The Future of Church Planting in the SBC? (Conclusion)

Part One of this Series, Primacy of the Local Church

Part Two of this Series, Primacy of the Local Church Continued

Part Three of this Series, A Streamlined Network

church-planting.jpgConclusion- Many seemed to be concerned about the future of the SBC, though they may be concerned about different things. Some are concerned that the SBC way is being lost because of a younger generation that is not “loyal” to the SBC as the past generations have been. They fear that cherished structures, programs, and the organization of cooperation itself might crumble. In response many tighten their grips on the way it has always been done. It is true that younger pastors (and some from all generations, we speak more of our peers because we know them best) do NOT have brand loyalty to the SBC. Younger pastors are convinced from the Scriptures of the primacy of the local church so they want to focus their efforts on their church and the mission God has given to it. They do want to cooperate with likeminded brothers and sisters to be a part of something bigger than themselves and to reach the nations.

So, they will cooperate with the SBC, but only as they see the SBC helping their local church fulfill its mission. They will love and be loyal to an SBC that serves local churches but they will not remain with an SBC (or individual entity) that sees the churches as servants to the denomination. Sadly, these pastors can see when denominational entities say with their lips that they are servants to the churches but their deeds betray that the reverse is true! If the SBC wants to be a vibrant network of churches turning the world upside-down with the Gospel then it needs to become less bureaucratic, leaner, and more oriented toward serving the churches. Losing brand loyalty is not a bad thing because we were never commanded to be loyal to the SBC, but rather King Jesus and His Word! We should not be about building the kingdom of the SBC. This loss of brand loyalty means that the SBC and its individual entities need to start justifying their existence to local churches, not expecting the churches to give more out of a sense of loyalty. This justification will mean showing local churches how the denominational entities are serving them and helping them in their mission. In the case of the home mission board this means local churches being aided by the board in planting other local churches.

You will notice that we have tried to use the phrase “church planting network” more than the phrase “home mission board,” and there is a reason for that. We believe that this board should have a singular focus. We have talked with ministers young and old from all parts of the country, and we often ask the question, “What is the best thing the SBC does?” Without exception every one of them mentions the IMB. Without exception none of them has mentioned NAMB (this is NOT a representative poll, just representative of the ministers that we talk to). When we probe further for why they love the IMB so much, the answer usually centers on the “singular focus” of the IMB. The IMB’s strategy is planting churches, so everything they do serves that strategy. This is also one of the strengths of the Acts 29 network. They are singular in focus. Unfortunately, our church planting network engages in lots of things that are not serving church planting, so it lacks a singular focus. Does this mean that a national church planting network should not be involved in other ministries? Maybe! What we would say is that these efforts divorced from a focus on church planting or church revitalization should be discontinued. The efforts of the church planting network should be ministries that aid planting, leaving social ministry to the local churches that are planted (or to the state conventions who then rally local churches to the social cause).

So our answer to the question, “What is one thing that will help bring about a Great Commission Resurgence?” is “a vibrant church planting network that focuses on church multiplication brought about through the local church.” This will energize young people. This will energize congregations as they seek to be on mission through the multiplication of their church. This will energize our baptisms, giving, and membership. This is what we must be about, healthy church planting. A trim network will help serve churches in this endeavor. And the promise that propels the mission is that the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, not the SBC, will triumph over Death itself.

Jon and Nathan Akin