Baptist 21 is excited to offer a three-part post from Matt Chewning, Lead Pastor of Netcast Church in Beverly, MA–a suburb of Boston. In these posts Chewning walks through the first three years of planting a church, offering practical insight and wisdom from his experience as to how we all should rethink mission and strategy in church planting.
Be sure to stay tuned for parts two and three!
Year 1: Don’t plant a church.
Favor in the Graveyard.
As I’ve had opportunities to share our story of planting Netcast Church over 2 ½ years ago, people have been astonished to hear what the Lord is doing. Over the past century, Greater Boston has been considered the preachers grave yard; It’s where preachers go to die. So for us to have baptized over 150 people in a little over 3 years, is shocking to those who know the New England context. As a planter, I am consistently asked questions about strategy, philosophy and mission as people learn about what God is doing through Netcast.
When our family parachuted into Beverly, MA we had one goal in mind….Plant the Gospel, not a church! Netcast Church is not the hope of the world, Jesus is. Netcast is not the means to a transformed heart, Jesus is. Netcast Church is not the answer to the brokenness in our community, the Jesus is. Therefore, we must be more passionate about the gospel of Jesus than our local expression of the Kingdom of God.
A Gospel Strategy.
As our family prepared to move, it became more and more clear that our context didn’t need a church, it needed the gospel. Greater Boston didn’t need rules, morals or ways to better their marriages. They surly didn’t need more education, knowledge or tradition; they needed the transformation that only comes from Jesus. For too long, Greater Boston has been surrounded with religious ideals and the idol of tradition, but lacked a power that is only found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So, our strategy? Plant the Gospel.
From day one we set out to tell everyone about Jesus. No shame, no bate and switch, no worrying about what people would think; just love people as best as we knew and talk about Jesus as often as we could. Jesus was our message. Jesus was our strategy. Jesus was our philosophy. Jesus was our hope. If this didn’t work, it wasn’t gonna be because we were too timid to talk about Jesus.
The Gospel Fruit. As I get opportunities to encourage church planters, I constantly want to challenge them about strategy, philosophy, goals and motives. If your goal is to plant an exciting ministry, preach a relevant message, have dynamic music and organize yourself with good systems; you just may be tempted to find yourself talking more about your church than the one who hold the church in the palm of His hands. If you your goal is to have a specific philosophy of ministry or certain numerical goals, it’s possible that you’ll find yourself compromising gospel conversations for conversations surround around the topic of your church and in turn winning more people to your new ministry than to Jesus. However, the fruit of the gospel being planted in the hearts of men and women is a local body of transformed and empowered worshippers who gather together and scatter abroad because of the fame and name of Jesus. Therefore, plant the gospel and watch in amazement as Jesus builds His church right before your eyes.
Here are two keys of planting the gospel…
1. Talk Jesus, not church.
The problem in your city and my city is the same. It’s not that there aren’t enough churches, it’s the fact that the churches that do exist are not portraying an accurate picture of our Savior. To often people see church as a place of bored-rule followers where there is no life or fun to be had. Therefore they attribute the same thing to our great God. Next time you have the opportunity to invite someone to your church, pause long enough to remember that the reason they don’t want to come to your church is because they think they know what your God is like. And usually, their wrong.
2. Learn your context personally. One of the reasons it is hard to plant the gospel is because the gospel is assumed. To often planters assume their context has specific views about Jesus but haven’t taken the time to actually explore. When I started Netcast, I wanted to understand what the presuppositional views were about Jesus so that I could deconstruct them and reconstruct an accurate one. Take a week and meet with as many non-christians as possible asking three questions.
ñ What do you believe?
ñ How did you come to believe it?
How has that belief system shaped your life for the best?