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March 23, 2017

The Bigger Picture of Church Planting

By Daniel Im

Our Q&A Webinars are a monthly segment designed for Plus Members to hear from leading experts in church planting, multisite, leadership, and multiplication. For this month’s segment, Ed and I talk with Craig Ott, Professor of Mission and Intercultural Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and author of several books including Global Church Planting.

The Bigger Picture of Church Planting

One of the features that I love about my iPhone camera is that I have the option of reverting an edited picture back to the original. There have been some pictures that I have reverted back to the original, which reminded me of the bigger picture that I originally took. In doing so, it has reminded me of where I was, who I was with, and what I was doing. In other words, by widening the frame, it reminded me of the bigger picture of which I was a part.

Recently, Ed and I chatted with Dr. Craig Ott, Professor of Mission and Intercultural Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and author of Global Church Planting, about the bigger picture of church planting around the globe. Obviously, church planting in the West is in vogue. As a result, there’s no shortage of networks, materials, resources, books, and conferences on the subject. However, with such a zoomed in and cropped focus on church planting in North America, we have a tendency to forget about (or push to the periphery) the global landscape of church planting in which we are a part. 

Sure God is at work in the West and in North America, and we should celebrate that. But we shouldn’t do so at the neglect of knowing, understanding, engaging, and celebrating what God is doing around the world. As Dr. Ott pointed out, there seems to be a supernatural and unexplainable move of God through miracles, prayers, and people coming to know Christ in the majority world.

If we reverted our cropped picture of church planting in the West to the original picture involving church planting across the globe, is there anything we can learn? Of course. And during our time, Dr. Ott, noted at least three things we can learn.

1. There are common factors of church planting in global cities.

According to Dr. Ott, there are at least four common factors that every church plant will encounter regardless of the city in which they exist.

First, every city will require contextualization. Church planters will need to enter the city married to the mission and the message but willing to date the method. Therefore, they must learn how the mission and message will be effectively disseminated in a local culture.

Second, for the most part, urban people are skeptics. Every new person an urbanite meets is viewed through the lens of skepticism. Thus, it’s important in every city to attempt to make yourself credible in and to the community.

Third, although cities are dense, most cities are also quite diverse and fragmented. Thus, it’s harder to establish and build community among urbanites—although they are desperately hungry for it. Urban church plants around the globe will need to seriously think about the small group structure and strategy that will facilitate and cultivate community among fragmented people.

And lastly, church plants in global cities will need to create environments that allow people to inquire about faith without being committed to it. In other words, they will need to craft environments conducive for people to belong before they believe or become.

To read the final two points of what Dr. Ott says we can learn from the global church planting scene, and to watch the full video, click here.

This video is part of Plus Membership. To get full access to it, and much more, I encourage you to become a Plus Member. Click here to see all the benefits of becoming a Plus Member.


  • What can we learn from the global church planting scene?
  • We should celebrate God’s work in the West but not to the neglect of knowing, engaging, & celebrating it around the world.
  • In the majority world, there’s a supernatural move of God through miracles, prayers, & people coming to know Christ.
  • Global church planters will need to enter cities married to the mission and the message but willing to date the method.
  • Just as our models won’t work in int’l contexts, their models won’t necessarily work in ours.
  • You can’t copy and paste the work of God from one context to another.
  • Ministry and mission movement happen, not as a result of the staff’s doing but of the body’s moving. 
  • The most effective int’l partnerships will be the ones where the western partner is willing to listen to the national partner.


Daniel Im

Daniel Im (@danielsangi) is the Lead Pastor of Beulah Alliance Church, a multiplying multisite church focused on reaching 1% of Edmonton for Christ. His latest book is You Are What You Do: And Six Other Lies about Work, Life, and Love. He is also the author of No Silver Bullets and co-author of Planting Missional Churches. He co-hosts the New Churches Q&A Podcast, as well as the IMbetween Podcast. He has an M.A. in Global Leadership and has served and pastored in church plants and multisite churches ranging from 100 people to 50,000 people in Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, Korea, Edmonton, and Nashville. Because of their love for the local church, after pioneering and leading the church multiplication initiative for LifeWay, Daniel and his wife, Christina, moved back to Canada with their three children. For more information, visit danielim.com and follow him on social media @danielsangi.


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