- Gather to Grow – This seems weird in light of our recent church planting efforts in the United States, because generally this is one of the first things that happen (Gather a group of believers, meet together, and invite others to the gathering.) While this element is crucial, the order of this element is also crucial. Putting all resources into the gathering is both unhealthy and damaging to the life cycle of evangelism for the core team. It’s important that the gathering be a part of what the church does, not THE thing that the church does.
I’m excited about what God is doing in the life of our two residents and in the lives of their core team members. May God continue to work and draw people to himself in Wichita for his honor and for his glory.