“Church-planting isn’t hard—it’s impossible!” That is how one BWM veteran missionary describes his calling. He is only echoing missionaries of the past, who learned that successful church-planting requires more than proper theology and hard work; it also necessitates Spirit-empowered ministry. Overlooking the role of the Holy Spirit betrays self-reliance and detracts from the ultimate aim of missions which is the planting of churches for the glory of God. It limits the work to the externally attractive fruit of man’s ingenuity and hard work.
On the other hand, an out of balance de-emphasis on man’s vital role in working God’s harvest field will yield “flash in the pan” results, because of its failure to properly ground and grow the work. While the momentary aesthetics may suggest an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, time passes an unfavorable verdict on an unbalanced approach to ministry. Missionaries can only plant enduring churches through the intelligent, selfless and tireless application of autonomous and indigenous principles. Expecting the Holy Spirit to do unilaterally what God has prescribed as a divine/human cooperative will result in short-lived, unstable works. It is this error in particular which has led to wide-spread syncretism in the so-called Christian churches of Africa. To plant enduring churches missionaries must maintain a balanced emphasis on all three essential elements: divine enablement, sound doctrine and human effort. The missionary’s statement, “church-planting isn’t hard—it’s impossible” acknowledges the necessity of divine intervention. Since God is greater than the challenge, I would like to suggest a companion statement, “God’s formula doesn’t make church-planting easy, but possible!”
“… work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Phil. 2:12b-13
Written by Dr. Kevin Brosnan, Field Administrator for Baptist World Mission