I recently shared that I have been encouraged by the emphasis on gospel and mission among many in our baptist family. From time to time I would like to point out people and ministries that are bright spots worthy of prayer, promotion, and partnership. Today, I'd like to point to the church planting network, PLNTD. Tim Brister, founder of PLNTD, is an old friend of mine and I have been able to watch this cooperative effort grow from its beginning. I recently asked him a few questions.
Tell us what PLNTD is and why you started it.
PLNTD is a newly forming network aimed to create an environment (ecosystem) in which church leaders can flourish in the Great Commission. It began with a burden and vision while in seminary several years ago as I was being trained as a church planter and pastor, and since then the vision has matured having been in a local church context working both in church planting and church revitalization efforts. During this time, I have sensed God blessing four providential movements in this generation: (1) a passion for the centrality and sufficiency of the gospel, (2) a desire to live on mission in word and deed, (3) a confessional commitment to the Word of God, and (4) a renewal of ecclesiological distinctives. From those four areas, PLNTD has four corresponding core values that shape our identity, namely we are gospel-centered, missionally-driven, confessionally Reformed, and distinctively Baptist. PLNTD as a network believes the work of making, maturing, and multiplying disciples should be done in, by, and for the local church. Our goal is to encourage newly developing churches as well as church planting churches in their efforts to resource, train, send, and coach disciple-making disciples on mission.
How have things developed since its inception?
We announced the beginnings of PLNTD in the summer of 2010, which began with two of the four original components of PLNTD, that being online resourcing and relational communities. Since then we have been developing regional networks and residency centers in local churches. Much like a new church, there is a season (pre-launch phase) where much of the planning, vision, and groundwork is being laid by the leadership team, and for the past two years, that has been true for us. Over the past year, we have developed our leadership team, clarified the vision, hosted regional training events, expanded our resources for church leaders, and strengthened our relational communities. By the end of 2012 (or early 2013), we hope to be in a position to officially "launch" PLNTD when all components of the network are integrated in what we are calling the PLNTD ecosystem.
What do you see happening in the next five years?
Five years ago, the buzz word everyone talked about was being "missional" and how to plant a "missional church." Today it is making gospel-centered disciples. I resonate with both. But in five years, there will likely be another trend or buzz word to ascend the evangelical landscape to capture the attention of church practitioners. In the meantime, I see a three things happening.
1. There is a new centralization of leadership taking place through the multi-site movement. While networks helped with decentralized church planting, multi-site churches are centralizing new talent and young ministers through their campus model. More and more prospective church planters will find such opportunities more attractive and less risky than planting autonomous churches, while still having the entrepreneurial adventure that comes with a new work.
2. The emphasis of the "apostolic" gifting in church will continue to gain influence. This is the idea that modern-day "apostles" are essential to experiencing a real church planting movement in the Western world. Therefore, we should recognize their importance and harness their gifting toward that end. I don't particular agree with this model (APEST), but it is gaining new ground in various circles of evangelical practitioners.
3. Tribal identities will still play an important role, but there will be increasing cross-pollination among emerging leaders. For example, there are tribes driven by theology and others driven by pragmatism. Some emphasize healthy ecclesiological practices while others offer great leadership insights and practical "nuts and bolts" approach to ministry. Emerging leaders and church planters will likely have a lead "tribal identity" but recognize they are many things profitable from those outside their tribe.
What is the place of networks and denominations in the future?
I am a firm believer in the local church. Networks and denominations can serve a great purpose, so long as they don't become an end unto themselves. I am not interested in saying "PLNTD has X number of planters or planted X number of churches". Like John the Baptist, denominations and networks must decrease, and the local church must increase. So their place first and foremost is a backseat to the local church, not at the wheel. Having said that, such parachurch organizations can provide a larger kingdom affiliation and cooperation around shared identity and philosophy of mission. They can facilitate fraternal community while serving local churches to accomplish the work God has called them to do. Pastors and planters need and desire to be connected with kingdom work outside their own context, for encouragement, prayer, counsel, accountability, etc. I believe the healthiest and most successful networks and denominations are those who pour into local churches and their leaders with as little attention drawn to themselves as possible.
Thank you, Joe, for allowing me to share about the PLNTD Network and how we believe God is leading us in the future. If anyone would like to know more about our network, they can visit us online at www.plntd.com, and should anyone have questions and/or would like to talk with me personally, they can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.