What is Church Planting?

Church PlantingWhen we think of church planting in the Australian context, many of us picture new buildings, sharp logos, launch services and of course, social media posts! When you visit a place like India or China, church planting looks very different. It looks like small gatherings in different homes or community spaces, multiplying rapidly!

So, what is church planting and how can we go about it in the Australian context?

Church planting has turned into a much more complex term than was originally intended.  In its simplest form, church is when a group of believers gather to engage in worship, fellowship, and mission together, and planting is when that gathering begins in a new location. When new Christian communities arise in new locations, that is church planting!

There are two main approaches to understanding church planting. Both approaches are seen in the Australian context, and both are effective models of church planting in different circumstances. Peyton Jones has labelled the first approach as ‘church starting’ and the second as ‘church planting’[1] while Tim Keller calls them ‘church-led church planting’ and ‘pioneering church planting’[2] but their approaches are similar. We think it’s most helpful to describe them by the terms church-led planting and pioneer-led planting. What do we mean by these terms? 

1. Church-led Planting
This usually involves a group of people from an existing congregation in a neighbouring area, or a from various churches coming together to plant a church in a new location. They begin with the church, often launching a regular Sunday gathering first, and then using that gathering as the launching place for mission and discipleship in the area. These plants often start with 30-50 people and can support a paid staff member from the beginning, at least part time. Where there are strong churches in surrounding areas, or a significant group of Christians within the new area who currently attend other churches this can be a great way to plant a new church.

2. Pioneer-led Planting
The second is a more grass roots approach, which starts with mission and discipleship, rather than starting with the gathered church. This approach sees a church arising from the intentional movement of a small group of pioneering disciples (2-6 people) engaging in mission and disciple-making within a new context. This usually requires a strong understanding of the culture of the local context and an ability to contextualise the gospel and discipleship for this context. This process is slower to see an established church formed but is very effective at reaching unchurched people groups.

The Australian church context needs both church-led and pioneer-led church planting. The choice of approach depends on the gifts of the planter and planting team, the local context of the church plant and cultural factors within both the church plant team and the local area. If you want to talk more about church planting in your area, contact Exponential and we will connect you with people who can help you discern your next steps.


[1] Peyton Jones, Church Plantology

[2] Tim Keller, Center Church