#1 Why Plant: Gospel

The Lutheran Church Planter
The Lutheran Church Planter
#1 Why Plant: Gospel
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[00:00:20] Andy: Welcome to the Lutheran Church Planter, a podcast exploring the theology, philosophy, philosophy and practice of planting new Lutheran congregations. I’m your host, Andy Coyle, church planter and Director of Home Missions for the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations, joined by my co host and fellow church planter, Matthew Ballmann. And we’re just going to jump right into this today as we start this new podcast. And we’re going to be dealing with probably the most important question regarding church planting. And that’s just the why question. Why plant new congregations? And sometimes this question is asked, but I find more often that this question about the reason for new congregations isn’t even on people’s radar. It’s just not talked about. And oftentimes what you hear is the questions maybe even against church planning. Well, why do we need more churches? Or don’t we have enough churches? Or aren’t these new churches going to be resource drains and aren’t they going to take away from leaders from our other congregations? All those types of questions and all sort of goes back to this foundational question of why planting new congregations is so important. So we’re going to give you three major reasons to plant a new congregation, or the reasons for that. Two of them are theological and one of them is practical. And then we’re going to give you three benefits that sort of flow from that. And we’re going to use our first few episodes here to lay that foundation. And so the first major reason for planting a congregation really is the gospel. It is the heart of God. It is the call of God. So Matthew, when we talk about the gospel, what is that just even define gospel for us?

[00:01:59] Matt: I was talking to someone this last week, meeting with someone who visited our church, and we were talking about this question and the last church this individual was at, they asked their pastor, what is the gospel? And the pastor said, well, let me go get you something. And he went to his bookshelf and he grabbed Wayne Grudom’s Systematic Theology and said, Read this. And her point was in this was that her pastor, I don’t know if he didn’t want to explain it or he couldn’t summarize it in short words, but it’s like, yeah, what is the gospel? This is one of the most important questions. Why are Christians? It’s this good news. Gospel means good news. And it’s good news because we were created good, very good. Sin entered into the world. Genesis three. Through Adam and Eve, through one man sin, death came upon all people. The sin separated us from God like a cancer. It brings physical death, spiritual death, relational death separates us from our maker who we were designed to live in relationship with, a loving relationship with, and humanity was cast out of the garden, right? This picture of being separated from the only one who can give us life. And apart from Him, we wither and we die. But here’s the good news. So that’s kind of the bad news. We get to the good news. The good news is his heart, this profound love and compassion and kindness and mercy and grace, ultimately was saying he wants to be with us. And recognizing that we could not save ourselves, sent His Son Jesus Christ to live, to die, to rise in order that our sins could be forgiven and that we might live eternally with Him, all of that by grace, through faith in Christ Jesus. So the initiator is God’s grace. He gives us grace, he gives us this gift of faith. And the object of that faith is Christ Jesus, our Savior. And this is the story of Scripture, the Gospel, god’s heart of redemption is the entire story of Scripture. We see that from Genesis one all the way to the end. That all these promises that he’s making, Abraham and Isaac and Jacob to Israel, it’s always pointing towards this ultimate savior that’s going to come, Jesus Christ. And this is the good news that we get to proclaim. This is God’s heart and this is what we get invited into as the church of Jesus Christ to proclaim God’s heart. And then we have a call to share that.

[00:04:27] Andy: Yeah, that call, then where was it given? What is that call and where do we see it in Scripture? And what are the implications of that?

[00:04:37] Matt: Man, there’s so many places we could go to, but the thing that pops in my mind right off the bat is the great commission called the Great Instruction, the Great Command, the commissioning, Matthew 28, verse 18, worth reading. And Jesus said to them, all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. And pause there. This is actually really important for Christians to realize this was after his resurrection. He has conquered death, paid the penalty for sin, and he’s saying, all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. He has all authority, right? So if I go to a street sweeper and they give me permission to walk into the White House, I’m probably not going to trust them. But if the President says, I’m going to invite you to the White House and give you permission, I’m like, oh, whoa, that’s pretty significant. Well, this is the king of the universe, the one who’s conquered death, saying, all authorities given to me. Now, what commission, what call is he now giving us with that authority? Verse 19. Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age and we could do a whole podcast on just that great commission right there. But he gives us one, the command to make disciples, right? By baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and then continue to teach them. And often we talk about this being a command to evangelize, but also the command to sanctification right of growing in our faith and that beautiful promise at the end, the Gospel of he’s with us to the very end.

[00:06:11] Andy: So the heart of God clearly is to change people’s lives and his heart is to get that message spread. And we see that throughout the New Testament in a verse that I was thinking about is from first Peter two, where Peter is writing, you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession. So that right there’s purpose you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of the darkness into his marvelous light. And so we have this call, we have this commission, we have this purpose to proclaim the Gospel of Christ, the life giving, life changing good news of Jesus, so that people can get saved and be with Christ for eternity. That is the heart of God. It is a heart that is not supposed to be just kept to ourselves. It is not to just simply remain inside the four walls of our churches or our homes or wherever, but it is designed to be spread. And we see all that throughout church history. We see how the apostles really Christ gave them this commission and then what did they?

[00:07:16] Matt: Yeah, they plant churches, right? Sometimes we think about, oh, it’s the great commission, we share that before a two week commission trip. But what the apostles, it wasn’t go on a two week mission trip and then come home and forget it was plant churches, right? They baptize, make disciples, catechize them and establish churches, appoint elders and deacons and they’re starting churches like all over the known world at that time. That’s what they did. That was their response to the great commission, church planning?

[00:07:43] Andy: Very much so, yeah, I think you’re right.

When we tend to make this very narrow, or we tend to make this a program, or we tend to make this sign on the dotted line, but we see the disciples, they tied all of that with this local body, this beautiful thing. We’re going to be talking a lot more about that next episode. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves here, but we saw that they receive this commission and they go out evangelize and plant churches. And that’s really, really significant for us in that when we talk about church planning, this is the number one motivation, this is the number one reason. It is a gospel motivation. It is a desire to reach new people for Christ. It is the answering, the call that Paul gives. How shall they believe unless someone is sent or goes from Romans ten there it’s very significant what happens if that is forgot when we talk about church.

[00:08:44] Matt: Planting, I think, man, a couple of things happen when we forget that. One is we hide our light under a bushel, right? This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine. Yeah, we hide it under a bushel and it could be just we don’t think it’s important or we become ashamed of it. Right. There’s all types of kind of these fear factors. But that’s not God’s heart. Jesus wasn’t like, I’m just going to hide out and not tell anybody about the good news. He’s, I came to proclaim the kingdom of God to declare this. Right. And you’re being sent to go do the same thing. So it actually then we don’t share it. We keep it to ourselves. We disobey this command. I think this could get played out in maybe even the church planning conversation of people say, well, we don’t need any more churches. Right, right. And part of that I think is missing this heart of God. To see this news spread throughout every nook and cranny, every neighborhood, every language group, like that is God’s heart. And by saying, well, we don’t really need it, it’s like, no, we do need this continuing because this is what God called us to.

[00:09:47] Andy: And I think oftentimes that is a massive separation that people have that heart maybe for evangelism, they have that heart for mission, but it is so divorced from the congregation, it’s divorced from the very institution that God has given for that.

So that’s really a significant thing for us to talk about and for all of our congregations, whether they’re 125 years old or still in infancy, to realize that we have a message. The heart of God is not simply for us to keep it ourselves, but to go out. And I think when we forget that, it just immediately is going to lead to stagnancy, it’s going to lead to infighting, it’s going to lead to all kinds of stuff. It’s a loss of vision. That’s really what it is. It’s a loss of the purpose behind of so much of what God wants to do in our lives.

[00:10:33] Matt: Well, and when that happens, when we do plant churches without that clear call it actually will, I think we’ll plant an unhealthy church. We’ll plant a church for people that are just of our own tribe and like us.

[00:10:46] Matt: That’s huge. And it actually does become a club. Like in essence, it’s like we’re going to go plant this church only for Lutherans, only for Free Lutheran, only for Norwegian Lutherans. Right. And like, well, that’s not God’s heart at all. Now that might attract those people and that’s okay to acknowledge that care about Norwegians no, top of his list. Top of his list. He loves them more deeply than everybody else. Yeah, but that can happen. And we actually see church planning can very easily fall into that. That’s our natural default. Like it’s good for us to recognize we want to be people that are like us. That’s very normal and it’s not all bad. But the heart of the gospel is Jesus went to the least. He went to the outcasts, he went to the sick, he went to the leper, he went to the poor. He went to those that were on the fringes of society. And this is the heart of the Gospel and this is the heart of church planning. So I think it does help us protect from only planting churches to reach Lutherans when in fact we should be planting churches to reach the unchurched, the de-churched.

[00:11:46] Andy: Hold on, we’re going to get to that. We’re going to get to that. Okay, kind of focus a little bit more on that because I think even looking at church history right, in the last 100 years or whatever that is, you do see a lot of reorganizing of whether it’s Lutherans or whatever tribe you are, right? And oftentimes that has been the motivating factor for planting a congregation. And that’s not all bad, right? Don’t hear us wrong here. Sometimes there are good reasons for that and there have been a lot of reasons for that of situations where maybe a church body has fallen apart or things have compromised and so there is a group that goes and forms a new congregation and things like that. Those things have happened and God has worked through that in mighty, mighty ways. I think it’s important for us to realize that right now that those days are basically past us. And I think it’s important for us even let’s just talk sort of inside baseball here, right within our association as we are planting churches, no longer are we simply opening the doors and we are attracting other disenfranchised Lutherans.

That’s not really happening much anymore. No longer are we simply just, oh, now we’re that conservative church and people are showing up.

I think that heart has been there and that’s a good thing. And we’ve provided homes for many, many people and that’s wonderful, right?

But if that is our main thing, if that’s our main reason for planting a church, we are starting with a very unhealthy foundation in our current culture and context. And so I think this is the reason why we have to really hunker down and talk about the gospel. Now you mentioned a couple of words here that I think we need to define if our goal is not attracting Christians right? And what are these other groups you mentioned? Unchurched, de-churched, under-churched. Define unchurched. What is that?

[00:13:45] Matt: Yeah, so the unchurched maybe Paul would call them pagans.

It’s okay. I think we needed to actually, rather than trying to be, we need to be kind and generous toward one another. But also we need to speak with clarity because this is a life and death the Gospel is a life and death matter, right? It’s not, oh, it’s an optional thing of you can paint your house pink if you want, I don’t care. It’s a life and death matter. So the unchurched are those who have never they’re not in a church. Maybe they’ve never been part of a church. They’ve never made a profession of faith. They’ve never received the gift of baptism.

They’re just disconnected altogether. And in these categories, some people might say, why don’t you just say Christians and non Christians? And that’s a fair question. Why don’t we just say Christians and non Christians? Where these categories can be helpful is we recognize we live in a culture today where so many people have grown up in a I’m using air quotes here christian culture, they’ve grown up maybe within churches, but they have not been formed by the gospel or into the image of Christ. Right. So these categories are helpful, very helpful, I would say. When people are coming into your church and you’re having conversations with them to kind of figure out, like, okay, where are they? What do they understand about Jesus in the Gospel, in the Bible? What do they believe about these things? Maybe they do believe in Jesus, but they’re infants, right? Paul talks about this, that, hey, you should be adults, you should be eating meat, but you’re still in the milk of the word. And I think we have a lot of people in that category. So unchurched would be they don’t have a church background. They’re not believers, they don’t believe in Jesus. Yeah.

[00:15:20] Andy: And I think that population is growing rapidly in our country. I can speak from our context here in Rapid City, just interacting with people. Even I’ve been connected with a local Christian high school, Rapid City Christian, and they just started a class this year. It started school yesterday. It’s just simply kind of an introductory class because they’re finding that even people coming into a Christian school didn’t know anything.

We sometimes assume the Gospel, or we assume that people have all the furniture aligned right in their minds because maybe they still have that background within a Christian society. But that is going by very quickly. And the vast majority of people now, they just don’t know anything about Jesus. They don’t even know where to start. And so it’s so important for us to realize that in our language, in our tone, in our actions and everything. But what a joy, though, right? I mean, you think of the main reason why a church exists. It is these people, people that do not know Jesus, that are lost, that are going to go to hell outside of Christ. And so that is the unchurched.

And that is, I would say, within the church world, that terminology is pretty familiar, de-churched. What is that?

[00:16:37] Matt: Yeah. I think especially we see a rise of this in our generation. Maybe people who are in their twenty s thirty s, forty s who have grown up in the church and maybe they were relatively well catechized. That’s a relative term there. But they were taught they believed in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. They grew up going to church regularly, they went to youth group, they went to Bible studies. But now they have left the church, they’ve deterred they left it. And now it could be I just have kind of wandered off, I’ve kind of floated away. It’s not been an outright rejection, but often it is an outright rejection. It could also be that as well. And we see a massive demographic of people who fall into that category where they have intentionally made that decision to leave the Christian faith and to leave the local church. Yeah.

[00:17:27] Andy: And I think also with that is a percentage of people that just get busy and maybe their work schedule changes and they just get out of rhythm and that goes on year after year and pretty soon, ten years later, they find out, man, I haven’t been to church. And I think that’s growing too. And we could talk about the reasons for all this. And I think you’re right in that percentage of those in the that have maybe seen the church of just full of this sort of vapid faith right superficial and all this kind of stuff. It’s not really having core answers. It’s not driving us to the core of who God is and the gospel and just thinking, you know what, I don’t need that. I don’t need that anymore. And so there’s a lot of reasons that we can find in individuals for why either they’ve left it altogether, they’ve made that conscious decision, or they’ve just sort of wandered off slowly. But this is another large category of people and I find just in our context here at Shiloh, a number of people that have come from this they haven’t been to church in ten years, I haven’t been to church in 15 years.

And yet there’s that desire to get back, get back. And we would call them de-churched. And there’s a certain joy there too. Just like there’s joy working with someone who is unchurched, there’s joy working with someone who then now rediscovers the beauty of the gospel again in their lives and why it’s so important for them. And so that’s huge aspect of church planning.

[00:18:58] Matt: Yeah. When I would say it seems like we do see this as well. And part of it is maybe they grew up in the church, but then in high school and college they left the church like I don’t really need this. But then they tried doing it on their own and they realized life gets them. Like life beats them up. And when you make yourself the God and you think you can control everything. You realize pretty quickly there’s a lot you don’t control. Most you don’t control. And there is this deep comfort when you can return to and recognizing, oh, the Lord is my shepherd and I can come back to him. But now there’s been all this kind of almost deformation over the last 1015 years of their life. So it’s not like you’re starting with these mature individuals necessarily because they have been deformed and that happens to Christians where they can be deeply formed and then deformed by culture, by walking away. So, yeah, it is a joyful group to walk with and seeing them return to the church as well. What about that last category then, the under-churched? How would you talk about that?

[00:19:57] Andy: Yeah, there’s going to be some nuance here and when we talk about someone who is under-churched, we’re talking about someone who has been in the church and maybe who is very active in a congregation right now, but specifically a congregation that well, they might not be teaching the gospel, they might not be preaching the word. It might be a steady diet of just pragmatism. It might be a steady diet of superficiality. There could be a lot of things that go here. But we’re talking about a person who really doesn’t understand their faith. We’re talking about a person who has been under-churched, right?

They might have a desire, they would call themselves Christians. There’s a desire for spiritual life there, but they are malnurtured, right. They have not been fed good food. And I think this is a tricky thing, right, because we don’t want to steal sheep within church planning, but we need to recognize that healthy churches are going to attract people that want to be healthy too, while still attracting people that are kind of messed up. And so I think this isn’t the primary motivation here. This one comes after the unchurched de-churched. This is more of the realization that there are so many that have been raised without really a foundation and yet they might pray and they might read the Bible, call themselves Christians, but they just really have not it hasn’t really clicked. There’s no formation there.

[00:21:23] Andy: Have you seen that in Trinity?

[00:21:25] Matt: Oh, for sure, yeah. I think that’s a know Christian smith, he wrote this whole thesis on moralistic therapeutic deism, right? And that could be a whole podcast we should talk about. But I feel like basically what that means is, well, God is a rule book to help me live a good life, to kind of comfort me. The gospel is not there. It’s not, I need to be saved from my sins, I need to be rescued from death and Satan.

But it’s just this deism, it’s moralistic of here’s the rules. And I think a lot of people who are under church, that does tend to be how they view God more in those categories.

A massive need, I think probably maybe I don’t know if I can say more so than in the past, but because we do have so many fluff churches that are out there, I think we see a lot more people that are in this category, for sure.

[00:22:15] Andy: So these are the three types of people that we are really pursuing in church planting, right? And we are thankful when another mature believer comes in and joins our church. I mean, we are thankful for that because we do want spiritual leadership and all that kind of stuff. And it’s something I’ve specifically prayed for in our church plant.

And yet our main focus, our audience, is to reach those who have never heard, those who have walked away, and those who are confused, right? The unchurched, de-churched under-churched that is the heart of God to change those people’s lives, connect them to the gospel, connect them to God, connect them to the life that God wants for them.

Gospel foundation so wrap it up. Final word.

[00:23:00] Matt: Yeah. So we seek to plant new churches, new congregations, because that’s God’s heart. It’s simply an overflow of his heart. It springs out of his desire for mankind, humanity to be reconciled to Himself through Jesus Christ.

[00:23:19] Andy: All right, well, thanks for joining us today on this new podcast. If you’re interested in exploring church planting within the Free Lutheran Church or just have some questions, we would love to visit with you, encourage you to subscribe to this podcast and contact us at aflchomemissions.org. Talk to you later.

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