Church Planting or
Life-on-life is key to our mission.
in the late 1990s our emphasis as the Evangelical Mis- sionary Church of Canada aligned with the Discipling a Whole Nation (DAWN) church-planting paradigm.
It was worthy, but somehow the message of church planting obscured the more fundamental message to make
disciples who make disciples. Jesus never commanded
us to plant churches, but He did command us to make
The church-planting paradigm has been strongly influenced by the church-growth movement of the ’70s and
’80s, and the thinking that innovative programming will
attract people into our churches. The sociology of group
formation and a heavy emphasis on marketing techniques
have been strong factors in this approach.
Critics have said, debatably, that it’s possible to plant
this kind of church without making a single disciple, since
the model depends so much on tapping the leftover elements of Christianity in our post-Christian society. The
keys to growth here are adding staff, improved programs,
more spectacular events and star headliners, whether
preachers or musicians. Community penetration is not
its strong point.
God’s people in some ministries like this have been intimidated, afraid or uncertain how to interact with society
and the larger culture. Outreach is delegated to individuals
with special skills at creating attractional programs and
events. As a result, engagement within many parts of society has been the exception rather than the rule.
The cost of making one Christian in North America
has been estimated at $2 million per conversion. Whether
or not the actual dollar figure is correct, we must admit
very few are coming to faith for all the money expended
on the mission of the Church – that is, the mission given
by Jesus to make disciples.
Of what does making disciples consist? Let’s start with
the principle that “like reproduces like.”
The fruit of a disciple should be a disciple. But the
North American Church has struggled with what I de-
scribe as the “step-down syndrome.” In the step-down syn-
drome, the fruit of a disciple seems to be instead a deeper
spiritual walk, variously defined. Likewise, the fruit of a
congregation should be another congregation, but we have
sought instead bigger buildings and budgets. The fruit of
a leader should be to raise up more leaders, but we have
looked instead for more followers.
PHiL DELSAu T of Elmira, Ont., is president of the
Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada, which has
150 congregations across the country. This column
features affiliates of The Evangelical Fellowship of
Canada. For a list see www.theEFC.ca/affiliates.