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April 26, 2016

Planter, Why Art Thou Planting?

By Bill Hogg

Musings on Motives, Part 1

Over my next few blogs I want to raise a question with you, my fellow pilgrim and laborer: WHY ARE YOU PLANTING?

As I write this, loads of planters and wannabe planters will be converging on Orlando for Exponential East. This broadly inter-tribal gathering draws young and seasoned leaders from across North America and even overseas. It has been a source of encouragement, inspiration and challenge for thousands of leaders. Bill Hybels spoke at Exponential East in 2014. In his plenary he tackled two lousy reasons to plant a church and offered two great reasons for wading into the glorious mess of church planting.

“One terrible reason to plant a church is because it’s the trendiest, hippest, coolest thing going on in church work today. I have seen a share of young, energized leaders who felt peer pressure to demonstrate their love for God by getting their board shorts, and surfing the church planting wave only to wash up three years later, bloodied and disillusioned by the whole experience.”

The veteran leader also identified that many leaders jump into kick starting their own church to avoid the challenges of leadership development forged while on staff with and under others. Hybels called this “leapfrogging.” Leapfrogging into a more autonomous ministry.

Here, Hybels echoes the late Dutch missiologist, Johannes Verkuyl, who claimed there are both pure and impure motives for mission and evangelism.

A Journey of Ongoing Transformation

We as Christ followers are on a journey of ongoing transformation and our motives will never be squeaky clean until we are promoted to glory. However, Scripture does invite us to prayerfully weigh our motives. Thus, the Dutch megachurch pastor and the Dutch missionary statesman, have warrant to challenge the why you and I are on mission.

Simon the sorcerer becomes a believer and attempts to buy the ability to impart the Holy Spirit. Scripture implies he wanted status and power (Acts 8:9-10). Paul identified “false apostles” motivated by a desire to secure their own following (Acts 20:28-30). I have met young leaders who are stoked by the prospect of presiding over their own fiefdom–church planting “lairds of their ane castles”–as we would say in Scotland. I have heard young preachers who are the eloquent heroes of their own sermons and illustrations–when the goal of the preacher should be to lift up Jesus as glorious and strong and mighty to save. Preaching Christ can be driven by “good will,” “love,” and “sincerity” or, “envy,” “rivalry,” and “selfish ambition” (Phil 1:18).

A Motley Band of Infidels

Methodism’s Rev. C.C. McCabe can be assessed as “a model of apostolic confidence.”[1] He can rightly be celebrated as exemplifying gospel optimism. But it can also be argued that he and his followers, with their derogatory references to agnostics, displayed other motives.

Robert Ingersoll, a champion of agnosticism, was given newspaper coverage when speaking at a Freethinkers of America conference. He asserted that churches were in terminal decline. McCabe telegrammed his ideological opponent: “Dear Robert, All Hail the power of Jesus’ Name–we are building one Methodist for every day in the year, and propose to make it two a day.”

As the contents of the telegram became widely known, it became the catalyst for a folk hymn. This referred to the Freethinkers as a “motley band” of “infidels” and a refrain that declared four times, “we’re building two a day.” This can be seen as more than the celebration of gospel preaching churches being launched. It could be cited as evidence of expressions of: triumphalism, sectarianism, spiritual arrogance, and (Methodist) denominational superiority.

It’s of course, quite easy to critique McCabe and his followers and bemoan the bygone Methodists’ antics and attitudes. It’s easier to point a finger at a historic figure like the Scottish pioneer, David Livingston, who was committed to the Three Cs of Christianity, Civilization, and Commerce and accuse him of colonialism, than it is to search our own hearts. Cross-cultural missionary activity has been accused of imperialism: “A power which seeks to be served.”[2] This all reveals the reality that Christian action is influenced by both “pure” and “impure” motives.

I Invite You To…

I want to offer you some Biblical motives to fuel your missional endeavors. Meanwhile, I do invite you to have the courage to look in the mirror. I do invite you, as God enables you to look into your dark side. I invite you to get trusted peers and mentors around you and who will call you out and speak into your actions and attitudes. The Psalmist says, “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me” (Psalm 139:1). So pray, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts” (Psalm 139:23). I invite you to pray into your “Why.” I invite you to pray that your heart will be stirred afresh with affection for Jesus and a desire to make much of him.


[1] George G. Hunter, To Spread the Power, Nashville, Abingdon, 1987 p.20

[2] Johannes Verkuyl, Contemporary Missiology , Grand Rapids, Eerdmans ,1978 , p. 168


Bill Hogg

Dr. Bill Hogg’s passion is proclaiming the beauty, power, and truth of the good news of Jesus and equipping others to share the gospel. Bill is available as a training resource to inspire, equip, and coach leaders, church plants, and established faith communities to follow Jesus into their respective mission fields. He offers a variety of equipping resources and experiences to help ignite the fires of evangelism. Bill is a former radio host and has served as a pastor, professor, evangelist, and a movie extra! He was involved in pioneer evangelism in his native Scotland where he launched Youth for Christ. He is part of the Arrow Leadership Ministries faculty, offering congregational and Para-church leaders training in evangelism. His doctoral research focused on leadership approaches to the missional renewal of established congregations. Hogg is a published author who has written books on prayer and on youth culture and is currently writing an evangelism primer. Bill is married to his sweetheart, Morag and has two amazing adult kids, Naomi and Peter. Bill and Morag both enjoy being Mackenzie’s grandparents. Demonstrating how ambidextrous he is, Bill enjoys both real football (“soccer” to North American Philistines) and NFL. He is a Man United and Seattle Seahawks fan. Bill and Morag have recently discovered the joy of snow shoe walking. Bill is a movie buff and admits to being a fan of Master Chef and Kitchen Nightmares. He enjoys grocery shopping and browsing in bookstores while savoring gourmet coffee.


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