“And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.” Acts 13:49 CSB
Gospel saturation requires cultural manifestations of the gospel to match the density and diversity of their context.
Houston is the most diverse major metro in the U.S., and it is growing larger and more diverse by the day.
No single church can saturate Houston with the gospel.
The Rhetoric of Multiplication
In the last decade, the language of multiplication has swept through North American church ministry. Sending language is now the lingua franca for many of our churches and agencies. It is becoming a well-known fact that good churches are missional churches and that means being a sending church.
It was an important step forward when churches began acknowledging the importance of sending. Even more important is the shift to extending resources to a church planter. However, the church that calls an agency, a network, or a state convention and asks for a planter is not actually a sending church. It is, at best, a supporting church. We need supporting churches, but we must not confuse those with the church that actually produces their own sent out ones. Sending church language must mean more than recruiting a planter if we ever want a shot at approaching real multiplication.
We must create systems that match our language of multiplication. Sending church language is helpful with one very important caveat. If we’re going to use “sending church” in this way, it must mean “sending from within.” It cannot mean, “sending someone else’s people.” Sending must be about not only deploying people (providing the resources to go), but also developing people from within our own congregations. In this way, a sending church rightly understood develops from within and deploys out.
Recruitment vs. Development
For too long now, our sending paradigm has been one of recruitment. And, our churches, our networks, our conventions, and associations have all played a part in doing it this way. Our organizations tasked with planting simply become recruiters. Churches that want to take part in sending often do the same. In this way, the sending church is involved in identification, but it is identification from outside. Everyone wants an equipping pipeline these days, but after it is set up, they begin looking outside of themselves for the people to fill it.
Recruitment is zero-sum. In other words, recruitment alone can never be multiplicative. A church that recruits their next planter from outside did not add another planter to the pool, they merely moved one discovered by another church. For every planter recruited and gained from the outside, another equipping system loses a planter. Cooperative equipping strategies with national sending agencies, through state conventions and associations, and even boutique networks are good and needed, but we must address a root problem: a waning supply of people to fill them.
We have talked about leadership development in the local church for a long time now. It usually goes hand-in-hand with the discipleship conversation. Unfortunately, it is often assumed that these leaders are being developed to scale up the ministry of the local congregation. Leaders to lead small groups and potentially serve in ministry roles in a congregation are important, but we must also consider how we are identifying and developing those leaders that a church will send out from the congregation for the work of the ministry. And these sent out tasks are diverse, ranging from church planting and replanting, to diaspora and international missions. This goal, sending out people from within the church to an array of Great Commission tasks, is the true heart of a sending church.
The Sending Process
A sending church rightly understood develops from within and deploys out. These two main phases of church sending rest on four primary responsibilities of the sending church. In order to truly be a sending church, a congregation must: identify, equip, send, and support those from within the congregation. Sending is about more than supporting. Specifically, without the process of identification inside the local congregation, multiplicative sending cannot occur.
Sending Pathways is a UBA initiative working with local churches to develop intentional systems that lead to multiplicative sending.
The first (and most important) phase of Pathways audits the church’s current culture and practice in order to make systemic changes that create a culture of identification. Without a healthy identification culture that continually calls church members to the array of sent out tasks, churches cannot accomplish multiplicative sending.
UBA works with churches to evaluate current practices at macro, meso, and micro levels inside the church to implement an identification strategy. Creating a real sending culture takes time and repeated effort from the pulpit, to the small groups, to the talk in the hallways. Making sure there is an essential alignment of message at each of these levels and processes in place that aid in identification is the first work for any church that wants to become a sending church.
After identification begins to occur, churches cooperate with other churches to provide equipping cohorts. In the past, equipping pipelines were most often established inside individual churches. However, churches cooperating with other churches to provide equipping for potential sent out ones creates a number of significant benefits.
No longer is equipping only accessible to those churches large enough to run equipping residencies.
Additionally, sent out ones receive training in the strengths and approaches of multiple churches instead of one.
Finally, cooperative equipping forms the basis of team sending. As potential sent out ones from different churches are equipped together, they can form sending teams that span multiple churches. This is key to developing a strategy for coordinated sending.
UBA helps local churches form cooperative equipping cohorts. These cohorts may form around church planting, international missions, replanting, or other sent out tasks, and will include multiple churches working together to train and equip their potential sent out ones.
When churches equip together, they can send together in new ways. Imagine a church plant or international missions team developed from multiple churches through cooperative equipping. This team now has two, three, or four sending churches with which to partner and from which they can receive support.
When church plants or missionaries are sent as teams, the chances of success are much higher. Team planting allows new pastors to share the responsibility of planting. This creates more opportunities for ministry and more opportunities for support strategies such as bi-vocational or covocational planting. Coordinated sending means more missions resources.
Coordinated sending also means easy on-ramps to the many sending structures already present in Houston and beyond. Sending Pathways provides potential sent out ones with foundational equipping that allows them to easily begin the assessment process with other partners such as the Houston Church Planting Network, state conventions, the International Mission Board, or other sending agencies. Pathways does not compete with these structures but builds bridges between them and the local church.
Sending churches continue to support the work of those they send. Support comes in many forms. Sometimes it is financial, helping a new church as it becomes sustainable, or meeting the financial needs of an international missionary. At other times, it is human resources that are needed, as supporting churches come alongside new church plants for community outreach. It should always involve prayer, counsel, and fellowship.
Pathways creates channels for this continued support to occur alongside other churches. As teams are cooperatively equipped and the sending is coordinated between churches and other partners, then multi-church support networks and relationships are formed that allow for better and more secure support for each new work without the total burden resting on one sending church.
We want your church to be a part of Pathways.
Every church can benefit from an intentional process of examination concerning their sending process. Even if your church is already a true sending church, you can accomplish more when you work with other churches to develop pathways to multiplicative sending. We want to see a city full of churches that cooperatively produce their own sent out ones for an array of Great Commission tasks. This is how Houston (and beyond) reaches gospel saturation.
To find out more about how your church can participate in this city-wide sending initiative, click the button below and send us an email.