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CTS Listens and Learns with Church Planters

FAll 2005
[original publication]

Leadership in church plant settings requires deep conviction, passion, and vision. But church-planting leaders today point out that articulating the vision is usually not as challenging as finding the convergence of that vision, with this pastor, with this group and its particular gifts, in this community, at this time.

This was just one insight gained from a recent consultation Calvin Theological Seminary (CTS) hosted to listen to church planters from Alberta, California, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, and Ontario. The purpose of the conversation was for professors at CTS to learn more about the thrills and challenges of church planting in order to enhance the seminary's education for people who are headed for that type of ministry, and to help sustain them through lifelong learning opportunities.

The two-day conversation covered many topics, and especially focused on the challenge of presenting the gospel in its entirety, in a language and context that people will understand. That's what keeps church planters up at night. Their desire is for people to hear the whole truth about the gospel, yet they have to do it in a way that people can understand.

CTS is committed to this age-old mission principle and learned much about how to apply that principle to contemporary church planting. The Center for Excellence in Preaching is making efforts to help church planters apply this principle in their particular settings. In March 2005, it sponsored a preaching workshop on computer-based exegesis for church planters in the Sacramento area, and is ready to offer the workshop in more locations. The Center is also supporting a peer learning group of church planters in the Calgary area as they meet together to discuss the relationship between preaching and culture; this group has had conversations with Duane Kelderman and Neal Plantinga of CTS, and Richard Mouw of Fuller TheologicalSeminary. Another group of church planters from sites around Michigan is meeting at CTS once a month for lunchtime discussions on how to use the Heidelberg Catechism in preaching to and reaching out to postmodern seekers; Stan Mast, pastor of LaGrave Avenue CRC in Grand Rapids, leads this group.

CTS hopes to increase its connections with church planters in the future—through regular invitations to church planters to attend continuing education events (either at the seminary or in their own settings), to speak to students at our mission emphasis week, and to provide learning sites and mentors for students in the formation for ministry process. We hope the conversation will continue so we can listen and learn together about forming pastors for this important ministry.