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ThePLAN - some background
Dr Frans Hancke
Twenty-seven years ago, I became aware of, and puzzled by, a mystifying phenomenon in the church. It was as clear as daylight that churches differ fundamentally at their core.
Some churches were focusing mainly on themselves – others were not.
Some churches were continuously engaged with internal differences and church politics – others were not.
Some churches were driven by financial goals and principles – others were not.
Some churches were functioning in a maintenance mode – others were not.
Some churches were so-called mission minded – others were not.
Some churches were serious about their mission to take the gospel to all people – others were not.
The nagging question was: Why?
Why the difference?
Was the difference God-willed or God-inspired?
In the opening month of the new millennium I enrolled at the University of the Free State to start research on this disturbing phenomenon. For the research I selected churches representing the varying church-profiles in South Africa. The qualitative field (empirical) research was supplemented by an in-depth Scriptural and literary study.
The research revealed a number of repeating factors, patterns, indicators and characteristics which could be identified in churches where a dynamic, vibrant outward-focused existence was apparent. The relative contribution of each of these indicators were determined through the research and those with the most significant effect were selected and build into a diagnostic and remedial model.
The results of the research became the basis for publications, articles, Bible studies, a children’s program, training material for church members, equipping of church leaders and Theological students, workshops, radio interviews, sermons, conferences and retreats. Through co-working pastors, ministers and Theologians the research was introduced and applied in literally thousands of churches across the globe. In many cases it led to transformed faith communities where renewed understanding, focus, vision and purpose propelled them towards vibrant involvement in God’s restoration Plan.
The research results we work with, are qualitative in nature and are therefore not exact, quantitative and measurable. The way in which the results are grouped, packaged and presented is based on the didactical model that seems to be most effective at the time and in the context. It is therefore our ongoing purpose to rethink, repackage and reconsider the structure, methods, examples and metaphors we use, in order for people to ‘connect the dots’ of God’s Plan.
The way the research material is grouped and structured is not ‘holy’ or unchangeable. Therefor ThePLAN-associates keep asking questions about what we do and how we do it in order to convey the Biblical truths we work with more effectively in an ever-changing and challenging context.
Maybe you share our dream to see God’s people having a much bigger global impact in order for Him to be glorified.
If so, consider contacting us.
The church in motion...
The church in motion...
Why do some churches make a greater difference than others? This question gave rise to research which resulted in what is now known as thePLAN, an organisation active in various countries, helping and supporting churches to rediscover God's plan with and through them.
To achieve this effectively, a growing group of theologians, researchers and other believers work together in continuous co-operation with partners and networks, both local and international, to provide more effective support. One of our primary partners is Shepherd, based at the Faculty of Theology, University of the Free State, which co-ordinates the continued ministry training for pastors.
We at thePLAN believe there can be no sustainable impact where churches are merely encouraged to get involved in more projects. We do not believe that guilt feelings and emotional incitement is the way to secure the church's enhanced and sustainable involvement in the world. We believe that Scripture is the non-negotiable basis for the rediscovery of whom and what the church truly is, and this will generate new enthusiasm vibrancy and the dynamics to fulfil its role. Thus we continually challenge fellow believers to ponder our concept of God, perception of church and our world view. Simultaneously we continually reassess the Scriptural basis and effect of historical perspectives of God's people in the world.
Should you as church or individual so wish, you can become part of this 'journey' of discovery to the true understanding of Jesus' words: 'As My Father sent Me, so I send you...'
We can only discover the essence of God’s Plan through the Scriptural revelation of:
The Bigger Picture
Through this revelation we discover that God expected from his people in the Old and New Testament to reveal certain missional lifestyle- or behavioural patterns. Our research of these Biblical patterns in the midst of the context and realities of the 21st century, directed us to cluster them as follows:
- Universal patterns
- Contextual patterns
- Transforming patterns
1. The Universal Patterns reflect those properties which are universally valid and relevant for the church through the centuries. These patterns are relevant in all cultures, circumstances, economic or social conditions. They need not be contextualized to be applied but should drench the day to day lifestyle of God’s people wherever they are. These patterns were as valid for Abraham and his descendants as it is for the Church of the 21st century.
- God’s missional people demonstrate a Kingdom lifestyle
- God’s missional people know who they are
- God’s missional people yearn for numerical growth
- God’s missional people live the Gospel
2. The Contextual Patterns on the other hand reflect those properties which are universally present but need to be contextualized and applied in such a way that the church will be relevant to its unique calling, culture, circumstances, economic and social conditions. Without continually reflecting on them, the church loses its ability to be relevant and transformational within the context where God has placed it to fulfill his Plan. The contextual patterns should primarily be demonstrated by the leadership.
- God’s missional leaders lead by following
- God’s missional leaders translate calling into vision
- God’s missional leaders turn vision into action
3. The Transforming Patterns of the church result in outcomes which lead to transformation in communities, societies, towns, cities, countries and the world. These transforming patterns bring about change and are a signal and herald of the coming Kingdom.
God’s Missional People make a Difference
The challenge for the church today is to develop and display a lifestyle which reflects these missional patterns. In doing so, the dream of the whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole world will become a reality. Only then will there be harmony between our existence, our calling, our purpose and God’s eternal Plan. Only then will God’s people experience fulfilment and vibrant enthusiasm for being a living sacrament in the world.
Our approach to develop a corporate lifestyle, through which these patterns are reflected, is to break down these patterns into building blocks. These building blocks represent Biblical truths which form the foundation for every pattern. They therefor affirm the pattern and will ultimately ensure that it becomes part of a daily lifestyle.
To help the church advance towards reflecting these missional patterns in its corporate life, we developed an indicative instrument – the MissioMatrix. We are well aware of the fact that the characteristics and lifestyle patterns of the church cannot be objectively measured, we do however believe that a critical and introspective assessment of ourselves can help us on our journey to become progressively more what God intended us to be. For this assessment we use the Biblical truths or building blocks as reference. The MissioMatrix does not claim to present us with a fixed, undisputable measurement of how the church performs missionally, but rather facilitates a process of earnest reflection. By repeating this process of assessment, using the indicative instrument and continuous realignment, a growth spiral can be generated through which the church can experience a fresh sense of purpose and fulfillment.
What 'plan' is it
this time around?
this time around?
Rev. Riaan Stander, minister of DRC Langenhovenpark describes ThePLAN as follows:
ThePLAN - A church with a difference, makes a difference …
ThePLAN? True to our nature, ‘church people’ immediately want to know: "What plan is it this time?" Or: "Whose plan is it?" Please do relax. This is not one of the typical five or ten point plans to quickly bring the congregation into shape and steer it in a new direction. Here it is really about God's plan - his plan for the world, his church and his people.
Practically "The Plan" requires that we will return to our roots. It is a rediscovery of the most basic principles for being church. In short – it means back to the Bible. In it we (re-)discover with amazement that God created everything very good, but that human beings – through their disobedience – plunged themselves and creation in the darkest misery possible. Thankfully, this is not the end of the biblical story. God is a God of restoration, of new possibilities, of new beginnings. And He reconciled men to Himself through Jesus Christ and restored us through the work of his Holy Spirit. When we, through faith and by his grace, buy into this "plan", God's plan, we are part of his cosmic renewal process – on the way to the return of Jesus Christ. We are therefore his agents of transformation, participating as servants in the coming of his Kingdom. One of the largest discoveries is that we, you and I, are God's plan. He chose us (even above the angels), his church, his co-workers for the realization of the new heaven and earth.
What needs to change in the congregation? Our focus must shift: away from ourselves and our ideas, to God and his dream for his church. The key question remains: "Are we busy fulfilling God's calling for His church?
How can we measure the congregation's obedience to God's plan? Here are some guidelines:
1. Is the Bible, spelling out God's plan of love to restore a broken world, as well as our unique role in it, the essence of the congregation's existence?
2. Are we active co-workers of the expansion of the Kingdom of God, who, through knowing Him, want to seek his will and obey and live according to it?
3. Are we actively campaigning for the expansion of the congregation by winning people, who are not belonging to the church or who went astray, for his kingdom?
4. Do the relationships in the congregation give testimony to true fellowship and caring?
5. Are we really rendering assistance and bringing hope to God's world?
6. Is there room for members to exercise their difference in spirituality (preferences in the way they worship/pray/experience God/etc.)?
7. Does the congregation have dynamic leaders who help her discover her role in God's plan and fulfil it?
8. Do we have a clear vision of God's plan for the congregation?
9. Is the vision embodied in strategies, structures and plans for living out God's plan?
10. Do we as a congregation intentionally live as missionaries of Jesus Christ/his agents of change in the community and the world?