By Ken Camp
WACO, Texas (ABP) -- Church planting is too big a job for just seminary-trained ministers, conference leaders told a group of Baptist church starters. "Some of the best church planters in the world today are not ordained pastors," Charles Brock, a 20-year veteran church planter in the Philippines, said during a three-day event sponsored by the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
Specialized seminars about lay-led churches and equipping the laity as church starters were offered at the "Light Up Texas" church-starting conference, held March 22-24 in Waco.
Brock said every lay person should be trained and skilled to assume the role of a full-time minister within six months of accepting Christ -- with or without ordination or salary.
"I am speaking of the realized priesthood of every believer," he said.
Trained laity can assume leadership of new congregations, but that requires a return to a New Testament understanding of church, Brock said. Too often, he said, Christians allow buildings, budgets and salaries to become barriers to church planting.
Such unnecessary complexity "limits Kingdom expansion," he maintained.
Brock, who now is president of Church Growth International in Neosho, Mo., called on churches to "unleash" their lay members and equip them with usable tools for church planting.
"If we are going to have a significant church-planting movement, the strategy, methods and tools must be simple enough that an ordinary, Holy Spirit-filled believer can do it," he said.
"It's amazing what people can do if they don't know -- and we don't tell them -- that they can't," he added.
Training new leaders from within a newly started church is essential, Brock said. This can be encouraged through simple, inductive Bible studies guided by a professional church planter, handing off leadership responsibilities to lay participants as soon as possible.
"I believe in the rapid transferal of leadership," he said.
Otto Arango, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Getsemini in McAllen, Texas, outlined for conference participants the basic approach he has taken the last five years in equipping lay church starters through local, church-based training centers.
"The purpose is not to enlarge the brain but to facilitate the laymen immediately becoming involved in ministry," Arango said. "It's a way of helping to wake up those who have been called."
In the last five years, more than 3,000 laymen have attended the training centers, and they have started at least 235 new churches.
Any training for laity needs to be practical, contemporary, contextualized and relevant, not theoretical and abstract, he suggested.
Arango does not recommend formal examinations in such training. "The test is the student's ability to use the material in ministry," he said.
Used with Permission from Associated Baptist Press.