I have lost track of how many church planting books I have read. I have attended conferences. I have read blogs. I have listened to sermons, workshops and seminars. I have talked to seasoned planters and pastors. I have done my homework. As a novice church planter I was told to focus on: converts, leadership development, missional communities, connecting with city leaders, contextualization, strategic planning, social networking, engaging preaching, membership development, and contemporary worship. Those are all good, even needed. I agree with (most of) them. Yet, in focusing on so many things, it is easy to lose focus on the main thing.
What I have noticed is missing from much, but not all, of these resources and recommendations is the very heart of God. The Apostle Paul gives us a helpful and needed corrective in Colossians 1:28-29:
Again, this is written by the Apostle Paul - the greatest church planter in the history of the world. What was he about? What did he toil after? How did he channel his energy? What was his goal? What got him out of bed in the morning? Did you see it? Presenting everyone mature in Christ.
The heart of church planting (and pastoring) is to present everyone - everyone - mature in Christ. That means the heart of God is for everyone - believers and non-believers - to grow in knowledge of him, through faith in Jesus. Church planting is not just about reaching non-believers. Church planting is not just about reaching believers. Church planting is about presenting "everyone mature in Christ." Church planting is about proclaiming him and "warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom" and doing so by "struggling with all his energy". In other words, church planting is not only about regeneration (i.e. new conversions). Church planting is ultimately about glorification (i.e. ultimate maturity in Christ).
So, let's toil, pray, preach, and disciple to those ends. Let's rejoice when the Spirit awakens an unconverted soul. But, let's also rejoice when the Spirit re-awakens a converted soul to the preeminence and supremacy of Christ (notice the passage above follows Paul's famous passage on the preeminence of Christ in Colossians 1:15-23). Let's rejoice when the Spirit graciously pours itself out on churches and brings about a miraculous wave of new births. But, let's also rejoice when the Spirit graciously pours itself out on churches and brings about a miraculous wave of maturity and passion among the converted. Let's proclaim him and make it our aim to present everyone mature in Christ. Everyone.