Jeff Christopherson on Church Planting Research and Development, Part 1

The notion of Research and Development in the church strikes fear in the hearts of some. Why would we need it? Hasn’t God given us everything that we need regarding the nature and practice of the church in his Word?

If we introduce the concept of R&D, aren’t we on a pragmatic slippery slope that will inherently devolve into manmade distortions of God’s church? Isn’t the goal simply to uncover this singular ecclesiological model and design our planting models accordingly?

Well, yes and no.

The Bible is the essential and sufficient guide for our understanding of the nature and practice of his church. The church is, after all, solely his. He has revealed how he has created the church to function and thrive.

God has graciously given us insight into the development of the first church through the record of his Word. He has spoken clearly about the mission, practice, and leadership of the church and provided standards that cannot be improved upon through human ingenuity.

But such a high view of Scripture’s ecclesiological authority does not necessarily render any missiological R&D as out of bounds.

In fact, a high view of the nature of Jesus’ church actually demands it. Each church is embedded in a certain cultural context that necessitates wise decisions regarding how best to flesh out the mission of Christ among particular peoples in specific places around the world.

Such work necessitates contextual R&D. In fact, it is vital and unavoidable if we have any hope of transformative impact on culture.

Let’s dispel with a myth.

There’s simply no such thing as a culture-free local church. Each church, by virtue of its existence within time and space, is found within a cultural continuum from which it must make missiological decisions to implement biblical practices.

The mistake that many churches and church plants make is to neglect doing the hard work of contextual exegesis, choosing instead to merely replicate the ecclesiological practices they experienced in the past, or have become fans of, from another church context.

But even the original idea that they are attempting to replicate did, at some point in time, make healthy or unhealthy, wise or foolish, determinations about how they were going to embody God’s wisdom in biblical community in that place.

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Source: Christianity Today