Church Planting Strategy—Does Our Obedience Guarantee Success?

This excerpt from Howard Foltz’s “Power Shifts: 5 Forgotten Strategies for Expanding God’s Kingdom” deals mostly with missionaries, but the lessons presented are worth discussion with respect to church planting strategy as well. 

Church Planting Strategy - Does Our Obedience Guarantee Success?

Many years ago, that groundbreaking missionary to China, J. Hudson Taylor, explained, “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supplies.” Most of us who live and work in the Great Commission community would utter a hearty “Amen” to that statement, yet it seems like all of us see shortfalls on a regular basis. The hours we spend fundraising for missions should cause us all to re-examine our situations and ask ourselves, “What’s wrong with this picture?” Taylor’s statement implies that, though we may be doing God’s work, we may not be doing it His way. The world of missions can provide lessons for church planting strategy as well.

The biblical books of Exodus through the beginning of Joshua describe Israel’s wandering in the wilderness and God’s provision for every possible contingency. He led them with a cloud and a fire. He kept their clothes from wearing out. He brought forth water in the desert. And, of course, He fed them with manna. But Joshua 5:12 tells us, “The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate of the produce of Canaan.” You see, manna was their provision in the wilderness, but the produce of Canaan was their possession in the land God had promised them.

Joshua 5 gives a clear picture of Israel going in to possess the land of Canaan. It begins with a visit from a heavily armed man who calls himself, at least in one translation, “General-of-the-Army-of-Jehovah.” As one commentator notes:

“…God manifested his presence with Israel not as a mere ally but as their leader. It was his war…and the Israelites were only a division of his great army, along with his angels (Ps. 148:2) and the forces of nature (Jos. 10:11-14; Jgs. 5:20). Thus, Joshua immediately perceived he was but the Captain’s servant. The account of the conquest makes clear that Joshua’s military strategy was divinely directed.”

God gave Joshua a specific strategy for the city of Jericho, and He gave them all the resources they needed to accomplish it. It may have seemed like a foolish plan on the surface, to march around the city quietly for six days, then march around seven times on the seventh day, and finally break the silence by blowing horns and shouting. Yet when the Israelites obediently followed the strategy God gave, acting in His power and in the strength of His provision, the walls of Jericho fell.

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The interesting thing, though, is that, while God didn’t ask them to replicate that strategy for other cities, He did require absolute obedience to the strategy He gave for each specific situation. And the eventual goal was possession of the entire land (see Joshua 1:3-–11). In the Hebrew, the word Yarash that we have translated “possess” (or take possession in the NIV) means to “seize, dispossess, occupy, be an heir, take possession of.”

We need to develop that same mentality today. We need to understand that we are called to possess the nations—that is, the people groups of the world—on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ. And, they’ve already been given to us. Our ability to experience this power shift toward abundance rests largely on our moving away from a manna mentality (relying on God to give me what I need for today) and moving toward this attitude of dominion. In other words, this new dimension of abundance means trusting God to give me more than enough for myself along with the responsibility to share this abundance with others. We must accept the challenge of our inheritance of “possessing the land.”

You see, God gave His Son a promise when He said, “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession” (Ps. 2:8). God challenges us to enlist in the battle to win in practicality what He has already given to His Son positionally.

Based on that Messianic promise, we need to understand that, as Christians, we are called to possess the nations—that is, the people groups of the world—on behalf of Jesus Christ (Mat. 24:14).

Our ability to accomplish this rests largely on moving away from a manna mentality and moving toward this attitude of possession. It means trusting God for the resources and the strategy to accomplish this great task. But with the same faith exhibited by the Israelites when they entered Canaan, we must also learn to expect Him to raise up some of those resources from among the peoples we are called to possess.

We see an example of this in South Korea. When Christian missionaries first arrived in that nation, there were no Christians. Now about 30 percent of the population is Christian, and the South Korean church is raising up funding and sending missionaries worldwide. We must adopt this same approach if we are truly serious about finishing the Great Commission. We must exhibit an attitude that leads to possession. Some would call it a dominion mentality.

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But I’m suggesting that we develop a dominion mentality based on servanthood. We should not attempt to possess regions and peoples for our own benefit. Rather, we are called to release them from Satan’s dominion and place them under God’s sovereignty. As Edersheim also reminds us, “The advent of the kingdom of God always implies destruction to His enemies.”

For Joshua and the tribes of Israel, that meant it was their job to do battle according to God’s revealed plan. God guaranteed the end result, if they were willing to obey. For us, it means the same thing. For instance, it means that, because of the work of Christ on Calvary, the nation of Bhutan is ours. Jesus died for all the Bhutanese. But now He wants you and me, His church, to seize Bhutan, and every other nation on the face of the earth, and to possess them for His glory through prayer and cooperative outreach, so they can hear what God has done for them.

When we learn to accept dominion mentality, and we obediently step out to claim our inheritance, we will find that, when God shuts off the manna, He always enables us to eat the produce of the land. And within that framework, God’s abundance compels us to pass along what He has given us.

 

(Excerpted from Power Shifts: 5 Forgotten Strategies for Expanding God’s Kingdom)

Dr. Howard Foltz and his wife Pat have been missionaries since 1963. After pioneering the Dallas/Fort Worth Teen Challenge programs, he then expanded the ministry into 27 Eurasian countries. During his tenure as a professor of global evangelism at Regent University, Dr. Foltz founded Acceleration In Mission Strategies (AIMS), a missions program committed to targeting and connecting with unreached people groups. Today, tens of thousands of pastors and leaders have been trained by AIMS, while thousands of churches have been planted by the program’s indigenous partners.

Dr. Howard Foltz and his wife Pat have been missionaries since 1963. After pioneering the Dallas/Fort Worth Teen Challenge programs, he then expanded the ministry into 27 Eurasian countries. During his tenure as a professor of global evangelism at Regent University, Dr. Foltz founded Acceleration In Mission Strategies (AIMS), a missions program committed to targeting and connecting with unreached people groups. Today, tens of thousands of pastors and leaders have been trained by AIMS, while thousands of churches have been planted by the program’s indigenous partners.