Why Your Church Should Invest in Church Planting Now
Although I’ve never had the opportunity to plant a church, I’ve always been passionate about it. Church planting is nothing less than the practical outworking of the Great Commission. God has placed me in a number of ministry assignments where I’ve been able to help connect an existing congregation to a church-planting work. Of the number of existing churches I’ve seen get involved in church planting, not one has regretted it. In fact, it has always been to their benefit. This has led me to a simple and serious conviction: every church—regardless of size or development stage—should be involved in church planting in some way. It would be naïve (and perhaps foolish) to say that every church must plant another church; there are simply too many variables for that to be mandated. But every church should be connected to the work of gospel multiplication through church planting. Whether it’s joining a church-planting network, starting a residency, partnering with an existing church plant, or simply committing to pray for church planters in your context or around the world, existing churches would benefit from getting involved in church planting for at least seven reasons. 1. Aligns with the New Testament pattern In the New Testament, the Great Commission is fulfilled as churches are planted. The church in Antioch caught this vision in Acts 13. Thus they set apart Paul and Barnabas and commissioned them to plant churches, which had a far-reaching effect on both the church and the world. We see this pattern repeated throughout Paul’s epistles; he continually reminded churches of other works around the ancient world, highlighting needs and opportunities for partnership. Want your church to be more like the early church? Get involved in church planting. I love what Ed Stetzer said on this topic. “When the apostles and disciples heard the Great Commission, we might consider what they did in response. They did not just evangelize. They congregationalized. When the disciples heard the Great Commission, they planted churches. So should we.” Want your church to be more like the early church? Get involved in church planting. 2. Sharpens missional edge and evangelistic zeal Church plants have a unique opportunity to spark evangelistic zeal. It’s well documented that new gospel works do a better job of reaching the lost than established churches do. So, new churches—or even the idea of potential new churches—can serve existing congregations by getting them thinking about how to more effectively evangelize in their own context. Every time we’ve helped someone to plant, or played any role in the preparation, they have brought energy, enthusiasm, and missional wisdom to the existing church. Successful church plants study their context feverishly and pursue the lost with fervor. Existing churches could use a lot more of that energy, regardless of their context. 3. Brings focus on generosity and leanness to budget Church budgets can be a lot like personal budgets. They begin with dreams of generosity and simplicity before properties, staffing, liabilities, and distractions come crashing in. At some point, money stops flowing toward mission and starts to stagnate around survival. A great way to kickstart some financial vibrancy and deeper fiscal dependence is to start channeling some of those precious funds away from ourselves and toward others—whether they be in different parts of the city, country, or world. If we’re going to teach people about sacrificial generosity in their own finances, then we have a great opportunity to model it in the finances of our churches. 4. Broadens the horizons of your people and lifts their heads to bring faith Sometimes our church ambitions are too small. Some of us need to ponder the well-known words of William Carey: “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” In the churches I’ve pastored, few things have built faith in God’s people like hearing about gospel advance in diverse contexts around the world. This will spur gospel witness in your own context, too. It really does enliven the faith of the people I serve to have them pray for church plants in Turkey, or Malawi, or Thailand, or anywhere else for that matter. 5. Creates environments of multi-church unity, diversity, and family With so many denominations in the global church, it can be hard for believers to have a sense of multi-church family and meaningful belonging. Church-planting networks create a unique opportunity for churches with different contexts, styles, congregational dynamics, and even some ministry philosophies to link arms together for a common cause. A while ago, I took some leaders from the church I was pastoring in Johannesburg to an Acts 29 Global Gathering in Nashville. The impact was immense as our leaders experienced a diverse, global family of churches. This sense of a diverse family both brings comfort and also fosters courage as people see gospel siblings engaged in the same work in different places. 6. Brings opportunity for boldness in prayer and reliance on the Spirit Small needs yield small prayers. But when needs seem enormous, even impossible, prayer becomes mandatory. Antioch’s church had a deep sense of the Spirit’s work in them as they deployed Paul and Barnabas for church-planting endeavors. If you want to experience the Spirit’s power in and among a group of people, get them involved in a work that they cannot possibly accomplish on their own. 7. Rouses unused gifting and servant leadership Many churches have, in their seats, an abundance of dormant gifting. Some of that is due to people’s resistance to serve, but a lot of it has to do with the way we structure our churches. When we only offer opportunities to serve in the parking lot, at the coffee counter, or in the nursery, we do our people a disservice. Those are all marvelous roles, but they don’t force us to develop leaders and unearth potentially dormant gifting. Demand almost always outweighs supply in church planting, so leaders must be developed, and gifting must be recognized and leveraged. Highlighting a church-planting team’s needs might surprise you; it might awaken the desire to serve in some of the least likely people. Demand almost always outweighs supply in church planting, so leaders must be developed and gifting must be recognized and leveraged. So, come on existing church. Find a way to get involved. What feels like a distraction from your mission might actually help you to sharpen it. What feels like a sacrificial cost might actually bring about tremendous generosity. What feels like it might be a further burden for your people may actually be the very thing that lifts their heads and bends their knees.
Ross Lester is a campus pastor and elder at The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas. He previously served as lead pastor of Bryanston Bible Church and network director of Acts 29 Southern Africa. He is part of the network leadership team for Acts 29 Emerging Regions. Ross is married to Sue, and they have two children. He occasionally blogs at rosslester.com. You can follow him on Twitter.