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.

Comments 0

  1. Walter,

    Perhaps I am missing the details…but are you considering non-church planting missions to be non-missions? In other words, is evangelism only “biblical” in the context of starting/expanding a local church?

    To show my hand, I’m against an affirmative to the first question but fully supportive of one to the second…please clarify.

    Thanks for the post…it’s challenging and stimulates thought!

  2. I support the idea of a category that includes more than just CP giving. The only problem I see with the new category of “Great Commission Giving” is that the language is still imprecise. Our church budget designates 10% to the CP as our “default” setting and also gives to our local association and to the IMB directly. However, we ALSO support a parachurch missions organization as well as a non-SBC missionary couple who were sent out by our church. That support is also “Great Commission Giving” but still would not be counted as such by this new category. I’m not suggesting that the SBC needs to count giving outside the Convention family, but if our objective is precise language, we should acknowledge that missions is missions even if it is not Southern Baptist missions. 🙂


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    Thank you for the question. I affirm the second question along with you, but I would like to comment on both, beginning with the second. As a result of Scripture being clear that God’s glory is most clearly shown, and disciples are made most effectively in the context of the local church, it is our church’s practice not to participate in evangelistic mission trips where there will be no support, care, and love for the new believers that are a result of our evangelistic labor. For a pastoral team to purposely go through months of detailed planning to do a mission trip with the knowledge that new believers will be orphaned upon the departure of the mission team is lest than ideal if we understand that believers become disciples in the context of a church.

    As for your first question, in the blog I stated (and I summarize), every trip my church takes will be to aid a church plant, or a church planting church. Trips that aid church plants are more overtly understood to be church planting trips than those that aid church planting churches. Our church has adopted George Robinson’s understanding of short-term mission trips that is detailed in his book “Striking the Match.” Robinson suggests that in the same way that there are multiple steps to starting a fire, there are many steps in planting a church and each is step is not equally evangelistic, yet still church planting. For example, I am going to Amsterdam this summer to find a local partner for our church to plant with, though this trip is not overtly evangelistic it is an important part of planting a successful church.

    Aiding church planting churches is a joy for our church because it allows us to participate in their vision of reaching the world for Christ. This may take on various forms that extend beyond direct evangelism, but our intent is ultimately to do whatever work is necessary to free them up to be about the mission of mobilizing the Gospel through the planting of churches. I hope this answers your question, thank you for giving me the opportunity to clarify.


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    I appreciate your church’s faithfulness in giving to the Great Commission. By way of clarification, “Great Commission Giving” is the renaming of CP giving in its totality, not the establishment of a new category of giving.

    I think you are exactly right to say that the term “Great Commission Giving” is imprecise, but it is as precise as the GCRTF could be without excluding the possibility of faithful Great Commission work being done outside of the SBC. At the same time, the term “Great Commission Giving” more precisely identifies the purpose of the monies given to the CP.

    A premise that your statements seem so assume is false, and it is as follows: When CP giving is renamed “Great Commission Giving” it means that the only way to give to the Great Commission is through “Great Commission Giving” in the SBC.

    The new verbiage is not intended to assume that the SBC is “the only show in town,” but it allows for a greater understanding of the ultimate purpose of our Cooperative Program dollars. I hope that helped to clarify some things for you Todd.


  5. Walter,

    I reread the report and it nowhere says that CP giving is being renamed “Great Commission Giving.” Rather, the report states that in addition to recognizing CP giving, we will also acknowledge Great Commission giving that includes CP giving as well as other SBC causes. The CP will still be CP. I may be wrong about the intent of the report, but as I read it we’re talking about an additional, broader category that includes CP but does not rename or replace it.

    The last sentences of this part of the report seem pretty clear that we are talking about two distinct categories of giving, one “complementing” the other and which “includes” the other. The statement reads: “Great Commission Giving includes Cooperative Program giving and designated gifts given to the Southern Baptist Convention, a state convention or a local association. Our task force does not see this as being competitive with the Cooperative Program as our central means of giving, but complementing it for the sake of the Gospel.”

    As for my premise, the only reason I brought up the imprecise wording in the first place is that the first paragraph of this blog post spoke of the importance of intentional wording. To be clear, I support the idea of this additional category but think the name of the category is too broad given that it does not include ALL Great Commission Giving but only particular kinds.

    Hope that clarifies my intention and perspective 🙂


  6. Walter,

    Thank you for your clarification: as I thought, we are on the same page! I will be leading a small team to West Africa to scout out an unreached people group for future work…it is our hope to plant churches and evangelize people through short-term trips so that they will rely on themselves (and not Western missionaries) from the start. We desire your prayer and any advice you might give on how to go about that over the next few years (I’ll get Robinson’s book to be sure!)


    I would agree that the language is a little vague. I propose a patch to clarify what “in” and “out” money is…and my hope is that your church would continue to give where it is the most effective, whether “in” or “out”!

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    Thank you for your directing me back to the source of our discussion. I stand corrected, the way in which I stated it on the original blog is correct, it is not the renaming of the CP giving, but the inclusion of CP contributions and any other designated gift to an SBC entity under the umbrella of “Great Commission Giving.”

    By labeling these monetary gifts “Great Commission Giving,” we need to understand that there are some contributions that will be directly used to serve the Great Commission, and others gifts that will indirectly serve the Great Commission. For example, the GCRTF desires to include monetary gifts designated to our seminaries as “Great Commission Giving” because these funds will be used to train missionaries and pastors who will in turn go to the nations, or send equipped families from their church to the mission field. The GCRTF also seems to be utilizing an Acts 1:8 model for inclusion in the Great Commission by recognizing gifts to State Conventions as “Great Commission Giving.” This could be a point of confusion if the Great Commission was only understood to be international and not domestic. God bless you Todd, and I am grateful for your discussion.


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