Why Training is Important
As a family of church-planting churches we are about one thing: church planting. We are in the business of planting healthy churches, which means that we are in the business of watering them as well.
1 Corinthians 3, is the closest we get in the Bible to a church planting manual. This is the passage where the term ‘plant’ is actually used. Paul describes himself as having planted, cf. 1 Cor 3:6. This passage also contains warnings that should make every one of us think twice about going ahead without adequate preparation. We must be alert to the warnings in 1 Cor 3:11-15 of the dire consequences of planting a church that is, what we might call, theologically ill-conceived.
Paul planted by proclaiming the word of the cross (1 Cor 1:18), which is the message of Christ crucified (1 Cor 2:2). It was this message of the cross that was the foundation. All subsequent building work, to grow or establish the church, had to follow the structure laid out by that foundation, cf. 1 Corinthians 3:10-11. Here’s the thing about foundations. They aren’t simply the starting bricks that are laid down and then forgotten or ignored. They set the shape and scale, and take the weight of the subsequent edifice. If a builder builds without reference to the foundations, they effectively build a new and profoundly flimsy structure. Paul’s warning in 1 Cor 3:12-15 is clear: if you want to see your work make it through the judgment fire, build in accordance with the foundation.
This means theological formation is critical to our task, because church planting is a theological enterprise, before it is anything else. For the writers of the New Testament, Christ crucified and risen is both the content and lens of theology. What we know about God, is revealed in and through the gospel. The crucified and risen Christ is not just the ‘basics’ of the gospel; he is the doorway to knowing and being known by God the Father. The call to build with Christ is a call to build with theology as our blueprint and our tool. In stark terms, this means that a theologically untrained church planter, risks lives which are precious to God.
It is for this reason that Acts 29, has always taken theological formation seriously. Church planting has to be driven and shaped by theology. Those who go into it need to be equipped to be able to work from first principles to action. They will need to deal with difficult pastoral situations and complex ethical dilemmas. They need to understand how the gospel connects with culture and devise a coherent gospel-centred strategy.
We are currently developing training resources, using the widely used Porterbrook material along with other tried and tested material. We are launching two specific training projects:
Acts 29 Training Programs
Urban Minority Church Planting
Church Planting Residencies allow men to be equipped to plant a church in the context of an existing healthy church, with an intentional mentor, and the incredible peer relationship benefits of a cohort of men all being trained to do the same. Specifically, we feel like it is most strategic to intentionally focus resources and attention on minority leaders for these Church Planting Residencies. This will help Acts 29 not just further become a diverse, global family of church planters but also the men and the churches we plant become highly strategic outposts in their building of racially and culturally diverse, Bible Preaching, Disciple Making, City Loving churches.
Church Planting Academies
In partnership with Oak Hill College in the UK, Acts 29 have established an academy to train church planters and pastors for Europe and into the 10/40 window.
We are set for a soft launch in September 2015 with a curriculum, over 30 students, two part time faculty members and Oak Hill teaching support. We are aiming to offer a full suite of courses, including accredited courses beginning in September 2017.
The academy aims to train planters and gospel workers for Europe through a combination of distance learning curriculum, in-context seminar day support and short residential teaching programs.
We want this to be a pilot project and discussions have already begun with theological institutions in other parts of the world to construct and launch similar but culturally nuanced projects.