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A network I belong to recently shifted our focus from church planting movements to disciple making movements. In essence, we were saying that

church is an afterthought!

Looking at the Bible, we saw that it is our job to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20), and Jesus’ job to build His Church (Matthew 16:18). If we do our job, Jesus will do His!

Here are some of the practical benefits of this biblical change in our thinking:

  1. Our co-laborers are more engaged. It is easier for them to see themselves as disciple makers than as church planters.
  2. Existing churches are more supportive. We are neither competing with Protestants nor offending the Orthodox.
  3. Those we are seeking to reach trust us more. We are clearly coming alongside them rather than recruiting them to our church.

Your turn:

  1. How do you respond to the idea of church as an afterthought?
  2. What are some of the ways that church as an afterthought might look?

The comment section is there for you. Use it freely!

6 thoughts on “afterthought

  1. This idea that we are called to make disciples while it is Jesus’ job to plant churches is one that seems to keep coming up. In my opinion, this is a false dichotomy and very unhelpful. Here are three concepts that bear on this issue…

    1. We have significantly departed from the NT practice of church as an extended spiritual family. The “church that meets as Priscilla and Aquila’s house” (Rom. 16), for instance, had nothing to do with building or renting a facility, hiring clergy and using a formalized order of service. It was a family! What we think church is shapes what we think church planting is. See “When the Church Was a Family: Recapturing Jesus’ Vision of Authentic Christian Community” by Hellerman.

    2. Because we don’t understand the NT practice of church, we totally miss the fact that a central part of Jesus strategy for the expansion of the Kingdom was training his disciples how to plant churches. Clearly, this is exactly what he sent them out to do in Lk 10. See “House Church and Mission: The Importance of Household Structures in Early Christianity” by Gehring.

    3. Because we have been trained in Greek thinking, we see things as either/or instead of the Hebraic both/and mindset. Both disciple making and church planting are things that God does. And, He graciously invites us to join Him in both cases. (Eugene Peterson’s word “prevenience” is helpful here.) In fact, I actually see these two activities as simply two perspectives on the same process. One focuses on the individual (disciple). The other focus on the group (church). But, in Scripture, they are inextricably linked. The best discipling of individuals takes place in the context of a vibrant family of Jesus (ie, church). And, a healthy family has a powerful discipling effect on the individuals. A wise leader (ie, spiritual parent, see 1 Thes 2) focus on both the individuals in the family and the family as a unit.

    Hope that helps.


    John White
    Team Leader
    LK10: A Community of Practice for House Church Leaders


    1. Hi John, thanks so much for contributing substance to the conversation! One of the bite size nuggets that I particularly appreciate is that “What we think church is shapes what we think church planting is.”

      May God continue to bless you as you work to connect and equip house church leaders around the world!



  2. This all makes more sense when I put Kirk’s and John’s comments together. I agree that the whole idea of planting a church seems too big, that is, if we think about our modern concept of church. But then I wonder what will happen to all the new disciples if we focus only on the disciple-making. BUT, if we think about church as John suggests–the small fellowship groups that we see in the Book of Acts, then it all fits.
    In one of Kirk’s posts I read about how it is important to begin with a group of unbelievers who already know and trust one another rather than trying to gather a group of strangers. So, if you already have a group of people who know and trust one another, and you lead them in discipleship, then you already have the basis for a church.
    So, the two flow together, but the important thing is, as you both say, defining what the church is.


    1. Great job synthesizing the conversation, Cecily!

      To a degree, we are talking about two sides of the same coin: “what is church?” and “what is discipleship?”

      I’ll develop those two questions in future posts (thanks for the inspiration), but will leave you with one more question: besides obedience to all the commands of Christ, what else is needed to form a church?



      1. While it is of great importance to walk in obedience to the Lord, I wouldn’t put the emphasis on “obedience to all the commandments” as a requisite for forming a church. Obedience is important, but if it becomes the primary focus then it is easy to fall into legalism. So maybe I would say that in order to form a church, you start with a group of people on the journey of discipleship (those seeking to obey God) and you need someone who will pastor them or shepherd them. There are descriptions in the epistles about the qualifications for those who would serve in a church, and these should be our guidelines.
        I hope it is okay to disagree.


  3. Hi Cecily, I think we are on the same page regarding obedience. The picture of a people together on a journey of obedience to God reflects what I think, too.

    If I could restate my question, it would be this: besides the commands of Christ, what else is needed to form a church?


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