Church Planting as Advocacy

By Bill Ludwig

March 27, 2017

Church Planting as Advocacy

Many passions can contribute to a call to church planting. Some passions are more reactive, like a dissatisfaction with where one is currently serving, or the way you’re your congregation “does church.” Conflict with other leaders is sometimes a prime motive to start a new congregation. Other passions are a bit more other-oriented, like a love for a particular people or place and a compulsion to draw them together into a spiritual community. These passions can be sufficient starting places for a new church vision, but there is one passion that we must understand and submit to along the way if we are going to participate in God's mission in the world more fully and that is His passion for restoration leading to human flourishing. When the Church adopts a posture of advocacy, the people in that place experience more and more of the kingdom of heaven.

What is advocacy? A quick Google search reveals a simple definition:
ad·vo·ca·cy (advəkəsē) noun
public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy.

There are other definitions and word pictures for advocacy, but the most simple definition may be “loving your neighbor.” Jesus describes the mandate to love our neighbor as second only to that of loving God. In Mark 9:29-31, Jesus essentially ties the loving of neighbor to perhaps the most well-recited command in scripture, the Shemah. He equates these two aspects of life as both vital to a life well lived. Proverbs 11 and Jeremiah 29 describe God’s people, wherever they find themselves, seeking the prosperity of the city. Isaiah 58 describes how true religion looks like seeking our neighbor’s good – even spending ourselves on the other’s behalf. Jesus brings all of these images back in His teachings, and the Pauline letters further describe the kinds of behaviors that support this posture (and those that don’t). All of these texts place advocacy, the love of neighbor, as one of the highest objectives of the life of the believing community.

Why should advocacy be at the heart of every vision for church planting? In Revelation 21:1-5, John sees a vision of the New Jerusalem, the Holy City coming down out of Heaven. This city is the capital of the kingdom…the center of the Father’s reign. John further describes this capital city as “a bride beautifully dressed for her husband…” Most scholars accept this imagery as indicative of the Church. Therefore, the Church is the capital of the kingdom of Heaven. She is the center from which the rule, reign, and power of God emanate out into the world. As citizens of this city, we are exhorted to carry that restorative mission of God to every people, everywhere. Advocacy, the love of our neighbor, is the method through which we manifest His power. Advocacy is at the heart of the mission of God.

How can a church plant take a posture of support in their community? In every way that a neighbor/neighborhood can be loved towards wholeness. The fruit of advocacy in a city may look like: less crime, a reduction in violence and poverty, a stewardship of the environment, an increase in access to nutritious foods, health care, etc. When the Church powerfully participates in the mission of God in their community the people of their community will rejoice. This sounds like worship. When the Church recognizes and calls upon the power of God to intervene in local circumstances beyond their ability, we call that prayer. When the Church models and urges the community towards a different way of relating to one another, we call that teaching. When the Church awakens the community to the sum and substance of the good news of the nature of the Kingdom of Heaven, we call that proclamation/preaching. When the Church pours herself out to meet the needs of the poor, break the chains of the oppressed, and free those imprisoned by injustice, we call that mission. When the Church establishes an outpost of kingdom advocacy in a community, we call that church planting. May the love of your neighbor be your motivation and advocacy for their greatest good shape your strategy for church planting.

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