Posted by: Moses | July 6, 2010

Church Planting: From Mother to Daughter to Sister Churches: Part 1 of 2

The metaphor of mother church and daughter church is difficult to avoid when considering church planting. The parallels are strong as an established, hopefully mature church, births a new church with similar characteristics, the same mission, and the same Lord. Like a human parent producing a child after its kind, this church-parent produces a church-child after its kind. Leaving the actual philosophy and methodology for planting a church aside, assume that a church has been planted. In what way should the mother church relate to the daughter church? This metaphor of mother and child seems profoundly appropriate for the initial stages of a church plant’s development. I will endeavor to show that initially, a mother church should exercise a degree parental care over her daughter churches.

By necessity, much of this example comes from the relationship between the apostles and the churches they planted. The apostles were the first church planters and thus left behind an example of church planting for future generations as the primary means for fulfilling the Great Commission. The Apostles need no successors; God speaks through them to this day through their written works in an inspired fashion. As a result, some might argue that both the mother and the daughter church submit on equal standing to the Word. In some senses this is true. God has provided a foundation in Christ and His good news through His servants the apostles, a foundation that can never be laid again (1 Cor 3:10-11). Therefore their writing is binding on both the mother and the daughter alike.

However, we would demonstrate a lack of humility before the Word if churches merely abrogated a parental responsibility that the Word put forward by its example. A plethora of Scriptural examples demonstrate the apostles’ care for their daughter churches. To paraphrase Paul, I would urge that we become imitators of the apostles even as they are of Christ (1 Cor 11:1 ESV). Elders must be humble in their exercise of authority; however, the Bible demonstrates a degree of care and authority that a mother church should exercise over her daughter churches, a parental relationship governed by the Word of God analogous to the work of the apostles.

Modern churches tend to birth churches and leave them to fend for themselves, immediately treating them as sisters rather than assuming any sort of parental role over the newborn church. This seems akin to spiritual child neglect. In contrast, the apostolic example demonstrates a clear parental relationship in writing to the churches, in helping to select leadership, support established leadership, correct problems within the church, pray for the new leadership, settle disputes, shepherd the new pastors, and even send visitors tasked specifically to check up on the spiritual welfare of the new body of believers as a whole. None of these activities, done humbly, would in any way impugn the authority of the Word for either the parent or the child. Analogously, a human father’s authority over his son does not in any way absolve either of them from God’s specific commands to them. The father exercises oversight as a man under authority himself. So should the church.


  1. This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dr. Joseph Atta-Fynn. Dr. Joseph Atta-Fynn said: Church Planting: From Mother to Daughter to Sister Churches: Part …

  2. That is very random… but thanks for sharing, my probably automated friend? 🙂

  3. In your spare time you might enjoy reading Passing the Baton by Steffan. He applies essentially what you are saying to cross cultural ministry. Also Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s Methods or Ours by Allen

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