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In 2012 we decided to join ADVANCE, led by PJ Smyth, pastor of monument Church in the USA - a movement of churches, PARTNERING together to advance the Gospel through planting and strengthening churches.

The name Advance is a practical way of describing our partnership, and expresses our primary purpose of taking new ground for the Gospel in cities and nations. The three key words in our vision statement correspond to three key things we see the Apostle Paul and the churches that he served, eagerly pursue:

Partnering is a biblical word used to describe both church leaders working together and churches working together (2 Cor 8:23 and Phil 1:5). Paul was committed to help churches partner together on meaningful mission and in warm relationship.

Although Paul wanted mature churches that could stand on their own two feet, he equally promoted interdependence, not independence in (at least) the following areas: mission to the poor, church planting, foundation-laying, and leadership appointment (such as being meaningfully involved in the process of identifying and appointing elders). He boasted about churches to other churches, and regularly used the language of “fellow workers.”

This means we are committed to a meaningful and warm partnership, as opposed to a nominal partnership.

We believe that this approach is what New Testament churches enjoyed under Paul’s leadership, and it honours Body theology; and is of course healthier, stronger and more sustainable than going it alone. Thinking in concentric circles, we want a local church’s eldership team to feel a deep connection with Advance, the wider leaders to feel a decent connection with Advance, and the wider congregation to feel a reasonable connection with Advance.

Regarding partnering around church planting, although a certain church may lead the charge in a certain church plant, we believe in sharing the privilege, risk and responsibility together as far as possible. To this end we try to train, resource and plant churches together.

As much as he was committed to healthy and strong churches (quality), Paul was equally committed to planting and growing churches (quantity). He even defined his own ministry in terms of seeing people come to faith (Rom 1:16, Rom 15:20, 2 Cor 10:16).

This means that we are not only committed to strengthening and growing churches, but also to church planting. There are two main ways that we do this:

Firstly, we run ACPC (Advance Church Planters Course), which is a two-year training course for current and potential church planters, and existing church leaders and elders wanting to revisit their foundations. ACPC also involves an assessment process to help the individual be sure of his calling.

Secondly, all partner churches give financially to current or future church plants.

As much as he was committed to quantity – planting and growing churches, Paul was equally committed to quality - healthy and strong churches. The same apostle who yearned for the Romans to join him in the quantity work of reaching “regions beyond” (Rom 15:22-24), did so on the back of a 16- chapter epistle expounding the quality aspects of the Christian life.

Paul’s “movement” aimed far higher than merely being a church-planting movement. Paul had a body of truth that he taught “everywhere in every church” that he considered “foundational” (1 Cor 3:10, 4:17). He yearned not just for more churches to be planted but for Christ to be formed in them (Gal 4:19). And his view of a strong church went well beyond theological accuracy: he longed for elders to be quality elders (1 Tim 3, Titus 1), for spiritual gifts to operate in meetings in a wise yet powerful way (1 Cor 12, 14), and even that church members get on well (Phil 4:2).

This means we are committed to helping our churches be healthy and strong in theology, leadership, atmosphere, practice and above all, in growing genuine disciples. This doesn’t mean that we meddle, but it does mean we urge the elders of each church to a lot more than merely church growth and church planting. We help provide a ‘plumbline’ of doctrine and values (see the next section) that the local elders are responsible for applying to their local context. For example, we promote churches that are broadly Reformed, Spirit-empowered, missional and Gospel-centred, but the local elders are responsible for outworking these plumbline truths in their context.

This also means we are committed to helping elders and their churches reach real maturity, as well as provoke them to real mission (Rom 1:11-12, 15:14). Our movement does not primarily exist to help churches through issues. This may well happen, but it happens as a means to the end of maturity.

Reducing a movement to a mere trouble-shooting agency perpetuates a culture of dependency and immaturity, usually ending up with church leaders disillusioned when the movement doesn’t provide the things that they should never have been looking for the movement to provide in the first place.