As I have discussed in this series on church-planting shifts, we must acknowledge that Christianity in the West will be competing more with a secular worldview than it has in the past, when Christendom reigned.
The question among missiologists and pastors today arises around the issues of timing: When will this reality exert significant pressure on the present church planting approach, thus requiring immediate change to the predominant approach—reaching nominal Christians?
Below I look at some possible implications this evident shift may have for the support structures of most church planting initiatives.
With the rising tide of secularism and the ultimate decline of Christian nominalism, we may need to rethink our denominational/traditional church planting support mechanisms. There’s no doubt that nominalism has provided us with a ready base to plant and launch churches. We could plant faster with a Christian base and nominal Christians to reach.
But that is changing.
This, in turn, has led to a fiscal reality that the way we fund church planting must line up with the new and emerging philosophies of church planting.
As we look to the future, we’re going to find it more challenging to fund church plants the traditional way, primarily because the sending context will be vastly dissimilar to our current context. That’s already true in places like Boston or Madison, WI, but it is becoming more evident in Columbus as well.
In order for churches to be planted in a more secular society, we need different skills as church planters and we need to take more time to establish credible and significant roots in a secular community that may not be antagonistic to the Christian faith, yet question its overarching importance to life.
Planting churches in secular contexts is different from planting churches in nominal Christian contexts. Even though the difference may seem obvious to most people, the implications are more complex as it relates to the emotions of current support infrastructure and denominational marketing endeavors.
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Christianity Today, Ed Stetzer