Missions vs. Church Planting, or Missions is Church Planting.

church-plantingThe Great Commission Resurgence Task Force has released a statement recommending that the term “Great Commission Giving” be used in reference to the monetary gifts from our Southern Baptist Churches to the Cooperative Program and designations to the causes of the Southern Baptist Convention, state conventions and associations. A subtle change in verbiage may seem insignificant for those who have a firm grasp of what is being spoken of, but intentional (non-vague) wording can mean the difference between a non/new SBCer lending their ear or concluding that what is being spoken of is irrelevant to them. Intentional verbiage is also useful when a word is overused or misused to the point that it looses its meaning.

During the current Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) push, pastors and church members have often wondered how they can be involved in the movement in their place of service. My standard response is to go to the SBC in Orlando this summer and vote, pray, be talking about the GCR and its implications at your church, and consistently preach and teach a robust Gospel and mission. The former are very general suggestions, but the GCR Task Force has set a helpful precedent of being strategic with our terminology and our churches should do likewise I will use my church as an example.

As I was talking to a man in our church about these things, another gentleman overheard our discussion and asked, “So is church planting going to take over missions?” and my response was, “It is not missions verses church planting, but missions is church planting.”

In recent years there has been a healthy “flip flop” with reference to the role of denominational entities and that of the local church in the discussion of church planting. In previous generations denominational entities would plant churches with the help of the church, but that M.O. is being turned on its head and churches have begun to plant churches with the help of denominational entities. In my church’s attempt to be strategic about church planting EVERY mission trip both domestic and international will be taken for the sake of aiding a church plant, or a church planting church.

My church’s former missions strategy was not completely haphazard, but it did not fully capture God’s mission that we read in Scripture. The Bible makes it known that God has a passion for his own glory (2 Kings, 19:35; Ps. 106:7-8 & Rom. 9:17; etc.), and his glory is most effectively made known through His church (Eph. 3:10, 21). We also read of Christ’s commitment to the Church as he gave up his life for her (Eph. 5:25-27). It is our church’s desire to be about what God is about which leads to the conclusion that I fronted in the previous paragraph, and that is having every mission trip be for the sake of either establishing or aiding local churches as they make God’s glory known in their context.

Finally, back to the discussion about verbiage, it is my contention that the word “missions” has fallen victim to being used so often, and in is so many different capacities that its meaning has been diluted. Yet the word missions remains powerful when stated with a qualifier, for example: the Mission of God, or the Mission of the Church. At my church we are looking to be more intentional with our verbiage by moving away from the generic term “mission trips” to a more precise term such as “church planting trips,” or another term that more accurately conveys what the intent of these trips are. There may be a day (and it may already be upon us) that the phrase “church planting” may lose its meaning and we will have to once again rethink how we can discuss our church adopting God’s mission as our own in helpful terms. It is not my goal for every church to have a Church Planting Pastor as opposed to a Missions Pastor, but it is my desire, especially during the time of the GCR, for us to carefully think through the subtle changes that can be made in our churches that can be a powerful aid in shaping and expressing our desires as parallel with those of our Father.