I just picked up a pamphlet from a very large church planting agency. It outlines several steps a church planter should take. Of particular interest to me is step #2: Define Church Planting Focus Group.
It reads: Throughout the Scriptures, God declares His love and eternal purposes with a focus on identifiable groupings of people worldwide. North America is a complex mission field consisting of many cultures, languages, and worldviews. Defining a church planting focus group is an essential task.
I know what they are getting at, but I am afraid this kind of process bleeds marketing and the like. Nike shoes does this very same thing and GAP has recently said it will be targeting 35-year-old women. Should a man seeking to plant a church give in to this kind of rationale?
The brochure is correct in affirming that North America is ripe with cultures. And the principle is good overseas where a certain people group is so entrenched in tribal pride that they will not associate with the other tribe over the hill. But the vision the apostles modeled is not to focus on a particular group – namely Jewish people as was done before Pentecost.
Rather, they are to preach INDISCRIMINATELY to all peoples. In other words, the focus should be on the Gospel and not what kind of culture you should build your church around. As you think about the new heavens and new earth where righteousness dwells, there is a smorgasbord of peoples from every tribe people and language. Don’t take it to the extreme…Meaning that you should never focus on a specific people group. This would be a great ministry within the church, but to say, “Our church is going to focus on Hmong people or Argentines or 20-somethings,” is to entirely miss the boat as to the implications of the Gospel.
Therefore, church should focus on preaching and teaching the Gospel, with a view to bring together people in the name of Christ. Ministries should be blessed that seek to reach a target audience. However, the church should never be defined by that people group.