Lesslie Newbigin (1909-1998), while being best known for his work in missiology and ecclesiology, actually has a lot of advice for church planters. In fact, each of them is an extension of his quote in the picture above, or of my paraphrase below:
The church – a healthy church – is the hermeneutic of the gospel. It’s the way that the gospel comes to life. It’s the way that people can taste and smell the gospel.
When planting a church, it’s easy to go the way of the herd and get so caught up with the details, that you forget the values or the underlying ecclesiology that you’re trying to develop in the life of your church. After all, without those details getting done, you wouldn’t be able to plant a church. But what if, for a moment, you put those details aside and re-examined the type of ecclesiology that you’re developing in light of these four church planting tips that were inspired by Lesslie Newbigin’s The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society?
1. Cultivate gratitude, not entitlement.
Newbigin suggests that churches need to be communities of praise and thanksgiving and that this, perhaps, is the church’s most distinctive character. So how are you cultivating a culture of praise and thanksgiving in your church? Are you being intentional with your preaching/teaching and the rest of your ministries? If you cultivate that culture of praise and thanksgiving in your church, you’ll actually see that translate into a heart of gratitude – and with gratitude, you’ll be slaying the idol of entitlement. If that happens, you’ll see your church’s “me” culture translate into a “we” culture, where the focus will be less on personal comfort and wellbeing, and more towards the wellbeing of your city and the salvation of those who are far from God.
2. Share truth, not gossip.
The fuel that drives pop culture seems to be gossip and scandals. This isn’t just true for entertainment shows, late night shows and sitcoms, but this pervades the news as well. If this is the MO (mode of operation) of our culture, this will naturally seep into the life of your church. So instead of calling your church to reject pop culture outrightly and burn all their “secular” CDs and DVDs, what if you cultivated a sense of skepticism towards it? After all, this skepticism would enable your congregation to, in the words of Newbigin, “take part in the life of society without being bemused and deluded by its own beliefs about itself.” This sense of skepticism would allow your church to be aware of pop culture, so that they could speak truth into it by being an alternate community of truth apart from it.
3. Be for your community, not just in your community.