Effective Missionary Church Planting Principles

General Washington and the Continental Army barely endured the winter of 1777-1778 at Valley Forge. The bitter cold along with a serious lack of provisions and discipline almost accomplished what the British could not. General Washington’s leadership was impeccable, but he lacked the military genius of a career officer. In answer to Washington’s prayer, Benjamin Franklin recommended the services of Prussian Captain, Baron von Steuben. After von Steuben brought order and discipline to the camp he wrote a manual of drill techniques and instilled these techniques into the colonial farmers, turning them into a modern fighting force. There is a clear, practical application for church-planting missionaries in how von Steuben turned a rag-tag group of farmers into an elite fighting force. There are three fundamental keys to his success.


First, von Steuben realized that the weary colonialist would not immediately submit to a foreigner. America was fighting against tyranny; why would they then yield to a Prussian stranger? Von Steuben’s answer to this was to call out capable men from the rank and file in order to create an officer corps that could effectually command the enlisted man.


An American missionary, particularly one who crosses geographical and cultural boundaries in order to plant churches, must realize that he is a foreigner, and not just any foreigner—an American foreigner. Often times this is a strike against a missionary and an obstacle that must be overcome. A wise missionary looks for capable nationals among his people so that he may develop them for spiritual leadership.


Second, von Steuben, realizing the enormity of his task, duplicated himself. It would be impossible for him to train several thousand men in just a few weeks, but he could train a few. His brilliant plan began with turning the officer corps that he created into an elite fighting unit. Within weeks these special men were parading up and down the camp as a single unit to the awe of every regular soldier.


When many missionaries arrive on the field hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions, are in need of the Gospel. It is an overwhelming task. Paul understood this great need and the enormity of the task. That is why he wrote this to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2. “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” This leads to the third key to missionary success.


Von Steuben assigned each officer to a regiment of men. His officers diligently instilled what they had learned into their men, creating hundreds of elite fighting units that could keep pace with and defeat the most powerful army in the world.


Von Steuben’s approach was also the method of Paul as he instructed Titus in Titus 1:5, “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee.”

Without von Steuben’s guidance the Patriot cause would have failed. Major General von Steuben was promoted to Inspector General of the Continental Army. His methods were propagated throughout the Patriot forces through his book, Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States. Furthermore, his principles are still the foundation of our military today. Solomon said, “There is no new thing under the sun,” in Ecclesiastes 1:9. He is right; von Steuben’s principles are the effective missionary church planting principles that Paul used 2,000 years ago. They are still effective today.

This entry was posted in Missions and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.