I love church planters, and I believe in church planting. Last week, I trained church planters in Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. My wife Pam and I are members of a growing church plant. I’m privileged to walk alongside our church’s leaders, love them, pray for them, and learn from them.
So, I write these words not to condemn, but to challenge. I trust young and old leaders alike will hear my heart as I raise these concerns about some young churches:
- In a justified effort to be disciplemaking churches, some will lose focus on evangelism. My generation must take responsibility for not discipling well, and I commend young church leaders for emphasizing discipleship. That’s a right move. I’m concerned, though, that those leaders won’t carefully balance evangelism and discipleship.
- In their effort to be relevant, some will at times be morally lax. I agree with young leaders that we have at times established fences that are more legalistic than biblical. On the other hand, I pray all of us will make wise choices in the context of healthy relationships marked by godly insight and a gospel witness.
- Despite their desire to be multi-generational, some won’t get there. Young leaders and churches get it right: we need all generations in a healthy church. To get there, though, means talking to, listening to, learning from one another. It necessitates a willingness to change as needed to reach all generations – including reaching my older generation.
- While building partnerships, some will neglect training their own folks to give sacrificially. I’m deeply grateful for the cooperation I see today between established churches and church plants – the best I’ve seen in 30+ years of ministry. What I fear is that some young leaders might be better at finding partners than they are at producing faithful givers in their own church.
- While receiving denominational support, some will be weak in creating denominational loyalty. I know current structures are changing, but healthy denominational work can still help produce strong churches. If young churches that receive denominational funds today help us by participating, giving input, and promoting partnerships, perhaps future church leaders will have the same kind of support they’re receiving.
- In their legitimate efforts to be multi-ethnic, some will miss a large percentage of ethnics. Again, I commend the vision to build churches that reflect the multi-ethnicity of a community and point toward heaven. I fear, though, that some churches will be comfortable with a few people from different ethnic groups (most often, those few who are already most like the majority group in the church), and they’ll miss the larger percentage of ethnics who likely will never attend their church.
- In their unity among networks, some will fail to produce contextualized approaches. How I wish that I as a young pastor would have had the opportunity to learn from others like church planters do today! At the same time, though, I’m concerned that too many leaders simply adopt the processes of more “successful” churches without considering the best approach for their own congregations and contexts.
Please hear me again, though, young church leaders: you have no greater fan than I am. I pray these words challenge you in a positive way.