In church planting, you are trying to lead a group of people to make disciples through everyday, ordinary life in your community. For some of us, the stark reality that we stumble upon in planting is that this will not happen on accident. Non-Christians in your community are unlikely to somehow sense that a new church has been started, look you up on Google and wander into your first services. So, if your church is going to reach those far from Christ, you will need an intentional strategy to do so.
A vision and a plan
Whether you are starting with seven or 75 people in your church plant, you can help set a culture of missional engagement in your church by having a vision for why your community needs engaging with the gospel, and a plan for your team to do so.
In developing this plan, the most important thing to start with is the Bible. Study the pages of the New Testament, noticing how Jesus reached out to people and made disciples, and how His disciples made disciples. Be sure you are starting with a sound, biblical model for how you will train your people to engage your community.
Next, it’s helpful to contextualize your plan for engaging your community to your specific context. Ask questions like:
- What is the general attitude toward Christianity here?
- What evangelism methods are most likely to work most effectively in this context?
- What are the biggest areas of need in our community?
- How could we start by meeting practical, tangible needs as a way to reach out to others?
- Are there specific sub-groups or areas of our community that we feel called to prioritize in missional engagement?
Train and equip
Once you have your strategy for engagement set, it’s time to put it into action. Some people on your church planting team likely have some maturity and gifting in how to engage others with the gospel, but it would be a mistake to assume everyone does. The reality is, the group you are starting with will likely need lots of equipping. Paired with some vision casting, paired with more equipping, then some reminding and then some more reminding.
You get the picture.
It is safe to say that training your people how you are going to go about reaching out to those who are far from Jesus will need to circulate in your teaching and equipping as long as your church exists, but especially so in the first few years. It needs to be something that they get tired of hearing, because some will need to get tired of hearing it before they even attempt to do it.
And take advantage of every chance that you get to tell stories of the people who are faithfully engaging the lost around them—regardless of the outcome. Celebrate the faithfulness of your people engaging others, and tell those stories often. By doing this, you will keep the vision of missional engagement in front of your people and teach them that this is something to be celebrated.
Model it well
In this area, the old adage that “you can teach what you know, but you reproduce who you are” rings true. The demands on your time and energy as a church planter are many, and there are certain things that you have to protect and accomplish. But, if you want your church to be a group who engages needs and reaches out to non-Christians in your community, you’ll need to prioritize that in your life. Because the best thing you can do to teach and inspire them to practice this is to actually show them through your life.
Trust the ultimate Missionary
Lastly, if the idea of you being the model missionary freaks you out a little bit, I have good news for you. As Christians surrounded by great spiritual need, we carry urgency and weight to our calling to spread the good news about Jesus, but we aren’t called to carry pressure. We are simply called to join God in what He’s already doing in our community and trust that He will use our imperfect and lacking efforts how He sees fit.
And at the end of the day, our heads can hit the pillow and we can sleep soundly, because the Holy Spirit is the ultimate missionary pointing hearts to Jesus, and He never sleeps nor slumbers.