The Importance of Ecclesiology in Church Planting

How can you plant a church if you don’t actually know what a church is?

A right understanding of the church is vitally important in church planting. Church plants have no history in and of themselves. There are no traditions, no systems, no prior discussions about why we should do something in a particular way. Church plants attract certain leaders and certain members because of these very characteristics. This can be a healthy thing. However, if the church planter is not well studied and well convicted about what the church is, how it is to be led, and how it is to act, the church will suffer.


Church planting is a culture all of its own. Church planters often look different, think different, and act different than the typical pastor we experienced growing up. Further, church plants look different and function differently than the typical church we knew growing up.

Around the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries a movement arose called, The Missional Church Movement. It rightly arose in response to The Church Growth Movement. The Church Growth Movement had helped churches put their full emphasis on growing their own church by providing better programs, specifically the weekend worship gathering and kids ministries. The Missional Church Movement responded by helping churches to think more about what they were doing to engage their communities and their world on mission. Emphases were placed on missional groups (small groups doing mission together), missional partnerships (churches forming long-term partnerships oversees for missional engagement), and social justice efforts.

I would like to begin by saying that I believe all of these emphases were good and needed. The church did need to think about these things more intentionally, and to engage them more faithfully.

The Context

Out of this came a growing emphasis on church planting as well. Networks and denominations began to spring up with resources and plans to plant new churches. In this midst of this, I planted my first church. The year was 2009 and the church was a missional church. From day one we were talking about missions and putting our energy behind missions. Our church formed multiple partnerships in our city to help the poor.  We provided backpacks of food for the schools on long weekends, we raised money to help with the area food pantry, we provided thanksgiving meals for the 50 neediest families through the school district, etc. We also put massive amounts of energy and resources behind international missions. We had three international partnerships. We worked in an orphanage in Central America and sought to plant churches in South Asia and West Africa. We were largely successful at doing most of what we set out to do in these endeavors. We even managed to use 30% of the money brought into our church for the sake of this mission.

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