One of the cool things about being asked to be the President of the Exponential Conference is getting to connect with some remarkable Christian leaders. We had an unbelievable line-up of speakers this past year which included Tim Keller. I had not met Tim, but was able to work both our schedules so that my brother Jon and I could spend about an 90 minutes with him the night before he was to speak. His reputation for being an intellectual is right on target. But Tim is also very approachable and has a keen understanding of the practical side of ministry and what it takes to get stuff done.
Whenever I set up an appointment to meet with other leaders I will write up a list of questions and bring them with me. I am always surprised when someone makes an appointment with me to talk about church planting, multi-site or leadership and then they have no prepared questions. It feels like we are wasting both our time. I believe leaders are learners and the best way to learn is to ask good questions. So anyway, I had a written list of questions and one of the topics that we discussed was Redeemer’s vision for international church planting. Here is my summary of their strategy
- Target key international cities. Tim believes that the key cities in the world today are New York, London, Hong Kong. However, he said that Hong Kong will soon be replaced in the east by Dubai and Shanghai. (I’m sure Chicago is also in that category, he just assumed I knew that!)
- Don’t send a church planter to those cities, go to those cities to find a church planter. I found this fascinating and counter-intuitive. Most church planting organizations or church planting churches send church planters into new context; but Redeemer’s strategy is to send some of their people to these cities who will search for the best church planters in that context already.
- Provide training and money. Tim said that when they first approach potential church planters in these international settings they don’t believe them or think it is some kind of bait and switch. But once trust is earned this is the best way to attract church planters; to improve quality of the church plant and ensure that it still has the proper DNA.
While Keller and Redeemer are all about reproducing sites (they have 3) and church plants (helped start more than 100) my favorite quote of the night from Keller was this warning about the reproducing church: “cell reproduction without a purpose is called cancer.” Comments?