There are, in the Reformed world, broadly, three approaches to church planting:
- To reach the lost
- To gather the Reformed
- To harvest the Reforming
Of course, these three goals are not hermetically sealed from the others, but, typically, church-planting works prioritize one of them.
For some, the priority is reaching the lost, and these tend to adopt, to greater or lesser degrees, a seeker sensitive model. Certain things are said and done and others are omitted because of the potential affect upon the unreached, unchurched or lost. Such church plants tend to have what is called an “outward face”, and may tend to put less emphasis on discipleship (e.g., Christian education) and church discipline.
In some circles, churches plant congregations to gather those sheep who have moved from one area to another, e.g., from the country to the city. When enough people migrate to a city, a denomination might plant a congregation to serve their people. We might call this the franchise model. Congregations planted under this paradigm tend to emphasize catechesis and fellowship. Communicating the gospel to the lost receives less emphasis.
In recent decades we have seen something of an explosion among evangelicals (e.g., Dispensationalists, Baptists and Charismatics) in aspects of Reformed theology (e.g., the doctrine of election). The Reforming model seeks to attract and disciple evangelicals who have become dissatisfied with the shallowness of contemporary evangelical theology, piety and practice. The refugees from evangelicalism are looking for a connection to the past, a more coherent understanding of redemptive history (e.g., covenant theology), the Reformation doctrine doctrine of salvation sola gratia, sola fide and a more thoughtful approach to Christ and culture. Such congregations tend to emphasize catechesis.
There are virtues in each of these approaches and, to reiterate, they are not mutually exclusive. Read the full article by R. Scott Clark.