Church-Planting Shifts, Part Three: Preparing Our People for Witness

Christianity Today
Ed Stetzer

Read Part One, The Launch, and Part Two, From Nominal to Secular.

In the past few weeks, I have talked about some recent church-planting shifts that I have noticed, both through the lens of research and some though anecdotal observations.

The world today is still reasonably familiar for church planters; yet the scene is changing as secularism grows, presenting a new challenge to the mission and ministry of the churches. The truth is, we are seeing more ‘nominal’ Christian people self-identify as no faith (“nones”) instead of Christian. Since nominal Christians have been a key part of the church planting strategy for most Christians (see my last post on this topic), it’s a shift that’s both new and challenging.

If we are to succeed in this new (more secular) space, we need to do more than simply acknowledge this shift. Instead, we need to prepare for it, and this includes preparing our church people for the paradigmatic shift to come.

So how do we prepare the mission force for the new mission field?
It begins with teaching our people to engage in ways that they’re not now accustomed to engaging. This is easier said than done, but it is essential for new church plants and movements of Christianity in the years to come.

In today’s culture, it’s easy to compare church experiences and allow people to decide which church they would like to attend. Our job is to invite them to a good church. In the secular context, however, having any prior exposure to church life should not be taken for granted.

The shift here is from invitation to engagement.
It’s from an approach which says, “Would you like to come to my church? It’s a great church!” to “How can I answer questions you have about life, spirituality, good, and evil?”

This shift is paradigmatic and would automatically make many Christians feel uncomfortable. One of the very reasons Christians are uncomfortable relates to their view of the Church and Christian leadership. Evangelism is weak where pastors do not equip and release their members into missional engagement within their contexts, but instead see the role of church people to just invite their friends to church.

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