Mauricio Chenlo is denominational minister for church planting, a shared position of Mennonite Mission Network and Mennonite Church USA Executive Board. He offers workshops and coaching for church planters across Mennonite Church USA. The following thoughts draw from the work of Neil Cole.
The typical approach to church planting provided by the church falls short among most people in our postmodern culture. The church says, “OK, come to our religious building. We’ll give a religious program and you’ll get to hear a religious person talk in religious language about religious topics. After it’s all over, you can go home.”
“No thanks,” comes back the beleaguered response, “I’d rather stay home.”
In light of this, maybe we ought to think about taking church to the people instead of bringing people to the church. Maybe we ought to think about planting churches where people live and then cooperate with God as he brings about the growth.
The organic approach to church planting is an attempt to do just that. It’s based on the belief that living things grow naturally. (Paul Kaak and Neil Cole)
From the 1950’s into the 1980’s, the dominant theory of church planting was based on what might be called the demographics of location. Key factors in church planting were:
• finding the right demographic growth in an emerging suburban community
• securing the right piece of property upon which to build a facility
• starting in a location sufficiently distant from any other church of the denomination
• providing substantial financing until the new church was self-supporting (as long as10 years or more)
• It did not work well in urban or ethnic settings
• It did not work well in poor or rural environments
• It did not work well in the global environment of overseas missions
• It did not work well in settings experiencing fast-paced cultural and societal change
A much healthier paradigm for the starting of new churches is organic church planting. The theological base: parables of Jesus about seeds and plant growth (Soil types Mark 4:1-20, The mustard seed Matthew 13;31-32, the seed that must die John 12:24). This model operates on the assumption: think big, but start small and let natural and supernatural growth processes produce a miracle.