by Brian Hogan
by Brian Hogan
As I coach church planters all over the world, I get to evaluate a variety of approaches to this difficult task. God has relentlessly brought two facts to my attention—the two main obstacles to church planting movements across our world.
ONE: What we are doing is too complex. Even though we stress to those we train that they must reduce the “heavy package” of ‘Church As We Know It’ to bare New Testament essentials before carrying it to an unreached people group, most church planters are still struggling to strip away the cultural elements that slow or stop reproduction in the new cultural setting.
For example, dispensing with the need for a special “holy” building to meet in on Sundays may be easier than modeling active ministry by every believer. The church planter often does so much of the work himself that the fledgling church sees ministry as something only full time religious professionals can accomplish. The movement is stillborn since “qualified leadership” can never reproduce itself rapidly enough. One thing we really need is a simpler and more Biblical view of what “church” actually means. When I speak of “church” ...I mean the living organism that corporately forms Jesus’ Body and Bride on this planet, not a religious organization. In practical terms: a gathering of any size, committed to one another and to obeying the commands of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have been lugging around a model and definition of “church” that is far too complex and encrusted with layers of nonessential, non-Biblical “barnacles.” We need to get radical in simplification.
TWO: We don’t trust the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. The biggest reason indigenous churches are continuing, year after year, under foreign direction and control, and why new churches are not even allowed to form in many cases, is a deep distrust of God’s ability to work His purposes through others. This is what is behind our reluctance to release our disciples into real responsibility and leadership. We can trust God to work through us, but we think they will mess it up. We need to return to the Bible and take a good look at the Holy Spirit’s jobs (conviction of sin, bringing the Word to remembrance, guiding, etc.) and quit trying to do His work for Him.
We need to look at Paul’s model again. Paul consistently left baby churches for months and even years before appointing elders (or any other leaders beyond Jesus Christ). As he says farewell to the Ephesians’ elders in Acts 20, Paul says he knows that they will be attacked from without and within, but he entrusts and commits them to God. He trusts the Holy Spirit to do His job presenting His church in Ephesus as spotless and holy. We must get radical in trusting in God’s Spirit in our fellow believers’ lives.
In the church planting training we do around the world, we are exposing this pair of obstacles and equipping workers to overcome them. Through the grace of God I continue to learn more all the time about how He wants His Kingdom spread and multiplied. Simplicity and trust in God’s Spirit opened the doors of Mongolia to the Kingdom of God.
Brian and his wife Louise, have served in missions since 1987. From the Navajo Tribe to Outer Mongolia, their passion has been to see Jesus glorified and lifted up among those who have never known Him. From 1993-1996 their team pioneered a church planting movement in Erdenet, Mongolia that continues to grow under fully indigenous leadership to this day. Their Mongolian disciples are now training and sending out their own missionaries to other unreached people groups. The story of the work in Erdenet can be read in Brian's book: There's a Sheep in my Bathtub (Asteroidea Books), and in the case study article - "Mongols Follow the Khan of Khans" - included in the 1999, third edition of Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader, ed. Winter & Hawthorne (William Carey Library). Brian and Louise have four children: Melody, Mollyanne, Alice, and Peter. Currently this family makes their home in Northern CA where Brian manages the YWAM Church Planting Coaches office. In addition, he coordinates the Church Planting Coaches activities in Africa and Europe. Brian travels extensively conducting workshops and seminars on cross-cultural church planting skills and Frontier Missions.