Our tendency as church planters is typically to jump in, get to work, and make it happen. While this hardworking attitude is commendable, using tools developed by others to plant churches without having a solid grasp of why, when, and how the tool should be used is like chasing after fads. This can leave a church planter blowing about by the winds of the latest models and schemes, jumping from one CPM practice to another, and unable to finish the task in their place of calling. Understanding the big picture of when, where, why, and how to use a church planting tool can help save us from frustration and disappointment. At the root of every task must be an underlying understanding of the fundamentals of church planting, as well as, an intentionality of purpose in all aspects of the church planting plan. Failure to be intentional in even one part of the CPM plan may ultimately derail the CPM plan and greatly diminish the results. So what is the big picture? What sort of underlying principles should be at the presuppositional roots of our church planting framework? What purpose and goals should guide our church planting plans? The answer to these questions is found in Scripture, and it is, therefore, to Scripture that we now turn our attention.
you would be surprised at how many church planters don’t plan with God’s purpose in mind.
If we want to make sure that our purpose, plans, and goals align with our Lord’s, we must turn to Scripture to make sure we are on the right track. It may seem like common sense that the place to begin is with God’s eternal purpose, but you would be surprised at how many church planters don’t plan with God’s purpose in mind. While goals and plans may change, purpose does not. Whether we examine Scripture just after creation or jump ahead to a post-fall world, God’s purpose has never changed. The logical question to ask is what is God’s Purpose? A clear glimpse into God’s purpose is found in Habakkuk 2:14: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” We may speak of the Great Commission or the expansion of the Kingdom as God’s goals, but those goals exist because accomplishing those goals will ultimately fulfill God’s purpose. God’s purpose is that the entire earth be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
The Glory of God
If you’ve been around church planting for some time, you might be tempted to say that it is obvious that we should be about bringing God glory, and you might even quickly dismiss this foundational truth as a given. But I suggest we stop here for a short while and let the significance of God’s purpose sink into our hearts and minds. To get a handle on this foundational purpose of God found in Scripture, we must first have a solid idea about the glory of God, particularly what it is, and how the knowledge of it is spread. Glory is quite simply God’s presence made manifest. In other words, glory is either the direct appearance of God or some happening that clearly points to a direct intervention by God. To demonstrate this, let’s look at a few examples from Scripture. In pre-fall Genesis, we see God walking in the garden with Adam and Eve. Later we see God appear to Moses in the burning bush. We see pillars of fire and smoke, a cloud, as well as, a number of potential Christophanies. In each of these cases, God’s glory is simply God’s presence made manifest. It is an interesting side note that post-fall, Old Testament displays of God’s glory make their appearance through natural things rather than through any object that might be misconstrued and later worshipped as an idol. God gives no opportunity for idol worship. Then in terms of God’s glory through direct intervention, we find Sodom and Gomorrah, Gideon’s army of 300 defeating an army with camels as numerous as the seashore, closing the mouths of lions, and numerous other manifestations of power that could only have come from God.
Of course in the New Testament, we find the ultimate revealing of God’s glory – Jesus Christ. The Hebrew’s author reminds us in Chapter 1 that “He is radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature…” Clearly, Jesus Christ is God made manifest on earth. Jesus Christ is the only object ever to exist on the earth worthy of worship. Also in the New Testament, we see Jesus Christ start a Kingdom that will never be destroyed (Dan 2:44) and whose very subjects make God’s presence manifest on the earth. As each follower of Christ is added to the Kingdom of God and as they are transformed to the image of Christ through the Holy Spirit, God’s glory is revealed to the world. 2 Thessalonians 2:14 states that “It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We literally represent Christ and, as His body, make His presence manifest in the world. The expansion of the Kingdom of God is the expansion of God’s glory in the world, and as this Kingdom expands the knowledge of the glory of the LORD covers the whole earth as the waters cover the sea. It is quite humbling to think that as ambassadors and servants in the Kingdom of God, we literally make God’s presence manifest in the world, either for glory or for dishonor. When we feed the poor, care for the sick, and share the good news with others, we manifest God’s presence to those in need. God, in His sovereignty, has allowed us to represent His very presence, His glory, to a lost world.
In the beginning, God’s purpose would have been fulfilled had Adam and Eve obeyed. Without sin, they were the very image of God and full of His glory. They simply needed be obedient to the plan God laid before them, namely “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.”(Gen 1:28) God’s purpose has never changed, but our relationship with Him did. His purpose to bring His glory to the ends of the earth remained, but simply being fruitful and multiplying would not fill the earth with His glory. God, in His great mercy, accommodated our sinfulness by modifying his plans for humanity. From the earliest inklings in Genesis 3:15 to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God, not only made, but implemented a plan to see His purpose fulfilled. He came to earth as Jesus Christ so that through Christ, those who believe from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation, might have salvation and worship at the throne. While the original plan was guaranteed salvation for everyone, in the post-fall world, God fulfills his purpose by saving a remnant. In both scenarios, however, the knowledge of God’s glory covers the earth. In addition, God uses each follower of Christ to fulfill His plan. Our primary task to fulfill His eternal purpose is to assist in the realization of His post-fall goal, which is clearly revealed in Matthew 24:13, and Revelation 7:9, and imperatively commanded in Matthew 28:18-20. Through Jesus Christ, God’s Kingdom will finally come to earth and fill the earth with His glory.
FOR THE CONTINUATION OF THIS ARTICLE SEE PURPOSEFUL CHURCH PLANTING PART II: GLORIFYING GOD THROUGH CHURCH PLANTING.