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Church Planting 101

Written by Ed Stetzer on . Posted in Ed Stetzer

8 time-tested principles of church planting

There are few phrases more frequently spoken in church and mission circles than “church planting.” There also are few subjects around which ministry mavens work harder to be distinctive. Some tout valuable methods that are of a contextually limited scope, while others like David Garrison’s Church Planting Movements (2004) seem to capture the essential elements of transcultural movements.

One of the really interesting things about the new methods, and even of very helpful research-based analyses like Garrison’s, is how “back to the future” so much of it is. Roughly a century ago people like Henry Venn, Rufus Anderson, and John Nevius became the modern apostles of “indigenous principles” of church planting, perhaps better known today as the “three-self principles.” In spite of many significant 20th century successes for these principles (places like Korea and Ethiopia come quickly to mind), this idea that new churches ought to be established that are self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating has not received good press in recent years. There are several reasons why this is so.

The principles have suffered in the minds of at least some because of their negative association with the Chinese adaptation of the term for their government-approved brand of Christianity—the “Three-Self Patriotic Movement.” The principles have also commonly been accused of promoting a self-focus at the expense of a Christ-focus. (Unfairly, I think, because the real converse to self-initiative was foreign-initiative.)

On the other hand, the principles have been criticized for not going far enough, most notably for neglecting self-theologizing. While a reasonable concern, ...

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