Several weeks ago I told Katie that I was growing kind of uncomfortable with the term “church planting.” I told her it seems to put all the focus on creating a church (an often location-based institution), and nowhere in scripture are we told to go and make churches. Instead, the church is a natural outflow of what our actual call is: making disciples. Recently we spent eight hours with the Missions Resource Network talking about this very concept, and now more than ever I feel like we have missed the boat when we put all our focus on planting churches.
We live in a religious world where spiritual health and maturity is based on one thing: attendance. And how could it be otherwise? “Evangelism” too often means “invite your friends to church.” That’s all we’ve got, it’s all we’ve been trained to do. We say, “Hey, you should come to church because we’re having this special event.” Then, once the person has become a Christian, we measure their spirituality like this: “They come to church every time the doors are opened,” or, “Why haven’t you been coming to church lately?” Or even worse: “I don’t know what happened to them; haven’t seen them in ages.” When we look at attendance as the problem and not a symptom of the problem, we’re treating the symptom and not the disease.
Don’t misunderstand me: I believe the church is a vital part of the Christian life and that we can’t be true Christians without it. However, if we put all our focus on making churches instead of disciples, I believe our churches grow with a handicap that is extremely difficult to recover from.