Church planting has become probably the most studied aspect of the Church and missiology in recent years. There has been a veritable explosion in interest in church planting, rightly so as it’s the best way to reach those who are far from God.
With this explosion has come a whole slew of methods for the best way to plant new churches. And while we know that there are definitely best practices that can help inside your cultural milieu, what’s been more telling is that
after decades of assuming that it was possible to find the secret sauce to make church planting stick anywhere in the world, there’s now a growing awareness that contextualization trumps methodology in church planting.
Three months after NewThing’s Global Huddle in London, England, contextualization is still resonating. There’s nothing like sitting with leaders from every inhabited continent, discussing how church planting works for them to hear the very different ways we’re all reaching God’s people.
This is why NewThing unites around the 4 R’s – reproducing, residency, resources, and -relationships. These four R’s remind us that what we’re about is greater than any one methodology or any one set of techniques. It’s about something deeper that undergirds everything we do – helping people find their way back to God and the recognition that how this looks will be different across countries, languages, economic systems, and even the same city.
Unity around contextualization keeps the ball rolling, keeps the team moving down the field, keeps everyone headed in the same direction, even if the tools they’re using aren’t the same. For some church planters, it’s supporting micro churches, for others coming alongside a multi-site, and for still others, only the simplicity of a house church is needed. And this choice might be because of finances, cultural history, or simple need, but however the choice is made – we make it knowing that we’re doing the best we can to reach the place we’ve been put.
Our God is mighty and big and international – full of ingenuity to use even the weakest tools to help people. And we can help that ingenuity when we approach our church planting knowing that worked five or five thousand miles away might not work here and being flexible could mean the difference between a successful church plant and one that fails.
How often do we step away from our methodology and ask what’s necessary because of the situation, and what’s been deemed necessary because it’s the way things are done here? Church planting is already hard enough without also failing to see the ways we’re allowing our methodology to dictate what our context should flavor.
Contextualization helps us decide music styles, preaching styles, even how discipleship should happen, all while allowing God to speak through those choices into the lives of the precious Sons and Daughters we encounter. Contextualization breathes life into the stale. Contextualization gives us the flexibility to respond in real-time to our culture. Contextualization is how NewThing churches are able to unite around the singular mission of reaching the world’s unreached, and yet look so different from each other.
If you ever have the chance to sit down with church leaders across denominations, languages, and countries – listen closely and you’ll hear how God is at work in our seemingly disparate communities, using our context to bring more and more people back to God.