Swapping the Cape for the Cross

Posted By New City Network on August 03, 2016

Some things need to be repackaged and distributed differently. The works of Karl Barth, for instance; his original writings were in German, which doesn’t help me if I can’t read German. Other times, a piece of writing just needs to be re-shared, just like it is. I find the second to be the case today as I read Daniel Im’s piece on “Tomorrow’s Church Planting.”

I work for a church planting organization, and my job specifically is to find, generate, and strategize about resources that will benefit church planters in the Greater Washington DC area, and can attest to many of Daniel Im’s observations. The whole article is worth reading, but here is my summary of the blog, and a few of my own observations.

Im starts by observing that church planting is here to stay. It is no longer just the thing people do when they can’t get hired at a “real ministry position.” My conviction is that church planting is the biblical norm of fulfilling the Great Commission. Yes, short-term mission trips play a part; yes, international missionaries are important; yes, youth ministry is a thing. But all of our missionary and ministry effort should lead to the building up or beginning of churches.

Daniel Im observes these 3 trends that he thinks will be further realized in future church planting work:

1) Kingdom Collaboration– Church planters are taking an ecumenical approach to ministry, and ministry itself is looking a lot more like zealous evangelism and less like sheep-stealing (growing a church by Christians transferring from other churches). Im sums up this section with this brilliant observation: “Tomorrow’s church planter will lay down their capes, and take up the cross.”

2) Bivocational Ministry– Because ministry is about Christ seeking and saving the lost, planters are becoming more and more willing to simply do whatever it takes to reach their contexts. What this means is that the full-salary, full benefits, parsonage package of yesteryear is fading, and bivocational ministry is rising.

3) Residencies and Theological Education– Im points out that seminaries and churches are working together more creatively for the fulfillment of the Great Commission. More and more planters are doing some sort of residencies, and completing their theological education in the field instead of on campuses. This excerpt sums up Im’s point well: “Seminaries are realizing that ministerial training happens best in the context of a local church, while churches are discovering that training someone theologically is completely different than training someone for practical ministry.”  

If I am being honest, I wish these trends were more than trends. I know that’s the point of trends; they indicate potential things to come more than they  reveal current realities. But I believe strongly that the trends noticed by Im are some of the best ways forward, and would encourage planters to consider the benefits of a combination of team and bivocational ministry. Seminary was and is one of my favorite seasons of life, but it is through the local church that the gospel will go forward, and to that end seminaries must train students. Praise God that Southeastern is doing exactly that! I hope you are as encouraged by these trends as I am, and would urge you to embrace church planting as the norm of fulfilling the Great Commission.


*As stated in Daniel Im’s post (linked above and shared below), the original article was published March-April 2016 issue of The Net Results magazine.
*This blog is simultaneously posted on The Center for Great Commission Studies: http://www.thecgcs.org/2016/08/swapping-the-cape-for-the-cross/