GLORIFYING GOD THROUGH CHURCH PLANTING
If you have not read Part I yet, it is recommended you do so prior to reading this article. Click here to go to Part I of this series.
Now that we have a little better understanding of the glory of God, let’s begin to tie it back to the church planting task. As we’ve discussed previously, many things bring glory to God, including the creation itself. Nothing, however, brings glory to God as much as expanding His Kingdom and growing His church throughout the entire earth, assuming, of course, it’s done His way.
Often, when Jesus spoke about the Kingdom of God and gave instructions as to its growth, He spoke using imagery and stories common to all humanity, and in most cases, the Kingdom was tied to elements of agriculture. One such example can be found in Mark 4:30-32, where Jesus paints a picture of the Kingdom of God as a mustard seed, though smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil, when sown, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and forms large branches; so that the birds of the air can nest under its shade. Throughout Scripture we find the principle of God turning something that starts small into something large resulting in glory to God.
From Moses and Aaron freeing God’s people, to Gideon’s 300 men routing the larger force, to God using twelve men to change the world, God receives glory when His goals are accomplished through weakness. In Mark 4:26-29, Jesus provides the church with His masterplan to expand the Kingdom of God. He deftly lays out the tasks assigned to the church and those to be handled by Him. In brief, Jesus spells out the need for the church to have a plan in place for each of the five stages (4 fields) of Kingdom development. These five plans, which can be gleaned from other parts of Scripture, but which are found so succinctly in this parable, are the same five plans that appear in almost every book on church planting; Entry (Empty Field), Gospel (Seeded Field), Discipleship (Growing Field), Church Formation (Harvest Field), and Leadership Development and Multiplication (Seed from the Harvest Field returning to Empty Fields). For a more detailed discussion of this parable and Jesus’ Masterplan, I wholeheartedly refer you to Nathan and Kari Shanks “The Four Fields” material found on this site. For now, suffice to say that each of these plans are an important part of the church planting task, so important, in fact, that to leave out any one of them is to severely hinder Kingdom growth and limit God’s glory from spreading.
So how does having a plan for Entry, Gospel, Discipleship, Church Formation, and Leadership Multiplication and Development bring glory to God? The answer to that question is found in another farming parable, Isaiah 28:23-29.
Isaiah 28:23 Give ear and hear my voice, Listen and hear my words. 24 Does the farmer plow continually to plant seed? Does he continually turn and harrow the ground? 25 Does he not level its surface And sow dill and scatter cummin And plant wheat in rows, Barley in its place and rye within its area? 26 For his God instructs and teaches him properly. 27 For dill is not threshed with a threshing sledge, Nor is the cartwheel driven over cummin; But dill is beaten out with a rod, and cummin with a club. 28 Grain for bread is crushed, Indeed, he does not continue to thresh it forever. Because the wheel of his cart and his horses eventually damage it, He does not thresh it longer. 29 This also comes from the LORD of hosts, Who has made His counsel wonderful and His wisdom great. (NASB)
Have you ever wondered how the very first farmer knew what to do, how to do it, and when to do it? Isaiah tells us that the farmer’s “God instructs and teaches him properly.”(v. 26) As God instructs and the farmer obeys, God is glorified and His plans accomplished. It is quite interesting to see the ways in which his God instructs him. We see God teach proper timing (v. 24, 28); when to plow; when to plant; etc. We see God teach proper location (v. 25); rye in its area; wheat in rows. And we see God teach the use of proper tools (v. 27); rods for dill and clubs for cummin. A picture is painted of a God who receives glory from those who learn from Him and use the right tool, at the right time, and in the right place. How do you know the right time, the right tool, and the right place? You simply allow God to instruct you from Scripture. God wouldn’t give us a masterplan for the Kingdom without also providing us the methods and tools to accomplish it in Scripture as well.
Isaiah 28:23-29 and Mark 4:26-29 point the way to healthy and successful church planting that not only brings glory to God, but will take His glory to the ends of the earth! Let’s briefly consider the five parts of a typical church planting plan and how God receives glory through proper implementation of these plans.
Entry Plan (The Empty Field) – Before the farmer lays any seed, the field must be made ready. The farmer clearly has a plan. The farmer says, “I will plant this seed in this place and that seed in that place.” The farmer also prepares the soil and determines a plan to allow the seed to enter into the soil. For sowing seed in the Kingdom of God, we, just like the farmer, must also have an Entry Plan. Where do we start? When do we plant and where do we plant? How does the word of God (the good news) get access to the soil (the lost)? How do we enter into a new field? In order for us to work according to Jesus’ masterplan, we must search Scripture and ask God to show us an Entry Plan.
Gospel Plan (The Seeded Field) – The farmer must know what seed he is planting. What seed is best for that particular soil? Just like the farmer, we must have a plan to sow God’s seed (The Gospel). Without a Gospel Plan, we will not know what to say and how to say it. Therefore, in order for us to work according to Jesus’ model, we must also have a Gospel Plan.
Discipleship Plan (The Growing Field) – While we know from Mark 4:26-29 that God causes the growth and we don’t know how, we do know that in farming the farmer also has an important part in the process. He must water and give fertilizer to the field. The farmer must also plan out what he must do in order to stimulate growth and to prevent disease and withering of the crop. Just like the farmer, we must have a Discipleship Plan so that we can free God to grow the crop without hindrance. We also must fertilize the maturing process by teaching to obey. Obedience ultimately prevents diseased and withered crops.
Church Formation Plan (The Harvest Field) – When the crop is mature, at just the right time, the harvest occurs. Without a plan for the harvest, the harvest might sit too long and spoil. How do we harvest the lost and join them quickly into the church body so that they are growing in Christ? Just like the farmer, we need a harvest plan. We call it a Church Formation Plan. The church formation plan answers questions like what tools do we need to use to form the church? How do we harvest properly? Where do we put the harvest? And what do we do with the harvest when it comes? Making this plan requires that we know what a healthy church looks like, so that we can actually help make one. We need our God to instruct us.
Leadership Multiplication and Development Plan (Harvest to Empty Field) – This farming process repeats itself over and over. The harvest provides two things: food and a multiplied supply of seed. We must know how to use the harvest properly to assure continued development of the church (the Food - We must develop leaders) and to multiply out to new fields (the Seed - We must multiply leaders). Therefore, we need a Leadership Development and Multiplication Plan.
So we see that there are really five sub-plans that make up Jesus’ master plan found in Mark 4:26-29, which all must be in place in order for kingdom growth to occur. Just like we discussed previously, if we use the right tool, at the right time, and in the right place, it glorifies God. In the same way, all five parts of Jesus’ masterplan must be used in just the right place and at just the right time and with just the right tools. If we do not plan properly in any of these areas, we severely limit the growth of the Kingdom. For example, let’s say that we did not have a good plan for the Harvest (Church Formation). Will God bring a harvest if we have no plan to harvest it properly (i.e. we don’t know how to make healthy church)? Clearly not! He does not want it spoiling on the vine. Similarly, if we don’t have a good Gospel plan, how can any growth occur without seed being planting? All five parts of the church planting plan must work well together. If not, kingdom, and therefore church, growth will simply not occur.
If we faithfully do the jobs that God has given us, He will always be faithful to do His. If we do our work in the right way, at the right time, and with the right tools, God will work and growth will occur. Just like the farmer, we don’t know it grows, but it does. His glory spreads when we follow his plans, methods, and timings because then He can display his power through God honoring growth.
SEE THE CONTINUATION OF THIS ARTICLE IN PURPOSEFUL CHURCH PLANTING PART III: INTENTIONALITY, GOD’S GLORY, AND THE CHURCH.
This article draws some of its material from Nathan and Kari Shank’s “Four Fields” manual, as well as, the IMB’s “Best Practice Institute Manual.”