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How to plant a church in a city – Tim Keller gives 5 principles worth listening to

20 August 2012

As someone soon to embark on a journey to plant a church in Dublin I always have my eyes and ears open to any good advice on things we should (and shouldn’t) do. Tim Keller has written extensively on church planting and here is a summary of a very helpful article I found that gives 5 principles that ensure healthy church in any city of the world.

  1. Locating – You have to live among the people you want to reach (Jesus’ incarnational model) otherwise you won’t know nor speak to their needs, you won’t connect with the community and you’ll waste loads of time commuting.
  2. Learning – through informal conversations and formal interviews it is important learn about the make-up of an area and about the peoples hopes, desires, fears and worldviews. What are their strengths, weaknesses and prejudices?
  3. Linking – Keller says “You must create a contextualized ministry model that links (a) the needs and capacities of the community and (b) the gifts and calling of yourself and your leaders with (c) the resources of the gospel.” All 3 need to considered when planning preaching, community groups, outreach and leadership. Aim to be a blessing to the community you are located in.
  4. Launching – their are two general approaches you can take. Either (1) Top-Down (attractional) where you do a big Sunday-service-launch and invite people to join (Danger = often miss steps 1-3) or (2) Bottom-Up (missional) where you start small and make connections and then as things grow you start a Sunday service (dangers are that you may never have enough momentum to keep people & finances can be a challenge).
  5. Loving – Keller has this as point 4 but for me it is the biggest challenge and so I wanted to quote it in full.

You must have the gospel firmly in your heart so that you are not ministering out of a need to convince yourself of your competence or worth but out of love. Religion is “I obey and minister, therefore I am accepted.” The gospel is “I am accepted, therefore I obey and minister.” If you are operating out of the former matrix (i.e., basing your justification on your sanctification instead of the other way around), then two sets of problems will emerge:

  • In your own ministry you will tend to overwork, deal poorly with criticism, worry too much about attendance, giving, and signs of success, and be less than a good and gracious model of a gospel-changed life
  • In your preaching and teaching you will be creating a lot of “elder brothers” (cf. Luke 15), people who are very good and committed to serving God as way of procuring his blessing. This makes people (like the elder brother) very grumpy, condescending to “sinners,” and unforgiving. In other words, you will create a church that can’t win people to Christ.


To read the article in full check out this link – planting a church in a city

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