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Proposals for Church Planting Systems, Part 2

By Ed Stetzer

We would like to offer two proposals to help you intentionally move toward multiplication. Read Part 1 here.

Proposal #2: Invest in research, innovation, and collaboration for additional mission structures.

We are living in a time of great innovation. Innovation isn’t always necessary, but with North America changing as fast as it is, church planting organizations have a responsibility to try. The Underground Network, one of the church planting churches interviewed for this study, has spent the last ten years innovating and experimenting with a different type of ecclesiology, which has enabled them to create a mission structure that’s both organizational and missional.

This is how Underground’s Co-Founder, Brian Sanders, summarizes their missional experiment: “We’ve been intentionally shy for the first 10 years of our existence. The explanatory style, for lack of a better word, or the framework or the narrative for us has been an experiment. We’re not sure if it would work. We’re not trying to say that our ideas are better than others…it’s about trying something, building something, creating something. We just wanted to see if we could create a clinical environment—all good experiments need to have an uncontaminated environment— so we did pull away a little bit from traditional church people and traditional church forms because in the end what we wanted to see was after a 10 year experiment—to take the data of that and then if you think of the academy…the results of an experiment belong to the academy. So, win or lose, fail or succeed, (the Underground Network/experiment) belongs to the Church.”

This experiment is about being willing to disconnect from existing structures in order to innovate new ones, sometimes with a high potential for failure. Nonetheless, this experimenting can ultimately advance the kingdom of God.

10 Areas to Research

Research and innovation can also happen within existing structures and organizations. Here is a list of ten areas in which denominations and networks can begin directing more energy to researching and understanding for the sake of church planting and evangelism:

  1. Historical lay-led Church Planting Movements in America
  2. Collegiate church planting and other places with transient populations
  3. Generation Z and their spiritual attitudes and religious habits
  4. Holacracy and new leadership structures15
  5. Diversifying the leadership of mission organizations
  6. Identify more missional narratives 16 in addition to just the church decline narrative17
  7. Bivo/Covo18 church planting
  8. Peacemaking and reconciliation
  9. Social entrepreneurship and its overlap with establishing worshiping communities
  10. Cultural liturgies19

These are just some areas we suggest researching and studying that can significantly inform your organizational vision and strategy.

*This is an excerpt from Best Practices in Church Planting Systems that I wrote with Jeff Christofferson, Daniel Yang, and Daniel Im. Download the e-book for free.



Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer (@edstetzer), is a professor and dean at Wheaton College who also serves as Executive Director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center. Stetzer has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, has earned two master’s degrees and two doctorates, and has written hundreds of articles and a dozen books. He is regional director for Lausanne North America and publishes research through Mission Group. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited in, interviewed by, and writes for news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He is the founding editor of The Gospel Project, a curriculum used by more than 1.7 million individuals each week for bible study. His national radio show, Ed Stetzer Live, airs Saturdays across the country. He serves as teaching pastor at Highpoint Church in Chicago and has been the interim teaching pastor at Moody Church in downtown Chicago.


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