What Kind of Church Plant Would You Like to Join?

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Editor’s note: Last week, we shared a letter to the congregation from Fan Ming, pastor of a mother church preparing to send out a new church plant in urban China. Today, we are sharing the first of two congregational letters from the pastor of the new plant.


If you were given an opportunity to choose your ideal church, what elements must it have in order to suit your taste?

What kind of church are you planting?

Since becoming a church planting pastor, people often ask, “What kind of church are you planting?” The questions behind that question are usually: Is this new church Baptist like the mother church? Does it have the same order of worship as the mother church? Will this congregation be mostly young people? Will there be a campus ministry? What will the music style be? 

I can think of even more questions: Will the church be far from the subway? Are there many families with children? Will there be childcare? Is parking easy? Will you be promoting a particular ministry? What role will your wife play? How long will sermons be?

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“Sometimes I have wished that planting a church were like running a business! Then, all I would need to do was hire a consulting firm to conduct a customer survey on the target group…But would such a carefully tailored church still be the church of Christ?

To be honest, these questions leave me feeling baffled. The problem is not that I do not have good answers, but that no matter how well I answer, I will probably never satisfy my questioners. Sometimes I have wished that planting a church were like running a business! Then, all I would need to do was hire a consulting firm to conduct a customer survey on the target group. I have even thought about the title of this fictional survey: “What kind of church plant would you like to join?” I would list, one by one, these questions I have so often been asked. Based on the survey results, I would build a church that most people would like to join. 


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In fact, this is indeed how many megachurches in the United States now operate. But would such a carefully tailored church still be the church of Christ?

The church’s primary faithfulness is to Christ

I am not saying it is not good for a church to accommodate families with children and to consider the practical needs of its members. It is simply that, when a church comprised of disciples of Jesus Christ shifts her focus from the unchanging Christ to the fluctuating and constantly changing needs of people, the church loses her biblical mandate to build the house of God as a “copy and shadow of the heavenly things.” 

If the church seeks to satisfy the needs of the “self-serving elite,” then the church loses her primary faithfulness, which is to Christ. The church then becomes nothing more than a comfort zone for a group of consumers. The gospel to which the church bears witness deteriorates into what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace.” This also means that, when a better option comes along that suits our shopping habits, we are as free to switch churches as we might be to switch to a restaurant that better suits our tastes.

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“What is left of the church in the midst of the pandemic? Jesus, the gospel, God’s word, prayers, and the recordings of past hymns. 

One pastor put it this way: “Coronavirus has removed many external, superfluous things from the church. The arrival of the pandemic immediately took away the church’s exterior ‘ornaments’—all the showy and dispensable things that used to be regarded as essential.”

In fact, the pandemic has taken away most things that we consume in our churches: our valued relationships, the social circles we enjoy, convenient transportation via the subway, and now we cannot even gather physically for Sunday worship. Have you ever thought how you would react if God has removed our current worship space from us forever? What would you do if external circumstances become more and more difficult and we were no longer able to freely use our current place of worship? 

As soon as our church planting group began to search for a new site, the relevant government departments immediately called me [to check on what we were doing]. This season is just like that one. What is left of the church in the midst of the pandemic? Jesus, the gospel, God’s word, prayers, and the recordings of past hymns. 

Is such a purified church still the “ideal church” you have in mind? Would you join this church planting ministry if I said that this is the goal and direction of the new church, and that a new church plant may not be as comfortable as your mother church? I want to challenge each member to examine themselves. 

Motivations, expectations, and purification via pandemic

For those who have decided to participate in church planting: What are your expectations for the new church plant? Are you expecting to plant a new church which will satisfy all your unfulfilled desires from the mother church? Or are you expecting the new church to be a replica of the mother church? If you hold either of these expectations, you will probably be greatly disappointed.

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“Perhaps our church planting motives have been purified as the pandemic has taken away all the “extras” we expect from our churches.

For those who have decided not to participate in church planting: What is the real heart reason for not participating in church planting? Is it really the distance? What is God’s true calling to you? Do you really just want to stay in what you think is a safe place?

For those who are hesitating: For what are you waiting? What is the evidence that you are expecting to see, but have not yet seen? What are you afraid of?

Perhaps our church planting motives have been purified as the pandemic has taken away all the “extras” we expect from our churches.


Sun Lei is a pseudonym for a church planting pastor in a large Eastern Chinese city.

 

FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION

Pray for Chinese church plants to be established on Christ, not on church consumerism.

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Further Reading

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The Internal Cross: A Pastoral Letter
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The External Cross: A Pastoral Letter
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Qingdao: How to Pray
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LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

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ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.

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About Qingdao

Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.

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About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.

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About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.

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About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.

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About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.

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About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.

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About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.

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About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 

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About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.

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About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.

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