Planting the Gospel

At the recent Church Planting Canada Congress, Missiologist Alan Hirsch spoke this word to planters and catalysts across the country: “Plant the Gospel, not churches.”  

You may be wondering, “aren’t they the same thing?” Not necessarily. At CBWC Church Planting, we’ve long advocated that church planting is the making of disciples who make disciples. From that increase of disciples comes new communities of gathering: churches. Jesus sent us to make disciples; He didn’t say “go and make churches of all people.” Churches are a result of disciple making. Maybe this seems like a bit of a chicken-or-egg conversation. Does it really matter which came first? 

We think it does.  

It all comes down to fruit. Which is the intended fruit of the Gospel: an organization, or the disciple who is committed to the work of the Spirit in transforming them to reflect God’s love and character into the world and make more disciples? This is the outworking of discipleship. Thus, the clarification from Hirsch: “Plant the Gospel, not churches.”  

Measuring by this metric also shapes the dynamic of how we view success and failure. If the Church, beyond the period of the Epistles and Letters, were to view success and failure the same way we do now, mass discouragement would have probably wiped out the establishing of new faith communities. Paul and others planted churches in communities throughout the diaspora that are no longer in place. Does that mean those planters, those churches, failed? 

What if instead we would ask, “where do we see ongoing evidence of the Gospel planted in Ephesus, in Europe, in my city?” We could point out evidence of the Story of God and His people, of Jesus as the Son of God who ushered in God’s kingdom dynamic, of people pursuing lives as God’s image bearers and ambassadors, as being still active and present. Thus the Gospel was successfully planted. Even if the number of believers in a specific location have diminished, they are the fruit of the seed long-ago planted, nurtured and going through life cycles.  

How we measure, or by what metric we use to deem success or failure, will vary greatly on what we determine the goal is. If the evidence of a successful church plant is ownership of a building, the number of folk engaged with the ministry of that church, and financial stability, then it is a natural progression to see the decline of people, funds and ability to hold on to a building as a “failed” church plant. 

But if the metric is planting the Gospel, then a plant dying to the ground and scattering seeds with the Gospel DNA embedded would still be success. People came to faith in Christ, grew and flourished in a particular community and then scattered to plant Gospel wherever they find themselves. Thus the church plant is a successful Gospel Plant! 

In our world today and even in our own church communities, we are experiencing a decline in church attendance, and some churches have just aged out. But does that make them failures? Can we celebrate with what has been planted and scattered even if the particular location of gathering is no longer on the geographical map? 

Isaiah’s beautiful recounting of God’s words in chapter 55 reminds us of the invitation for people to come to the well of God’s goodness: “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” 

A no-longer-gathering worship location does not return void. There is seed that has been and is still being scattered. It has accomplished far more than we understand with our human limitations. Perhaps we see closed churches as fails because we have been planting churches, when we were meant all along to plant seeds of the Gospel in our gathering and our scattering. Perhaps we view this as just a nuance of the same thing, but what if it isn’t? 

Can we ask ourselves these, and questions like them, without feeling like we’ve somehow failed? I don’t think we have failed. I think we may need to simply, in a variety of ways, realign ourselves with the reality that any planting at all is “…for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed.” 

Summer Video Series 4: What is a Missional Church?

by Cailey Morgan

At CBWC’s 2017 Gathering in Calgary, we were able to share several short videos we thought were particularly helpful for our context. Over the summer, we will be sharing those videos here on the blog in hopes of continuing the conversation, and hearing from you about these important topics.

In today’s video, Alan Hirsch: What is a Missional Church?, we consider the Sending God and His call for us as a Missionary People. What could missional look like in your context?

Book Reviews: How you can get involved

At the Banff Pastors Conference in 2014, CBWC’s Church Planting ministry launched an initiative in which a pastor could receive a book in exchange for reviewing that book for the church planting blog. Since then, the program has stretched to include any readers of the blog, and many helpful and thoughtful reviews have been shared.

All of these book reviews are available on the Church Planting blog at, including analyses of Alan Hirsch’s The Forgotten Ways, Ed Stetzer and Warren Bird’s Viral Churches, and Timothy Paul Jones’ Family Ministry Field Guide. Many of the reports focus on church planting books and other missional community minded books. Others review guides or textbooks that church planters, and in fact, all believers serving in local congregations, will benefit from.

A most helpful element of the reviews is their honesty. Some readers reported that they loved their assigned book, as in with this reviewer: “You are right. The book is great. I’m having trouble putting it down; about 1/3 through it already.”

Mark Archibald

However, others found it important to share their negative experiences as well: “I was deliberating about whether to tell it like it is or to sugar-coat. I decided to be honest with what I feel the Lord would have me share. I hope it is of some benefit to someone.”

And some readers are just in it for the freebies: “Can I do another one in 2016? I am addicted to free books.”

There are still books available to be reviewed in 2016, such as the following:

If you would like to read and review one of these books, or have another book in mind that would benefit readers of the Church Planting blog, email Cailey at


Book Review: Forgotten Ways

Collin Carbno’s review of Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways  (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2006).

Alan Hirsch’s book The Forgotten Ways is a fascinating portrayal of a “new” paradigm of church. He starts by noting that in the developed world there is little true church growth (mostly believer shifting) and indeed most denominations are losing their young people. What is the root of this problem, and what can be done? In a personal quest to answer this question, Alan looked to where and when the church has thrived.

Church Growth
The early church, the recent Chinese church explosion, and the Pentecostal church explosion in Africa captured Alan’s interest. Alan is struck by the fact these in these movements, the church didn’t have any buildings, was an illegal religion, with few scriptures, with no institution or professional form of leadership. Still it thrived at a level that astonishes believers and unbelievers alike.

Alan contrasts this with the failures of Christendom, with its established organisational structures, ordination councils, and buildings. While this Christendom paradigm sort of worked when Christendom was an empire state religion it is clearly failing today. Alan says we must change.

Indeed, Alan explains how the organizational top-down, building dominated, attraction driven model of the church is poison to true church growth. Alan claims that every community of believers, every believer contains mDNA, or missionary DNA, in short the blue-print of church growth. Tapping into this mDNA involves activating Apostolic Genius. Apostolic Genius is the kind of leadership that the early church had (and Chinese church explosion has) and it involves 6 key elements:

  1. Jesus is Lord
  2. Disciple making
  3. Missional-Incarnational Impulse
  4. Apostolic Environment
  5. Organic Systems
  6. Communitas not Community.

He gives clear evidence that the church is not dying after all, and the explosive growth of Christian movements based on this pattern around the world. I found Alan exploration, and personal knowledge of many of these “new” growth movements of Christianity enlightening, and it took the book out of its theoretical thesis mode into real world action.

Throughout the book, Alan draws on the latest findings in science around chaos theory, organic systems, leadership insights, and organizational dynamics to help explain in detail the various key elements, why and how they work. Being from a theoretical physic background, I found his descriptions accurate, and clear enough that most people can capture some of the concepts at a level that makes sense.

While the book has an academic, almost theoretical flavor to it, Alan had the fortune to be brought into leadership in one of these new type Christian movements early in his career where he experienced both Apostolic genius in action, and negative dynamics of traditional church structure. Throughout the book he draws on this personal experience to illustrate the principles he is explaining.

Who should read this book?
In my opinion, every pastor, every domination lead, every church board, and every single Christian believer should read it! Not everyone will agree that the current church organization models should die, and be replaced by Christian movements using Apostolic Genius but I’m sure that everyone’s thinking will be impacted. Overall the book contains a wealth of ideas that could be useful in all church situations, such as the APEST (Apostles, Pastors, Evangelists, Pastors, Teachers) and TEMPT (Together we follow, Engagement with Scripture, Mission, Passion for Jesus, Transformation) models.

Will and can the traditional denominational bodies transition to this new church paradigm? Should believers be shunning the traditional church and pouring their lives into Christian movements based on the Apostolic Genius model? The book doesn’t answer those questions. I think it is possible that traditional denominational bodies could adapt to the new model, maybe even coexist in a state with the two paradigms operating at once. Few denominations will likely be able to make such fundamental profound changes.

Regardless, Alan has convinced me that the future of the Christian Church will continue to rest on the release of Apostolic Genius.

Collin Carbno
Christian Education Chair
First Baptist Church
Regina, Saskatchewan.

Importance of Discipleship

Why is discipleship so important? This one-minute video from Alan Hirsch gives us three reasons.

If you’d like to hear more from Hirsch, let us know and we’ll send you one of his books at no charge. Here are some options:

All you need to do is read it, and write a brief review on the book for this blog

Good Reads

by Cailey Morgan

I’ve been trying to find some books that might be a help to our CBWC church plants and encourage those considering a new work. However, neighbourhood mission and church multiplication are extremely context-bound, making it always a struggle to offer models and frameworks that would help everyone.

6365101775_3eef9a5c39_zThat being said, we can always learn from the examples and ideas of others. JR Woodward of the V3 Church Planting movement has compiled a list of his top ten books on church planting, and I’ll list them here.

But what do you think? Can you provide feedback on any of these books? Or what other voices should be part of this conversation?

Click here for Woodward’s full post which includes commentary on each work selected.

Check back next week to find out how to get a church planting book for free!

Everybody Has Something to Say About Church Planting! How about you?

It seems that everyone is talking about planting new churches. Church Plants come in all shapes, sizes, types, and philosophies.

There are books about planting missional churches, 21st-century churches, successful churches (do people write books about planting unsuccessful ones?).

Church-Planting-wimpsI love some of the titles:

There are also some terrific authors and practioners, including Ed Stetzer (a prolific writer/blogger with lots of good stuff to say, Michael Frost (for the folks who like it straight up), Alan Hirsch (an Aussie globetrotter with lots of penetrating insights), Sean Benesh (planting in urban contexts and a personal favourite), Frank Viola (for the organic flavor of church planting), and the list goes on.

Check out this link to some of the better reads. If you’ve read some of the authors I’d love to hear your insights.

Who knows, maybe someday you’ll write a book saying something about your church planting experiences. I’d love to get a copy!

That’s my story – for now.