The Sent Network, containing resources designed to help church planters carry out their mission, will launch on Aug. 29. Three phases — explore, equip and send — are designed to help participants examine different aspects of themselves and their mission.
Joe Sawatzky of Mennonite Mission Network has worked closely with church plants and church planters in South Africa and now as a church relations representative in North America. In South Africa, Sawatzky worked as a theological educator in a Bible school for pastors. According to Sawatzky, many of those pastors had planted churches in accordance with a calling from God.
“I found myself worshiping in an African Pentecostal congregation that, as I look back on it, was a kind of church plant,” Sawatzky says. “I did a lot of preaching in that congregation by invitation of the pastor. That experience gave me an appreciation for the challenges faced by church planters.”
Sawatzky says that his time interacting with the annual Sent Conference and the Sent Network have underscored the idea that church planters are mission workers in the context of the United States — that those church planters are propelled and sent across barriers of human society to show the world around them the good news of Jesus Christ.
“These planters of the good news lead the way in drawing the church at large into God’s mission in every generation,” Sawatzky says.
Explore is the first phase of the Sent Network and seeks to identify and discern potential peace church planters and leaders. Participants will be encouraged to discern their specific calling and assess their personal and relational health during this phase. They will look at leadership based on Ephesians 4:11, apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers. Participants will also delve into Anabaptist principles and the key traits of their theological identity.
Sawatzky says that tools like APEST are especially important. “Such self-knowledge is critical to healthy community … in that ill-defined roles can be a source of painful conflict,” he says, adding that without that self-knowledge, a person can feel under-utilized and frustrated.
Equip, the second phase, helps peace church planters with a “multiplication DNA.” According to Mauricio Chenlo, minister for church planting at Mennonite Mission Network, this multiplication DNA causes churches to expand and reproduce. “We are working hard to create a church-planting movement that multiplies the way of Jesus in neighborhoods, rural counties, cities and suburbs in an ongoing demonstration that the life found in Christ is the best of all possible lives,” Chenlo says.
In the Equip phase, participants will dive into the biblical foundations of mission work and look at the uniqueness of Anabaptist mission. They will evaluate different approaches, learn about missional discipleship and deepen their understanding of their own context.
Send, the final phase, marks the end of the Sent Network, but the beginning of a peace church planter’s journey. This is where participants obtain the tools to launch new faith communities of Christ followers. They will form a network of support, consider the cost of their church plant, learn how to develop an effective church planting proposal and launch their plan. This is also the phase where Mennonite Mission Network staff will make connections with Mennonite conferences who will be part of their ministry as they move into being a viable peace church plant.
Some of the content will be available online, where participants will study in a learning group called a cohort. Other content will be best suited to a weekend retreat or other gathering. All learning will be guided by teachers who have developed different parts of the curriculum.