Church planters stand in a unique intersection that brings five overlapping points of tension when it comes to vision and ministry DNA. I see these five tug-of-war ropes with every planter I[...]
Yesterday I met with ten church planters who are Houston's best and brightest. These guys are getting ready to plant or have recently launched. They are tied into the Houston Church Planting Network, and residency programs of active church planting churches (like Clear Creek Community Church, my home church.)
Each of the guys went through their Vision Frame. Some even had completed their Horizon Storylines after digesting my new book God Dreams over the recent holiday. I was thoroughly impressed with God's favor and anointing on these church planters.
As they presented their visions over a two-hour window, I found myself noticing some surprising themes and common threads. I couldn't help but sense that these are the traits of strong planters and strong church planting works of the future. Here are five emerging traits:
Trait #1: The Gospel is More Important than the Church Model
The rising tide of gospel centrality is refreshing and needed in today's church culture. While the gospel has never lost its potency and centrality, young planters look at the models of yesteryear wondering why the gospel was not as explicit as it should be. I heard the term "gospel fluency' used liberally with these planters. They will start churches where understanding and applying the gospel as a way of life and a daily vocabulary is foundational. Their confidence in the gospel of Jesus trumps their confidence in church models around them.
Trait #2: The Trinity is Practically Present
I have never heard church planters more intentional in their references to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. While I might expect more "trinitarian intentionally" based on some faith tribes or theological backgrounds, the highly diverse group of leaders all made the three persons of our one God, practically present.
What do I mean by practically present? I mean that each planter assumed the essential role of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in their hope for the future, their life as leaders, and their work of disciple-making. I love how one planter referenced Jesus as our big brother (Hebrews 2:11-12) when he unpacked the role of the Trinity in preserving the church's value of "Embrace family."
Trait #3: Togetherness is Essential, Internally and Externally
When it came to articulating strategy, the word "togetherness" was used more than any other. Whether the internal ideas of "gather together," "grow together," and 'life together" or the external ideas of "go together" and "partner together," the church of God as a "people together" is here to stay.
But wasn't the church always "together," you might ask? Yes, of course. but don't miss the point of the explicit motivational emphasis. These planters see isolation as hell– literally in the eternal sense–but also practically as a driver of brokenness in our personal lives and in our church models. The familial nature of the church is forcefully championed. When it comes to working with other churches and organizations, partnering is considered a non-negotiable strategy and kingdom value, not an option or possibility.
Trait #4: Multiplication is the New Normal, at Every Level
Simply put, in these planters' minds there is no such thing as a fruitful disciple that is not making other disciples. And there is no such thing as a fruitful church that is not making other churches. While the idea of multiplication is certainly not new, it has become increasingly front-and-center over the past decade. I believe we will finally see the integration of multiplication with this generation of planters.
The previous generation talked about it, but did not emotionally readjust their leadership scorecard. We have many leaders who agree with "multiplication' but live out "addition." These church planters, however, will walk the talk. By the way, the Exponential conference theme this year of "Becoming Level Five" will continue to drive this "multiplication vs. addition" conversation. (Exponential is one of the largest conference gatherings of church planters.)
Trait #5: Bold Humility is Expressed Uniquely
While it's an exciting time to plant a church, it's a difficult time to do so. People don't just show up to their denomination brand or the new, non-traditional community church down the street, like they did in the suburban sprawl of the 70s, 80s and 90s. Church planting is simply hard work and is always a deeply relational labor.
Maybe that's why I sensed an unusual boldness with these planters. They're not faint of heart. Furthermore their boldness is marked with a refreshing humility. When you add this passion to the fact that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all church anymore, the bold humility is expressed with such uniqueness. Each personality shines with a passion for Jesus in its own way. Praise God! These guys are my heroes.