Church-Planting: Scary But Necessary

One of the most consistent differences between missionary endeavors that operate out of fear and those that operate in boldness is their emphasis on church-planting. A couple examples should sufficiently illustrate. First, when we arrived here in China, I ate lunch with a guy who’d been here for several years teaching English. In the course of conversation, he got very uncomfortable and finally shushed me. The word that caused him to panic? ‘Church.’

Second example: I know of a work here in our city that actually reminds the Christians that come each week (unbelievers are not allowed to come) that they are not a church! I know, because a lot of those kids eventually end up at ours, looking for a place that calls itself a church.

These workers have bought into a common (but false) idea about missions in China: it is not possible, nor is it profitable, for foreigners to be involved in church-planting work.

I’d just like to share a couple observations about this fear of church-planting. I pray that people considering missions in China will think about this seriously.

1. The heavy-lifting of the Great Commission will always be done by the church. It is the church that has been called and equipped for this mission, and the job will not be done without it. If para-church ministries were all China needed, China would have all it needed. If our city is any pattern at all, there is a huge imbalance in the numbers. There are only a few church-planting efforts in our city. There are dozens and dozens in the ‘other’ category. Teaching English and whatnot. And (please don’t get upset) those efforts aren’t very effective in proclaiming the Gospel. And there’s absolutely no comparison in the long-term effects of these ministries.

2. English teachers shouldn’t tell church planters that they can’t plant churches. As per usual, it comes down to training. If my doctor tells me that I need a certain kind of surgery, my amateur opinion suddenly loses its credibility. One of the big reasons that many are afraid of church-planting is that they have no training to do so. I’m certainly not saying that they’re any less for it, just that they’re not the people to listen to if you want to know if planting a church is possible. Planting a church is scary in any country, and when you add in the illegality factor, it’s more than enough for most people to just set the bar a lot lower.

I’m sorry if this entry doesn’t seem to have anything to do with you. It’s just astounding, though, how many people have heard that church-planting is impossible in China. I have a friend who’s raising support to come to China to plant churches, and he’s having a killer time convincing people that things aren’t the way they think. The wrong ideas have circulated long enough, and they’re affecting the field.

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2 Comments on “Church-Planting: Scary But Necessary”

  1. ideafindr September 20, 2015 at 6:26 pm #

    Where do you suggest we get this type of training? And what do you mean specifically-Just training to plant churches? Or are you also talking about something like seminary?

    What’s to be said for laypeople who’s full time work is English teaching or some other profession? Do they need this training if they are coming alongside existing churches or church-planters and helping the church out, or is this a poor strategy?

    Thanks for your insightful post!

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