How Does Church Planting Fit Into God's Big Mission?

"Church planting is about planting the gospel. And growth in church planting comes from making disciples."

Every church involved in a new church, and every church planter starting one, needs to answer the question: What is church planting?

For some, the word planting comes across as insider language. In the subculture of the church planting world, there is an entire language mostly unknown to the outside. We’ve all heard of planters talking about “doing a parachute-drop church plant,” or “starting with a launch team.” What do these words even mean? More importantly, what is church planting about?

That’s an essential question, really.

Church Planting or Church Starting?

When we talk about church planting, it can be a little different than church starting. What’s the difference? Well, I think church starting happens a lot of ways. The most popular church starting strategy involves a group of people getting mad, leaving their home church and starting another church. In most cases, I wouldn’t advise this strategy.

Church planting, on the other hand, involves an individual, a mother church, and/or a group of people going out to start a church for the purpose of engaging a community through gospel proclamation and demonstration.

Church planting, unlike church starting, should/must be mission driven.

Church planting grows in the soil of lostness (hence “planting”) where men and women far from God are challenged with the claims of the gospel of Jesus Christ by a group of intentional believers.

Church Planting and Gospel Movements

Church planting is about planting the gospel. And growth in church planting comes from making disciples.

As such, any movement of churches that’s going to be serious about reaching the lost world is going to be involved in church planting. In fact, most of us who write in the field of mission believe that any movement or denomination desiring to grow through conversion should aim for at least a 3 percent rate of church planting every year. (Take a look—most growing groups and denominations have over that percentage and most declining ones have under that percentage.)

Think of it this way, if a movement has 100 churches one year, they need to plant three the next year—at the very least.

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Ed Stetzer
Ed Stetzer is President of LifeWay Research and LifeWay’s Missiologist in Residence. He has trained pastors and church planters on five continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Ed is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine and Catalyst Monthly, serves on the advisory council of Sermon Central and Christianity Today's Building Church Leaders, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN.