Why Church Planting?
The Need is Great.
Do you know what the largest and most un-churched nations in the world are? We might rightly name China or India or even large swaths of the 10/40 window. Surprisingly, missiologists tell us that the United States is now the 4th largest un-churched nation in the world. Living in a post-Christian, post-modern nation where the mainline church is in decline, it makes sense. Seeing our cities fill with large numbers of immigrants, it makes sense. And with more and more of the younger generations describing their religious affiliation as “none,” it is clear we face a reality where the mission field is not just about getting the Gospel out “over there” in other parts of the world, but now more than ever it’s about preaching Christ “over here” in our backyard.
The need is great and the opportunity for new mission work is growing exponentially in our American communities and around the world. We need a strategy to reach our neighbors and the nations – a biblical strategy that not only reaches individuals for Christ, but reaches and transforms entire communities with the gospel. We need more church planting. Church Planting is statistically the most effective form of long-term evangelism in a community. It is also the most effective way to change families, towns and to influence large cities with the gospel. It is God’s ordained way to reach un-churched and de-churched Americans in cities and rural towns. It is God’s ordained way to reach secularized Europe, the Muslim middle-east and the global south. Church planting is a clear biblical way to make a difference in the world as the church.
How Do We Train Church Planters?
Planting solid biblical and Reformed churches requires core values that will foster faithful and fruitful ministry from the beginning and will endure long into the future. At the RTS Charlotte Center for Church Planting, we seek to inculcate eight values into the education and ecosystem of our Center:
Reformed Theology – we integrate the doctrines of grace and reformed ecclesiology into the design of new churches, which will emphasize the ordinary means of grace.
Holiness of the Planter – we challenge future planters toward character as an essential piece of the church planter’s life and leadership.
A Missions Mindset – we equip students for contextual, effective and multiplying ministry in the community.
A Heart for International and Ethnic Church Planting – we develop a vision for church multiplication among the nations over here and over there.
Shepherding – we call planters to care for the sheep while gathering lost sheep.
Leadership Development – we challenge planters to lead and reproduce leaders for the kingdom.
Church Health – we call future planters to spiritual depth and health in their new churches.
A Winsome Spirit – we urge church planting pastors to win people to Christ and his church with a Gospel message of hope.
Regular Conferences and Lectures – The Center will host periodic conferences and lectures at the RTS-Charlotte campus where speakers from the Charlotte region and around the country will expose future planters to life in church planting ministry. These interactive experiences will address some of the most important theological and practical issues related to church planting today.
Specialized Training and Assessment Experiences – The Center will take advantage of specialized training for church planters that are already available through denominational and church planting ministries abroad. For example, all participants in the Center would be encouraged to participate in the Church Planter Readiness Seminar jointly sponsored by the Center, RTS and the PCA’s Mission to North America.
Those future church planters enrolled in the Center will meet regularly together and with active church planters for the purposes of developing a community of fellowship and also for creating an environment where ideas and strategies about church planting can be freely developed, discussed and exchanged. Wives of students will also be encouraged to participate.
Ministry and Internship Opportunities
The best training for pastoral work and particularly church planting comes through hands-on experience. The RTS Charlotte Center for Church Planting is committed to providing real-time experiences in church planting and various core competencies while students attend RTS Charlotte.
Learning in Charlotte, an International City
RTS Charlotte is strategically and providentially placed in one of the fastest growing regions in the southeast. With a large population of young professionals in urban and suburban environments, Charlotte is an excellent place to live and to experience various subcultures. Charlotte also has a strong Reformed presence and serves as a movement base for Reformed church planting and church planter training. Opportunities for ministry and rich experiences in church planting are manifold.
Internship Opportunities and Church Planting Mentoring
The city of Charlotte provides students with numerous opportunities to be involved in church plants. This provides invaluable hands-on experience as students discern their call and are mentored by church planters in the Charlotte area. Students in the program will normally be assigned an approved area church planter to meet with on a regular basis to help shape their character, theology, and philosophy of ministry.
Church Planting Degree Emphasis
Students considering a call to church planting will take five core and elective courses within the current Master of Divinity curriculum at RTS Charlotte. The Church Planting Emphasis courses are:
- 03MS703 Principles of Church Planting – Church planters need the big picture of planting found in Scripture. Principles of Church Planting grounds the planter in Gospel strategies and practical realities in planting healthy and reproducing churches from the first stages to particularization with an emphasis on the ordinary means of grace.
- 03PT740 Church Planting Leadership (in the place of 03PT512 Leadership) – Church planting requires a measure of entrepreneurial and startup initiative. This class helps planters to understand leadership, their own leadership abilities, and liabilities, how to grow in character as a leader and how to develop others as leaders.
- 03MS704 Evangelism in a Church Planting Context (in the place of 03MS508 Evangelism) – Outreach and evangelism is a crucial piece of starting any church or reaching any new community with the gospel. This class prepares the future planter for missional discernment and engagement, practical strategies for sharing the Gospel personally and creativity in developing a church with an evangelistic heart.
- 03HT610 Ministry in a Postmodern Context – The purpose of this course is to understand and respond appropriately to the dominant perspectives and cultural transformations that have contributed to our current context of ministry and witness.
- 03HT612 Christ, Culture and Contextualization – Reaching a community requires discernment and thoughtful reflection about the people. This class interacts with worldview issues planters will face as well as addresses ways the planter must contextualize the gospel without compromising the truth.
The students involved in the Center will have the advantage of being plugged into a network of church planters that could aid in their placement within various denominations and church planting contexts upon graduation. The Center would also help church planting candidates prepare for denominational Church Planting Assessments.
Church Planter Cohorts
Graduates of the RTS Center for Church Planting, as well as, interested applicants around the nation who are currently planting churches may apply for a funded cohort experience at the RTS-Charlotte campus several times a year. Cohorts are gatherings of planters who are at similar stages of planting and need practical training relative to each stage as well as the encouragement of community in the struggle to communicate the gospel to a lost world.
Dr. Tom Hawkes
Rev. Dean Faulkner
Rev. Jon Payne
Rev. Andres Garza
Rev. Jim Hatch
Rev. Byron Peters
Rev. Steffen Muller
Rev. David Rea
RTS Charlotte is committed to providing financial support to students that demonstrate an interest in church planting. Full-time students who have enrolled in the Church Planting emphasis and serve as in intern in a church plant are eligible to apply for a Center for Church Planting scholarship.