As followers of Christ we have been called to make disciples and to bring life and hope to a world of decay, disease, and death. The New Testament is a wonderful example to us of the kind of disciples that are needed for our world. As we read the Sermon on the Mount and follow the ministry of Jesus, we cannot escape what he did and how he engaged the poor and hurting while, at the same time, dealing with the rich and religiously pious. Jesus engaged the whole person and all of society.
If we focus on societal transformation, converts are essential. However, now we are also defining their focus and their drive. This is how the early church operated in Antioch. This is also how the church in history grew, as it worked where there were tragedies and issues to be confronted. If we truly care about our communities and want to see all domains of society impacted by the church, then that should lead us to active engagement of churches within our communities and in the world at large.
What exactly does that look like? You can start churches, build buildings, see baptisms, start programs, and do mission work—and still see your community degenerate. If, on the other hand, you want to see radical transformation, then the church must be active. The primary place of ministry is in the domains of society, rather than the church on the corner. Engaging the world is the Father’s comprehensive response to a lost world.
When that happens, we are connected with God at a deep level in terms of his will, his mission, and his passion. he begins to multiply that which he wants to multiply, and he does so incredibly quickly. We need to plant churches that see what the Father sees, and watch those churches explode.
Church Planting Beyond Ourselves
When we start a church, we are not just starting a church for that community; we are starting a church for the world that is based in our community. Every church that you plant, you are planting for the world.
The great tragedy of American church planting is that many times local churches, having been given the Great Commission, have become the epitome of religious institutional consumerism. The DNA of a multiplying church is not just one of mathematics, but of the whole will of God for society and the world. It’s a DNA that is focused beyond itself, one that moves out.
At GlocalNet, we expect a church to help sponsor a new church plant within its first year of existence. This does not provide much in terms of people or money, but it begins to define the DNA of that new church. We also require our new churches to adopt a nation and begin working there, even if it is only to pray and send their pastor and a layperson that first year.
Planting Glocal Churches Works
A glocal church is one that is planting churches locally and globally. The action takes place not sequentially, but simultaneously. However, it is critical to realize that each culture, as Chuck Kraft has written, represents a different pot where the seed of the gospel is planted. Therefore, planting methodologies and approaches need to be driven from the field—not the West.
Frankly, we in the West have much more to learn from the rest of the world than they have to learn from us. When you can partner with churches around the world. But be sure that they are genuine partners and that they are the ones driving the church planting strategy in their part of the world.
In some places a church cannot be planted legally; nevertheless, it has been done again and again since the first church at Antioch. It will not be accomplished by outsiders; only by insiders who grab the initiative and run with it. When the seed of the gospel is planted in someone, you already have a church planter. The gospel takes root and church expansion happens.
A glocal church sees the church as the missionary; that is, each of the disciples as the missionaries. For this to work, you have to raise up disciples that live it, love it, spread it, and share it. When that happens, you end up with the whole church involved in the game. Just like Antioch, multiplication is not driven by preachers but by people who are following Jesus.
A glocal church is one that engages the whole of society. It doesn’t just focus on religious work. It starts with society and engages the domains of society as opposed to starting with religious work.
A glocal church makes a long-term, transformational commitment to a specific place in the world until that place also becomes a sending place. This is the point of greatest challenge. This will take an investment of time and an intensity of focus if we are to make a significant impact.
Ending with Paul’s words: “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:19-20, ESV).
We are called to something far greater than maintaining institutional structures, church buildings, or committees. We are called to work toward the redemption and reconciliation of the whole world. That will only be possible when the church takes the whole gospel to everyone, everywhere.
Dr. Bob Roberts, Jr., is the founder of GlocalNet, a non-profit dedicated to mobilizing the church for transformation in the public square, and co-founder of Multi-Faith Neighbors Network, an organization committed to creating international religious freedom through intentional cross-cultural relationships.