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Ed Stetzer: 5 Future Trends of Church Planting

Becoming more bi-vocational.

A challenge that has always existed in planting churches is resources, or the lack thereof. This challenge existed in the Apostle Paul’s ministry, and it continues to exist today. Many church plants and planters are vocational, which means they are funded by a denomination or network (or both) and personal support. However, in recent years the need for a planter to be bi-vocational, or a tentmaker, has increased.

There are two particular reasons for this. First, many denominations and networks embrace more of a shotgun approach to dispersing funds. While a shotgun makes a large impact, in some cases the impact doesn’t go as deep. As a result, many church planters are supported, but are in need of having additional support. And if they are not able to raise the additional support that is needed, they are left with the only alternative—getting a job.

Second, in some cases, due to the difficulty of the context, many church plants struggle to become self-sufficient years into existence. I have said before that if a church cannot become self-sufficient in at least five years then a bi-vocational strategy is almost certainly the best approach.

To help this trend and aid future church planters for bi-vocational tentmaking, I would love to see more colleges and seminaries have educational tracks that equip potential church planters with a theological and missiological foundation as well as a vocational platform.

And, one small caution—we can’t do bivocational church planting and expect the pastors to act like the vocational ones. Training will need to be online, relationships maintained in new ways, and more.

Becoming more diverse.

The North American racial and ethnic landscape has dramatically changed over the last few decades. The influx of immigrants and their migration to North American cities has led and will continue to spur the need for church planting efforts to embrace and enact diversity—especially for a church planting effort to be effective in urban and diverse settings.

Some church planting networks have been created to champion multiethnic church planting and development, while existing networks make becoming more racially diverse a core value. We will continue to see a rise in more multiracial, multicultural, and multiethnic church plants in the coming years.

The only caution I will note comes from Derwin Gray, a multicultural church planter himself, who worries leaders may have a tendency to support diversity for pragmatic rather than theological reasons. As a result, Derwin asserts, “We shouldn’t long for racial [or any form of] diversity—we should long for the proclamation of Jesus, which creates ethnic diversity. The Apostle Paul didn’t start one church for Jews and one church for Gentiles in the New Testament. The Gospel brought people together.”

Only a gospel-centeredness with a missional posture will create authentic, God-glorifying diversity. We must keep in mind diversity isn’t the goal of the church, but a manifestation within a church striving towards its goal.

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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.