Think of a wheel, lying on the ground, with spokes going out in all directions from a hub at the center of the wheel.
Now, think of a vine, growing on the ground, that begins in one place and reaches out its branches in all directions. These branches are each sending down roots which also grow into plants.
Each root is giving birth to another plant just like the first plant. All these new plants have the same potential to send out branches which also send down roots.
Which one, the wheel or the vine, best describes the SATURATION CHURCH PLANTING strategy? The VINE, of course.
It is not a question of which one works. They both work. One, however, works better than the other. Some churches are using the wheel concept and others are beginning to see the wisdom of the vine concept of church planting.
The wheel concept calls for all the baby churches to be closely tied to, and dependent upon, the mother church. Normally they are not called churches. They are sometimes called “home groups” or “cell groups.” They are seen as an extension of the mother church.
All the people in the little groups meet during the week so that they can attend the mother church on Sunday morning. All tithes and offerings are channeled into the mother church.
The leaders of the cell groups are not seen as pastors. From time to time one of the cell churches is released to become a full- fledged church, and a pastor is appointed.
This, in essence, is the wheel concept. It has been very successful in some places and has produced some very large congregations.
The vine concept of church planting can be illustrated by the spider plant. It has long, graceful, variegated leaves resembling a miniature weeping willow tree. Out from the leaves grow long vines that produce smaller spider plants at intervals along the vine.
The spider plant is usually planted in a hanging pot. The little baby spider plants never get as big as the mother plant. This is because, unlike the mother plant which has its roots potted in soil, the baby spider plants are left to dangle in the air. They receive all their life from the mother plant.
Now imagine that you take down this beautiful plant from its hanging position and plant it in the ground. Each one of the little baby spider plants begins to send down its own roots into the ground.
When that happens, each baby plant begins to grow and to send out new vines in all directions. In this way it eventually gives birth to an endless number of beautiful, mature spider plants.
The wheel tends to draw unto itself; the vine tends to release outward.
The wheel tends to be local; the vine tends to be both within and outside its local area.
The wheel tends toward addition; the vine tends toward multiplication.
The wheel tends to build one church; the vine tends toward building many churches.
The wheel tends to restrict missionary vision; the vine tends to promote missionary vision.
The wheel encompasses the city; the vine encompasses the world.
The wheel trains group leaders; the vine trains pastors and leaders.
The wheel envisions cell groups, Bible studies or home groups; the vine envisions churches meeting in houses.
May the Lord of the harvest give us a far-reaching vision for church planting. May this vision allow full freedom for the life of the church to express itself. May there be no restrictions on the expression of the life of the church! This is our prayer. Amen!