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Ed Stetzer: 5 Future Trends of Church Planting

First, “A horse is prepared for the day of battle, but victory comes from the LORD” (Proverbs 21:31).

Church planting is a spiritual endeavor, not only a technical one. The techniques and strategies that go into preparing and training one to plant are only tools and principles that are meant to equip and aid a church planter; they are not meant to be an idol or a savior.

Second, people look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (2 Samuel 16:7, paraphrase).

Assessments are great tools to indicate one’s skill set and giftedness, but they should not be the spiritual litmus test of whether or not one has the call of God on their life to plant a church. There are biblical qualifications and a spiritual call, both of which matter.

Becoming more urban.

It’s not a secret anymore that people are moving to cities. And the migration to cities has led to an urban church planting mission’s strategy among many evangelicals. In my own denomination, NAMB (North American Mission Board) has a SEND strategy targeting key cities throughout North America to concentrate its church planting efforts. (I am now helping with these efforts at the Send Network.)

Tim Keller is also a big proponent of targeting cities with the gospel through church planting. As a result, Redeemer City to City was created as a missions arm to facilitate church planting efforts throughout the cities of the world. When it comes to evangelicals being urban-centric in their mission’s focus, the thinking goes like this, “Reach the cities, reach the world; reach the cities, influence culture.”

The only additional exhortation I would offer is not to be so urban focused that gospel church planting is suctioned out of smaller cities, towns, and communities. There are still areas outside of major urban centers and their metroplexes that are in desperate need of new church plants and church revitalization.

There is no reason to be either/or on this issue. It’s both/and. I’ll be sharing more about rural church planting in an upcoming post; just know I also fully support prioritizing urban centers.

Becoming more modular.

Just as there are different styles for preaching, such as expository and topical, there are also different styles or methods for church planting.

Since there are various models to choose from—models that are accompanied with their own resources, proponents, books, conferences, strengths, and weaknesses—church planters have the option of choosing the one that best suits their style, giftedness, context, and resources.

One of the cautions we must keep in mind with regard to models is that they too are only a tool, not something to place one’s hope in.

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Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., is a professor and dean at Wheaton College where he also serves as Executive Director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, has earned two master’s degrees and two doctorates, and has written hundreds of articles and a dozen books. He is Regional Director for Lausanne North America, is the editor-in-chief of Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited in, interviewed by, and writes for news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He is the Founding Editor of The Gospel Project, a curriculum used by more than 1.7 million individuals each week for bible story. His national radio show, Ed Stetzer Live, airs Saturdays on Moody Radio and affiliates. He serves as interim teaching pastor of Calvary Church in New York City and serves as teaching pastor at Highpoint Church.