bits from bob....

Effective Church Development: Building Strong Foundations

by Bob Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

Note: This is a summary of a process for church development in newly planted churches, with a focus on the mission field. I have written about this in more detail if you wish more information or to read more on this topic: Mission Philosophy Index.

Healthy church development in newly planted, not yet mature churches requires at least three steps. First, the church must develop biblical leadership which allows it to become self-governing. In the early stages, leadership may be supplied by a missionary or church planter, but healthy continuing growth comes when the church becomes indigenously self-governing. This is a great challenge, but an essential step. A team of mission workers may allow the church to have some semblance of self-government early on, but an initial organizational model dependent primarily on imported workers must be especially careful about failing to train internal, indigenous leaders.
Reaching self-governing status occurs most naturally when one identifies and and reaches "persons of peace", those with an inclination toward spirituality who serve as leaders in family or social groups. A factor that often has a negative influence on a church becoming self-governing is the hiring of a minister by an outside group such as a 'sponsoring' church. Such an arrangement opens the possibility of several negative influences. First, such a person, once empowered, often has little interest in developing leaders to share the leadership and power. Second, often such a person refuses to be accountable to the local congregation since his support comes from an outside source. Third, a subtle ambiguity or conflict often develops between supporting the development of a healthy church and supporting a specific person in ministry. Fourth, such hired persons often fail to deal with church conflict in healthy ways, choosing rather to move to other areas to work when difficulties arise. These possibilities, singly or in tandem, can work against developing self-governing churches.

A second goal is that churches become self-sustaining. This involves becoming self-edifying and being able to handle all (or most) of the regular expenses in the local church. Few churches will become self-sustaining until they are self-governing. This raises the possibility that the methods many supporting churches have used in mission work for years can actually work against the goal we wish to attain-to develop self-supporting congregations. Self-sustenance is rooted in local ownership which encourages and is enhanced by self-governance. When the church accepts responsibility for itself, that responsibility will generally extend to the challenge of being self-sustaining, including decisions about the methods and persons involved in ministry.

A third goal is that the local churches become self-duplicating or self-propagating. It is wonderful when US churches take ownership of the process of church planting in foreign mission fields. It is even better when local churches accept the responsibility for sharing the gospel, establishing new preaching points, and planting new churches. A church seldom becomes self-duplicating before it is self-governing and self-sustaining.

Churches interested in mission work and planting healthy churches that can plant healthy churches will do well to analyze the ways in which this process can best occur, guided by Scripture and observations and experiences from the mission field.

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Last updated September 22, 2020