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Church Planter Theologian


The resurrected idea of the pastor as a theologian (Mohler, MacArthur, Piper)

Our journey into church planting.

Our concern with how heavy it is upon methodology that is light on sound theological grounding.

Until we address the theology undergirding methods and practices our churches will continue to be consumer driven.

Biblical basis of the Church Planter Theologian.

A church planter is one of two things: an evangelist or a pastor/teacher.

So if a church planter is going to function like an evangelist, then it needs to be done in a biblical manner.

The NT doesn’t talk about evangelists functioning as open air preachers, or big event preaching.

Rather, it’s really seen in Acts 19, where Paul’s in Ephesus and Asia Minor.

Gathers a small group of believers.

Continues to confront people with the gospel.

Trains and teaches his growing group of believers for two years all the while evangelizing those in the area.

But by the time he left to go and do the same thing in another place, he had trained up elders. 

And according to his commands to Timothy and Titus, these were men trained well in the bible and theology.

So a good church planter (of the evangelistic type), will start a church, train men in theology, develop up a faithful plurality of elders who can handle the Word with care and accuracy, and then move on to do it again.

But what he can’t do is just establish a church, where there’s no vision (or means) to grow the people into conformity with the person of Christ, and the only goal is to see the conversion of the lost.

So, they either need to decide that they’re going to raise up faithful men that are theologically sound, (and hand the church off to a faithful pastor, who’s determined to bring the Word), or remain and pastor himself. But if he does choose to remain, his primary responsibility is no longer to go after the lost, but to equip the people with the Word (and theology), so that they might go out and do the work of making disciple-making disciples.

Unfortunately, too many church planters (of the evangelistic type) start a church (because they’ve got a heart for the lost), but since they’re so focused on the lost, they then lose sight of the reality that the primary goal of any true pastor is to mature the people into the person of Christ, but as he brings the Word (delivers sound theology), and for the ultimate goal of equipping the people for the work of service (Eph. 4).

If a church planter is going to function more like a pastor/teacher, then he’s definitely going to be building the people up in the WOG.

His goal is to start a church, but then pastor the people into maturity.

He’s still going to mobilize the people to be outward facing to reach the lost in the specific region, but always as his primary focus is to teach and preach the Word.


Now, in light of all this, every person’s a theologian.  So the only real question is if a person is a sound theologian.

If every person is already a theologian then a church planter must confront each person theologically.

And until this occurs, a CP is doing something, but it’s not real evangelism.  Real evangelism is disciple-making, which necessarily requires bible teaching (C.f., Matthew 28:20, “. . . teaching them to obey all that I commanded.”)

Teaching means teaching.  More than a sermon.  More than a pep talk or therapeutic session or a trip toward self-discovery.

Teaching means a transference of specific information.

The CP must be confined in his instruction. And according to Matt. 28, it’s to be “all that Christ commanded.”

Now, when we talk about “all that Christ has commanded, it gets into the nature of the bible and the NT, and we can’t do it in a timely manner.

John. 16:13 -- “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.”

It’s important to understand that “Into all the truth” is better translated as “in all truth.”  en versus eis.

This is not talking about new truth, or that the Spirit is going to guide people by personal revelation. Rather, it’s talking about the realm in which the Spirit operates.

In other words, the Apostles (once indwelled by the Spirit) would simply continue to teach the mind of Christ.

The Spirit would bring to mind all that Jesus previously taught them, so that they could turn around and teach that very same teaching.

In other words, the apostolic teaching is the exact same as Christ’s teaching.

But the point in saying this, is that CP should be constrained in the content that’s been once for all taught.  (In other words, the Bible!).

As Paul said about the Ephesian elders, he had taught to them the full counsel of God---the fulness of the bible that existed at that time.

Later Paul says to Timothy that there is only one option for him… preach the Word.  Nothing more and nothing less.

The CP is not just a visionary.  He’s not a therapist. And he’s certainly not a proclaimer of private prophecy.  Rather, He’s to be a teacher of the bible, which means a teacher of true theology.

So by way of a bad example.  Craig Groeschel is immensely popular pastor.  But when you actually listen to his messages, you realize that he’s not teaching the bible and certainly not theology in any real way.


In fact, He has a horrid series on “At the movies” that may be popular, but it’s really bad. The basis of his messages become a movie scene rather than the Word. It may be popular and it may elicit a reaction but it can’t bring true heart change.

One I watched started with a guy getting up on a stage and urinating over himself before he passes out.

Then Groeschel talks about the lies we buy into and all of them are negative self-image concepts.  “You’ll never be good enough…”

Then a long scene that ends in suicide to which he apologizes for it (no idea what he meant), and then off he goes again in a therapy session. He gives a vaguely christian statement through some quotes but not one of them has any context or explanation.  We are left to fill in the meaning.

Then another scene of the dead guy’s GF singing on staging about him. This has cut scenes of their relationship.

This fades to a quotation of “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 15:13 NAS)

Then Groeschel is asking us to lift up our hands in an act of faith. And then he gives a very abbreviated form of the gospel.  But no explanation of what any of it actually means.

Turn from sin.


Died on cross in my place.

And bam, you are now a Christian.

So now, fill me with your spirit.

Make me new.

From there it cuts to a campus pastor saying that they are now a christian and that Life.Church is their church now that they are a Christian.

This is not what Jesus calls the pastors and church planters to be.

Finally, back to Matthew 28, the CP is calling the people to obey all that is taught them.

Now, at this point, it’s assumed the people are now baptized believers.but really, the teaching has been going on before the person is even saved.

But regardless, all teaching is to move a person to obedience. And until obedience is accomplished (or something that’s being regularly pursued) the CP or pastor’s job is not done.

But to obey means that the teaching is such that it’s clear what is being taught and that requires sound theology.

Example.  Command to be sexually pure.  There is a lot of theology in that idea.

Example. Church discipline.  Massive amount of theology.

Example. Proper use and understanding of money and possessions.  A lot of error will occur without sound theology.

Example. Marriage relationship.

Example. Parenting.

Ephesians 4:11-15, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,  for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ.”

The CP’s job is to equip the people of God.

The task is not done until they are all mature (never happens).

The goal is to not be carried about by every wind of doctrine.

This is a massive problem today.

You can’t have a serious conversation with people about theology, and so they’re tossed everywhere.

These bad doctrines are defined as coming through trickery and crafty schemes.

But the antidote is speaking the truth in love.

This means that truth is not some cudgel that we use to hammer each other. Nor is it a tool to exalt ourselves over others who don’t know or understand.

But rather, when we speak truth in the realm of love, it means that we’re  transparent and give of ourselves. It’s a giving of truth that seeks the others’ good and well-being.

It’s done to build them up.

And this is designed to grow us into a genuine Christlikeness.

NONE of this can remotely occur when sound theology isn’t constantly pouring forth from the pastor or CP.


We’ve moved from “attractional” model, to something called an “incarnational” model, but neither of these possess sound theology.

The “Attractional model” was designed to make the “church” attractive, or at least safe, for the non-Christian.

It was designed to be non-threatening, and was supposed to provide a space for people to encounter God (or come into non-churcy environment, through which they can then hear the Gospel).

It was made popular by Willow Creek Community Church.  Everything was built around making the non-Christian extremely comfortable.

The “Incarnational” model is something newer.

It focuses on being the person of Jesus Christ in this world.

So just as Jesus took on flesh and entered into the broken world, so also the Christian, now, is to enter the “broken spaces” of a sinful world.


So instead of trying to get unbelievers to come into our church (i.e., “Attractional model”), it emphasizes going into the world and inhabiting the spaces where the unbeliever already is 

Example: Jesus dining with prostitutes and tax collectors.


Jesus didn’t invite Zacheus into the Temple to hear his teaching, but rather He entered into Zachesus’ house to eat a meal with him).

The problem, however, is the incarnational model often ends up giving a very inoffensive gospel.


In fact, when you look at what’s actually being said, very seldom is it the biblical gospel that warns a person, or demands the fulness of their life. They’re not being called to take up their Cross, and become a slave of Jesus Christ.

Rather, the result is often a call to do things like community service (or doing things for “the least of these”), as if that’s somehow showing the love of Christ.


In fact, this is what many mean when they use the term “missional.”

And so a church planter is now a guy who merely motivates people, and vaguely teaches his church on how they need to be incarnational.  He talks a lot on how they need to gather, but so that they can scatter with the love of Jesus.

And so seldom does their teaching actually just explain the text of Scripture. The obedience that they’re calling people to, isn’t actually born from a biblical framework.

In fact, The presence of the Social Justice movement is an example of how sound theology is not truly informing many pastors.

It’s also the result of this move toward an incarnational model of church planting.

Many CP are now on the SJ bandwagon thinking that Jesus came to end racism.  But they seldom theologically explain what racism is, or how it’s to be biblically addressed.  Rather, they allow the culture to define those things.

How many churches have done their obeisance to racism without really addressing a robust theology for it?


Church planting is hard work.

But Church planting is by its very name, the task of establishing a local church where it did not exist.

And to do this well, and to do this properly, is only by making the CP’s primary task be a teacher of the Word.


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