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The Spirit behind church planting

The Spirit behind church planting

By Jack Taylor

When it comes to church planting there are few organizations in Canada like C2C focused so intently on working across denominational boundaries to pray in the expansion of God’s kingdom. With original roots in the Mennonite Brethren tradition, C2C now works with 29 denominations in partnerships which link experience and expertise with motivated congregations. Their clear declaration states that “our movement is built on a solid trust and dependence on the Spirit of God.”

British Columbia shares two regional director couples – Chris and Dianne Douglas work with Ron and Bev Leonard to nurture the 23 church plants and apprentices plus the alumni of another 10-15 self-supporting graduates of their partnership.

Ron Leonard was a businessman who started out on the board of Church Planting BC in 2008. After four years on the board he answered the call to join the staff of C2C. His passion to see the kingdom of God grow, to work with young leaders and pastors and to experience the Holy Spirit give wisdom in the middle of a conversation – reminds him that in the middle of a culture that doesn’t honour and glorify God well, we need to acknowledge that church planting is essentially a work of the Spirit.

C2C noticed that only 50% of church plants were lasting beyond the five year hurdle to a place of health and self-sufficiency. The leadership set up assessment centers which helped raise this success rate to 90% in the past several years. In an age when the traditional church has grown weak in a focus on evangelism C2C is working to stimulate churches taking ownership for identifying, training and resourcing young leaders who will build resilient congregations which will penetrate and impact the current culture.

“Churches plant churches,” Leonard declares. “Healthy things multiply.” But times change and churches need to change. “We can’t give in to the temptation to soft-pedal and compromise our beliefs for the sake of growth… Conversations we were having about issues like abortion are not even part of this generation’s thinking. They have other issues and we need to understand whether we do battle, teach against, or focus on reorienting people with different world views, to what the Scriptures say.”

C2C is looking for leaders who have been identified and equipped by their churches. The profile of leaders includes integrity, personal spirituality, missional engagement, visioning capacity, gospel communication and preaching, learning ability, emotional health, family life, leadership and Bible knowledge. Spouses are part of the assessment process.

Leonard says that C2C deliberately makes it difficult on potential church planters during their assessment time. “They must convince us they are church planters,” he says.

The organization is known for its Ten Practices as part of the assessment process. The website states that “C2C seeks to be led by the Holy Spirit while employing the best possible systems and strategies. Through ten best practices, we hope to eliminate church plant failure and see church planters and their congregations flourish.”

The ten practices encourage a foundation of Biblical authority and proclamation with “grace-filled preachers who are able to contextualize the never-changing gospel message in an ever-changing culture.” Prayer is a priority since “every great movement of God has been precipitated by earnest prayer” and members pray at 10:02 each day based on Jesus command in Luke 10:2.

Personal spirituality is followed up by three intensive interviews and on-line tests before a candidate is invited to attend a formal three day assessment. The assessment process lasts several months as the ten distinct dimensions and “34 competencies” are considered. Those who pass this rigorous testing will move on to the apprenticeship program.

At stage five things become more formal with a signed covenant confirming the apprenticeship. There is clear agreement on the responsibilities and expectations for all parties concerned. A covenant of ethics is also signed to “affirm their commitment to biblical, moral and ethical conduct in ministry.” This mandatory training usually lasts 12 months while a core team is being built up.

Financial support, coaching, and good stewardship and administrative practices are available. An external task force oversees the process and accountability for the leadership of the new plant. The personal coaching probes the planter’s personal, spiritual, and ministry life.

The primary tool for C2C is “the Church Planters Incubator – a 16 unit curriculum that has been developed by City to City network in New York City.” Planters meet eight times a year for two years to cover the modules. Regional monthly “cadres” provide ongoing encouragement and support for graduates. One-day training events, such as the recent September 20 ‘Tandgible’ with Hugh Halter, are evidence of the ongoing commitment of the C2C network.

Leonard concludes: “Nothing good happens without being bathed in prayer; it is all the work of the Holy Spirit. It starts with leadership where the kingdom of God is seen as a priority over local turf. We need to see a new definition of success in this competitive North American market. It’s not about what people think of me or my church. There is one church in Vancouver which transcends denominational boundaries. While there will always be different levels of partnerships in play we must pull together.”

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