Apostolic vs Pastoral Church Planting
A common question that comes up when discussing church planting and cross-cultural missions is related to which style of church planting is the most effective; Apostolic Church Planting or Pastoral Church Planting?
Pastoral church planting would be when a missionary pastor(s) go into another cultural to start a church and in order to do so he (they) becomes the pastor of the church. He (they) intends to remain in this church for an extended period of time, perhaps for his (their) entire life, as the church planting pastor(s).
The negative consequence to this approach is that the new believers, the natives, become dependent upon the missionaries. Like children who never leave the house the native believers never truly grow into who the Lord called them to be. Those who have been gifted for pastoral ministry are kept from developing their God-given talents and the church as a whole suffers greatly; either by hindering it's maturity or by causing it to be a church body that is neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm and not pleasing to the Lord. It fails to be active in the Great Commission by not making disciples, not evangelizing, not reaching out and not being involved in missions.
Apostolic church planting would be when a missionary pastor(s) go into another cultural to start a church and in order to do so he (they) serve as the pastors of the church while having no intentions of remaining in that church for an extended period of time. Their task is to make disciples, to recognize the disciples that the Lord has graced and called to be elders/pastors, and to equip them for the ministry.
At the right time, through prayer and fasting (as demonstrated in Acts 14), these native elders/pastors (never just one) become recognized to the congregation as the elders of the church and the missionaries then move on to start another church.
If the missionary pastors remain in the church for more than five years they would consider themselves to have failed their mission. Apostolic church planters equip the saints to ministry and entrust them to the Lord just like we see in the New Testament.
Like parents who prepare their kids for the 'real world' so apostolic church planters prepare the native elders for leading the flock.
We follow the Biblical example of apostolic church planting; it's Practical. This in no way means that we are apostles; the apostles were unique instruments in the hands of the Lord for the formation of the church of Christ and for the forming of the Bible (there are no apostles today). Further, we would caution anyone from listening to anyone who claims for himself the title of apostle today. We say we are apostolic church planters because we follow the example of church planting that the apostles lived and demonstrated.