On Thursday, July 26, a “Special Order of the Day” was announced to the General Council attending the 74th International General Assembly of the Church of God. The order was a report on a USA church planting strategy entitled, “2020 Connection.”
The following is excerpts from the report.
Purpose and Vision
Since its very beginning, the Church of God has been described as a movement. The early pioneer believers of the church had a passion for reformation and revival. They were eager for spiritual renewal and possessed an entrenched conviction to seek God for His power, guidance and presence. They embraced the process of moving. They were on a mission. That mission included sharing the gospel and planting new churches everywhere they went. Church planting is rooted in our DNA and is the foundation for the Church of God seven million member family located in 178 countries.
All of Church of God ministry endeavors—local churches, missions, educational institutions, orphanages, benevolence ventures, and publications began from the seed of a planted church. And, it was the continual planting of churches that gave the Church of God momentum and resources to go into all nations of the world. The future of the Church of God must be grounded in our commitment to be a vibrant dynamic spiritual movement rather than devotion to our monuments.
The Church Planting Task Force believes that all of the elements needed to build a highly successful church planting movement are truly within our reach and are contained in this strategic plan. Further, we believe to accomplish this goal, we must commit to a Great Commission passion to fulfill the mission of the church, create a new level of interdependency, foster an environment for connection at all levels, and provide relevant resourcing to the state/regional and local level. We believe that an effective denominational vision for church planting empowers the body with simple vision, creates connectivity throughout the church and expands the resources and commitment of our grassroots movement.
Purpose: Church Planting Task Force
On November 4, 2010 a Church Planting Task Force was appointed by the International Executive Committee with the purpose to develop a strategic plan that would discover and implement the needed elements required for the Church of God to become a USA church planting movement. A primary objective was to recommend the process providing a full-service national church planting network for the Church of God, thus, meeting the needs of our movement in resourcing every level of leadership.
The Task Force was assigned five specific tasks:
1. Develop an integrated and united strategy for church planting with stated goals and objectives
2. Maintain a focus on simplicity with a commitment to Church of God branding and identity as a church planting movement
3. Establish resources, training and educational opportunities for church planting
4. Cultivate a funding partnerships to provide church planting resources
5. Create authentic interdependency at all levels of ministry for the purpose of church planting.
Vision: The Great Commission
A broad mandate for church planting is found clearly within the scriptural principles of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20.) The Great Commission is a global mandate to plant churches around the world. America is part of this mandate and a strategic key in reaching “the nations”. The commitment of the Church of God to the Great Commission has led us as a movement to affirm our engagement and dedication to church planting through adopted resolutions and references at Church of God International General Assemblies (2010, 2008, 2006, 2004, 1992). It is imperative that we firmly recommit to our mission and vision for church planting.
Commitment: Church of God International General Assembly
Church of God, Minutes of the 73rd International General Assembly, Book of Discipline, Church Order, and Governance, COMMITMENTS TO OUR MISSION AND VISION, 4. Church Planting, page 39.
We commit ourselves to identifying, training, and resourcing God called church planters and to intentionally planting new life-giving churches. This commitment will be demonstrated by
Focusing designated resources of the local church, state/regional offices, and the international offices for planting new churches
Starting the number of church plants equal to a minimum of 3% of the total number of churches in a state/region/nation annually
Developing a certified training program in our Ministry of USA Missions and educational institutions for church planters and home missions
Emphasizing the health and viability of new church plants as well as the number of churches planted
Affirming the different models of church planting for different situations
Recognizing church planting as an apostolic ministry for our day. (Matthew 16:18; John 4:35; Acts 2:47; 14:23; Ephesians 5:25-28)
If we are to be a church planting movement upon the North American continent, it is vital to clearly define current realities. A review of the statistical values of church planting from 2001 to May 31, 2012 reveals that in the Church of God, 1,627 churches were planted. The retention rate for these church plants is 66%.
A New Normal
If we expect to have successful and productive ministry, we must have a clear understanding of where we are headed. We are definitely living in changing times. The business world and now the church are describing today’s world as a new normal. This implies that whatever the normal baseline for the church was in recent years, there is a new baseline, a new normal. We cannot base our current vision upon what happened in the church ten, five or in most cases even a few years ago. A new normal does not mean a new set of values or beliefs. Those are biblically immutable. They are the non-negotiables. However, attention to a new normal calls for an inventive and innovative vision that embraces church planting methods that fulfill our commitment as a twenty-first century movement.
There are numerous variables that are impacting our approach and church planting choices. Some of these include the following:
• The need for new church plants in the USA is almost universally accepted by denominations, parachurch groups, and mega-churches.
• National economic trends have a direct influence on church plants.
• Denominational economic adjustments have a direct influence on church plants.
• The American church is in decline. Mainline churches are projected to decline by 14 percent in attendance in this decade.
• Of the 3,143 counties/parishes in the USA, the Church of God is currently in 1,598 of these. This indicates that there is no Church of God influence in 49% of USA counties/parishes.
• Of the 267 metropolitan areas in the USA, the Church of God has no presence in nineteen of the major cities.
• From 2001 to May 31, 2012 the Church of God in the USA averaged planting 136 churches annually.
• Around the world, a new church is planted every six hours in World Missions areas.
The following graph shows the areas of influence within the North American culture where the Church of God in 2010 holds the greatest influence by number of established churches. The red reflects where our present churches are concentrated.
1. To develop a church planting movement within the Church of God.
2. To create a new interdependency within the divisional structure so as to mobilize every available resource.
3. To establish an integrated, comprehensive and united church planting initiative that will in turn lead and manage this interdependency.
4. To resource administrative bishops, senior pastors, and church planters throughout the church planting process.
5. To recruit and deploy local pastors to plant, nurture, and mother new church plants.
6. To produce a healthy planting rate where existing churches naturally reproduce, fund and mobilize new congregations.
7. To utilize every available means as a potential resource for recruiting future church planters.
8. To train church planters and Church of God personnel maximizing a church planting movement.
Connections and Partnerships
A USA Church Planting Strategy calls for connection and partnerships among all ministry agencies of the Church of God. Such interdependence provides value and engagement for state/regional offices, divisional ministries and local churches in a variety of ways.
1. Professional Assessment Centers implemented in each state/region, thus aiding state leadership to gain the needed information to make the most informed decisions as to who and where to make investments.
2. A State Coaching Network for each state/region church planters and local mother/daughter or sponsoring local congregations.
3. Access to a church planting website with relevant available resources and online training.
4. Church Planting Boot Camps held on state and regional levels making access more available to bi-vocational church planters.
5. A certification program for church planters, and coaches thus enabling the state/region to make the best choices based on the best information.
6. The creation of a national community of Church of God church planters emphasizing our larger family, thus creating brand identity and loyalty.
7. Training targeted personnel and other state office/region leaders regarding the church planting initiative and trends affecting church planters.
8. Printed and electronic journals to leaders and church planters regularly that aid in their successful planting of churches.
9. Access to the Church Planting Forums Leadership family linking each state with other state/regional leaders and with approximately 70 other denominations.
10. Enabling the state/regional office to obtain the best qualitative and quantitative research data directly from Church of God church plants and existing churches to make the most informed decisions.
Goals and Objectives
1. Establish an integrated, comprehensive, and coordinated strategic church planting initiative designated as the National Church Planting Network operating under the supervision of the Division of World Evangelization.
2. Implement a USA Church Planting Strategy identified as 2020 CONNECTION with the goal of planting 2,020 new field churches by the year 2020. Further, 2020 CONNECTION will engage four commitments articulated within the acrostic ACTS.
The commitments are as follows:
A – Assess and Affirm
Provide evaluation process
Provide evaluation partnerships
C – Coach and Connect
Establish coaching networks from COG International Offices, State/Regional Offices, or other partnerships
Coach Multi-site Campus Ministries
Link church planters with opportunities for ministry resourcing
T- Target and Train
Provide regular opportunities for training at the International, State/Regional, and local level
Establish training certification through COG learning institutions (Lee U, PTS, MIP, SOM, etc.)
Assist church planters and administrative bishops in finding target areas and in locating personnel
S – Strengthen and Serve
Provide pastoral care to church planters
Assist Covenant Ministry Teams in focused church planting efforts.
3. Establishment of a corporate goal of planting new churches annually equal to a minimum of 5% of the total number of churches in a state/region during the next eight years.
4. Recruitment annually of 5% of existing churches to become mother/daughter or sponsoring/supporting churches during the next eight years.
5. Discover and develop additional prospective Church of God church planters across the USA among targeted constituencies resulting in the potential of 2,500 church planters during the next eight years.
6. To provide professional, timely assessments for 500 church planting candidates annually resulting in the deployment of at least 300 church planters per year.
7. To certify 1,200 new church planters in the next four years.
8. Development of a 2020 CONNECTION website providing online training model, coaching opportunities, assessment and church planting strategy resources.
9. Establishment of a new church planting boot camp made available online, regionally, and statewide creating a certification program for Church of God church planters.
10. Implement a National Coaching Network for sponsoring pastors and church planters who are actively engaged in the church planting process.
11. Creation of a new Leadership and Evangelism Institute. The Institute will resource, train, and develop leaders in all phases of church planting, including church planters, sponsoring churches, executive leadership, pastors and laity.
12. Establishment of Funding Partnerships.
13. Development of state/regional assessment centers with administrative bishops.
14. Establish a national prayer force of intercessors directly focused on 2020 CONNECTION church planting strategy.
15. Build a relational bridge to all five possible recruiting pools.
16. Create and foster interdependency within potential connections by establishing positive and engaging relationships.
Following many months of study and review, the Church Planting Task Force submitted the report first to the Executive Committee and then to the Executive Council. The 2020 CONNECTION, USA Church Planting Strategy was accepted and now is presented to the International General Council.
Here are the questions? Can the Church of God in the USA be a church planting movement during the second decade of the twenty-first century? What about our future? What about our vision? In light of a “new normal” and current realities, we must refocus upon mission and vision and recognize the opportunities to expand our missional ministry mindset. We should become connected and engaging “laborers together” with a missionary outlook to reach the unreached church and the unreachable. The answer is YES! Yes, we can be a vibrant and dynamic church planting movement. It will require greater means of connectivity; commitment to new church planting opportunities; conceive new methods of establishing new churches; discover new modes of generational engagement; intentionally create greater leadership investment; and originate a significant and relevant vision for church planting.
We believe 2020 CONNECTION will serve as a catalyst for magnifying the Church of God as a church planting movement. We have the structure, the resources, and the manpower to affect the un-evangelized in North America. We must corporately connect to our vision for the future.
Church planting is a biblical blueprint for reaching the lost. It is an effective evangelism methodology and model for making disciples. It provides opportunities for new leaders to emerge and reach new generational communities and people groups. The one ingredient necessary is a called missional person who demonstrates spiritual leadership and significant preparedness for maximized success. Church planting is not an option. It is a divine imperative!
Church Planting Task Force:
Tim Hill, Liaison, Michael B. Knight, Chairman. Michael L. Baker, Steve Brown, David Hagee, Ronnie Hepperly, Carlos Moran, Matt Roberts, T. Dwight Spivey.