Celebrity status of some church planters is killing some never-will-be celebrity planters. It’s not the celebrity planter/pastors fault. It’s our proclivity to enthrone and exalt a person other than Jesus.
Yesterday, I was at a church planting conference where some guys whom I know and admire spoke. They had some great things to say. God used them to minister to me. But here’s the deal. When given an opportunity to ask these leaders (whose churches are in the thousands) any question, the planter questions often revolve around “best practices” and how to “grow your church.” Why? Because we lack wisdom and experience. Because we need an outside voice. But also because celebrity planters have attained “success.” Because we want to grow big churches like theirs. Because we want a model or practice to implement to attain that level of success. Adopting a model that works is not planting a missional church.
Missional churches develop their missional practices and ecclesiastical models not by copy-cating but by understanding their own context so well that they become the expert on how to best be the church in their town, city, county. Instead of looking to the celebrity pastors, we should be looking to other planters in our own contexts, conversing, praying, and growing city-wide, region-wide strategies that are contextually birthed, not celebrity copied. And if we are going to understand the heart and culture issues of our peoples and areas, demographics will not do. We must listen carefully to the stories of unbelievers and believers and, with a gospel filter, allow their stories to inform our planting models and missional practices.
Missional practices must also be matched with a passion for Jesus-centered, gospel-adorning discipleship, counseling, preaching, teaching, and so on. And that comes from the Spirit of God who searches out all things, even the depths of God. Asking best practices questions are not the questions we need to be asking. Instead, we should be inquiring regarding: marriage, personal holiness, church discipline, faithful discipleship, missional-community tension, idolatry of the ministry, and so on. So, in addition to planting indigenous churches, we need indigenous practices and Spirit-led passion for Jesus Christ, who forgives our idolatry of celebrity planting and offers soul-strengthening passion for God.
God grant us grace to plant repentantly, contextually, and redemptively.