With missional ecclesiology in full swing, many of the current missional training structures are becoming outdated. If church planting networks and organizations are going to continue to stimulate deep, sustained mission to all kinds of peoples, then some our training structures will have to change.
1. We need to offer both information and experience-based training. Much of the church planting training today is based on theological and missional podcasts, talks, and breakouts. If we are to train a new generation of missional leaders that dive deeply into the 100s of American subcultures, training will have to be based in an experience of their missionfields. We need to offer training that sends church planters into their fields during their training. For instance:
- Half a day is spent learning principles and half a day is spent in coffee shops and clubs getting to know the values, beliefs, and culture of hipsters
- Half a day in a immigrant neighborhood knowing on doors, visiting ethnic restaurants, to learn values, beliefs, and objections to Christianity among ethnics groups
- Half day spending time downtown among professionals, going to happy hour, and attending their power lunches to understand the demands, aspirations, and values of professional life.
2. We need to train planters on both traditional “core teams” and non-traditional missional teams. If we are to reach the increasingly divided people of America, we will need not just missional core teams that gather in living rooms to train, but missional teams that start workshops for the poor, new music venues among artists, new buisness ventures among professionals. Missional teams that create value, good will, and community around the felt and exisiting needs and working places of unreached peoples in the U.S. In some cases, it will be better to “launch” a business or venue before “launching a church.” For example:
- Starting a workshop to train homeless in microfinance and job skills
- Starting a music venue to engage musicians and artists
- Starting a thinktank discussion group to address neighborhood issues
3. We need to equip planters to preach and to cultivate gospel-renewing environments. We need to think through how we not only launch services and small communities, but also how we sustain those people over a lifetime of suffering, adversity and change. This will require a depth of understanding in how the gospel addresses their whole human experience–family, vocation, stage of life. We will need gospel-shaped environments that foster personal and communal renewal over a lifetime not just over a meal or a meeting.
4. We need to cast vision for planters who plant not isolated churches but networked churches that partner for regional and urban renewal. Church planters need to mobilized to think beyond “their church” in order truly plant, multiply, and grow God’s church. If church plants are to effectively renew cities, they must think and plan well beyond their own borders. They will need to partner with other churches in order to effectively address the whole of city and region needs. Urban renewal will not happen one church at a time, but many churches working together at a time. Only then, collectively, can we leave an indelible gospel mark in history for the good of our cities.