What if one local church could plant 200 churches, start 100 non-profits, reach thousands of people every year and still have too small of a vision?
Western business has had quite a toll on the church. Simply consider the way a corporation works and expands. That is precisely what has taken root with the new age of church planting. As a result, we have one church with five or six campuses and there’s a cap on its growth. It can only expand so far and grow so much. In Scripture, we see quite a different model of church planting. In Acts 11-14, we read of how God uses churches to plant churches in this age and a picture is painted of what God has been doing in every age. Let’s think together for a moment.
I love that we have so many church-planting organizations. Being Southern Baptist, our local church gets to contribute to missionary work in the United States and abroad through the Cooperative Program. This program is great. My hope is that I am not misread on that point. As great as programs like the Cooperative Program are, communities are growing faster than churches and 90% of churches (according to Thom Rainer) are in decline. While numerical attendance is not the point, it can be indicative of a local church’s health and her work in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. More churches need to be planted and we are in desperate need of great revitalization in the vast majority of local church bodies. That means one thing- returning to a Biblical view of the Gospel, outreach, evangelism, and church planting.
In 2018, before I was contacted by the elders at TCATS, God started laying church planting on my heart. I wanted to return to a place of ministry where we had done much outreach and where those people we had reached out to could not find what they would refer to as a Biblical church. I started praying about church planting and developed a model that would accomplish these basic things:
- It would encourage only people who are truly called by God to plant/pastor a church.
- It would serve as a body (or rather group of bodies) through whom we could experience God’s work of reaching more people with the Gospel than we even think of a multi-site or megachurch reaching.
- There would be 0 starting costs and very little administrative stress so that pastors can focus on the work of the Gospel, the ministry of the Word.
What’s the catch? There has to be a catch, right? We haven’t really seen anyone else doing this type of work in church planting and revitalization, so there has to be a catch- some sort of caveat. In all honesty, the model is so simple and I can’t believe that I haven’t heard of anyone else doing this. I came up with the model as I investigated the Scriptures. I was amazed that the answers, God’s way of doing things, were right there for everyone to read- yet no modern church that I knew of was doing things this way. Then, I picked up Francis Chan’s book, Letters to the Church. What I was dreaming, and the model that I had developed, was already being done. Francis Chan wasn’t the only one doing this. Millions of churches around the world have been doing things this way for centuries and, by all indication, it has been serving the Gospel better than all of our new methods combined. There is a catch. The sending church and the missions organization must decrease and Christ must increase. That, my friends, is much more difficult for us than you might imagine because of our unrighteousness.
For a moment, think about the biggest church you know of. What is the foremost thing about that church? Chances are, the first thing you think of when you think of the church is the lead or teaching pastor. He is the one who drives the church, he is the head of the spear, and he is the one who gets things going. He is the personality of the church and he is the one being streamed to so many different campuses. I remember sending a brief email to some pastors in the area where I wanted to plant a church. Only one other pastor was somewhat supportive of the idea. It is the opposite of what I expected because these were men I knew. They were worried, I think, that a new church would come to town and steal all their people. It was Tim Keller who wrote that planting a church in a community where other churches already existed, when done well, benefits every local church. What I found was that most churches are unwilling to decrease because we have been so guilty of pursuing numbers for ourselves rather than pursuing the glory of God in all things. God is doing something grander than building up the numbers of a local church body, and most often we fail to think in those terms, again because of our unrighteousness.
There are at least three types of people who will be reading this:
- A pastor in a local church who feels the church is ready to start planting churches,
- a pastor in a local church that is in need of revitalization,
- or someone who is called to be a pastor/church planter.
If you are simply trying to figure out how to do outreach or evangelism, keep up with this series on this blog. You will benefit greatly by reading along with us, for outreach is just as fundamental in church planting as it is for ‘established’ churches.
No matter why, I want to hear a little bit about you as we begin building our church-planting/revitalization community and strategy and platform. I want you to be involved. This is no cost to you and you won’t have to deal with all the administrative baggage that usually comes along with planting a church or starting a non-profit in today’s world. There are no age-limits, and you can be anywhere in the world. Fill out the form below. Share with me why you’d like to get plugged in. Next week, we will jump head-first into Acts 11 and discover some things about the first local church and how God caused the first church split for His own glory.
Click here to continue this series.