By Stu Streeter
VP of Church Multiplication and Ministry Advancement
Back in early 2022, a group of more than forty church planting and multiplication denominational leaders began to gather online and in person to discuss the potential need for a new way of doing church multiplication. I was honored to be part of this group, which focused on creating a new operating system for church planters seeking to plant vibrant, multiplying churches.
Much of the time when we talk about an operating system, we are referring to the systems built into our computers and phones that allow us to work in a digital environment. When talking about church multiplication, the operating system is the framework behind how we do ministry in our churches. Within the NAB, we have been on a missional journey together for more than a decade, which has helped inform some of the foundation principals of our new operating system: beginning first with who God is, followed by where he is at work and discerning in community how we can join that work.
(You can read about the NAB’s own recalibration in the fall 2021 Onward: The New Math to Multiplication.)
In one of the documents we share with NAB planters and revitalizers, it says,
In the age of Christendom, a church planter sought to start a Christ-centered and inspiring weekend gathering in hopes that community, mission, and discipleship would develop. Put crassly, attract people with Sunday morning and over time you’ll get a church out of the deal. In this philosophy of ministry, once Sunday’s worship gathering reached critical mass, programs were built around Sunday designed to resource the individual or household with religious goods and services in the hopes that disciples would be made. And make no mistake, disciples were indeed made. But as the age of Christendom ended in many corners of the world, including many regions of North America, leaders began to realize a few things:
- Often the very people we hoped to reach with the Gospel did not care much for our songs and sermons, and those we were reaching quickly became fickle consumers of religious goods and services. A missional/formational multiplication effort intentionally depends on the miracle of spiritual formation and communal mission to reach the community.
- Consistently, the Kingdom entrepreneur was looked to as the authority on what and how to lead the ministry. When a new idea or strategy was in demand, all eyes swing to that lone voice to come up with an answer. A missional/formational multiplication effort intentionally places communal discernment at the center of a lead team’s practices, seeking the Spirit’s leading together in community.
- Undoubtedly, the prevailing model of church planting has continued to grow exponentially in financial cost. To plant a prevailing model church in North America, the cost is so high it would be impossible to raise enough funds fast enough to plant the number of Gospel communities needed in any given community. A missional/formational multiplication effort intentionally waits to build the systems necessary to launch a Sunday service or various ministry programs until the church’s missional/formational expression is well defined and proven to replicate disciples who make disciples.
Needless to say, when this discussion commenced among the more than forty church planting leaders, I was eager to engage.
What evolved has been nothing short of breathtaking. Collaboration, creativity, humility, and innovation have been cornerstones of this co-creation process of reimagining ways in which we can multiply the reach of the Gospel by starting new communities of faith.
We are all finding that laying new strategies atop an old operating system will not only break the new strategies but also break the people who operate the systems. A new operating system is essential for those engaging a more missional/formational approach to planting that does not start with Sunday or develop church from one person’s strategic vision.
This past week, I was overjoyed to be joined by fifteen planters and their sponsoring denominational leaders from around the country, all of whom are committed to plant with this new operating system. The NAB brought a planter committed as well: Dusty Dalton of Heartland Community Church, who is launching Share Communities as part of the Heartland Next initiative. Our admiration and honor go out to Dave Ambrose and the team at Heartland for their vision and commitment to planting many kinds of churches, all with the target of reaching people for Christ.
Over the course of the next twelve months, Dusty will journey in cohort with these fourteen other planters as they all seek to initialize this new operating system designed to break free from the confines of the one-size-fits-all approach to planting and work to multiply the church in ways we have not seen in America very often. Join me in prayer for Share Communities, this disciple-making movement coming out of Heartland. Pray too for Dusty and Cara Dalton, who head this up. We are lucky to have revolutionary leaders like them in the NAB.