We are now at the point in American evangelicalism where church planting is commonplace. It seems that we have been doing this forever. While I know that "mission churches" have been launched for decades, especially in what was formerly known as the "Bible Belt," the fact remains that we haven't really been promoting and resourcing church planting strategically for very long.
When it comes to church planting, the facts are that the Exponential Conference has not always existed, Vision360 is now something in the annals of church history, Acts29 began in 1998, ARC began in 2000, and the North American Mission Board introduced it's Send initiative in 2011 at the SBC annual meeting.
Believing In Church Planting
Like many other churches and church leaders, our church through much support behind our denomination's church planting focus. The church I pastor is almost 100 years old. Therefore, in our long history we have launched a few mission churches in the past. Yet, following the 2011 launch of the Send Network and the growth with other church planting strategies, it became clear that our church was not strategic regarding church planting and multiplication.
It wasn't long before we were partnered with planters in places as far from our home as Portland, Oregon and Toronto, Ontario.
Over time, we have entered into some short-term partnerships and have taken the role of sending church with other planters throughout the continent.
Believing in the multiplication strategies of reaching cities and our own community, I have served as an assessor for church planters through our network. I continue to meet with those called to serve.
Our belief in planting has brought fruit as we have invested in planters and the missional strategies these men and their wives are espousing.
You're Planting Where?
While it is easier to justify sending money, people, and mission teams to help plant new works and sustain current ones in other cities, what happens when a planter wishes to launch his new church in your own neighborhood?
This has happened in our community numerous times over the years. The question many ask sound like "Why would you plant a church in a city where there is another just down the street?"
It's a legitimate question.
In some of these cases, we have prayed with these men, heard them clearly articulate their calling, and have chosen to help. For some, it meant the planter a key to our building so their launch team could meet in one of our rooms. In other cases, it meant providing volunteers to help with their projects.
Not Every Person Will Get to Heaven Through Your Local Church
I know there are many more non-believers in Christ in our community than believers. I know that not all in our community will visit our church. What if a newer church, with a different pastor, a different campus culture, yet with the very same gospel message could be used by God to help reach my community for Christ?
Therefore, even in my deeply southern, former Bible-belt, church-on-every-corner, Christianese speaking, big hair, hallelujahing and amening, everyone was in a youth group years ago, I want my kids to have a youth group like mine, my grandparents founded this church, give me Awana or I'm leaving, what program does the church offer me, church saturated community ... it is clear. The number of unsaved "Christians" is alarming. And that means, we need more gospel proclaiming churches.
Yet, I am reminded by the Holy Spirit (and often my wife - she sounds like the Holy Spirit at times) that we are to be Kingdom focused. This means that other gospel-preaching, Bible-believing, God-honoring, Christ-proclaiming churches in my community are actually on my team (or should I say "I'm on their team?" Maybe just "We're on the same team.")
We truly are better together.
However, Not Every Church Plant Is Your Partner
In a perfect world, the gospel and the focus on God's kingdom should be enough to unite like-minded churches together. Yet, churches tend to be made up of people. They tend to be pastored by human beings. In case you haven't noticed, even well-intentioned people are not perfect. Therefore, not every new church plant or campus will be partners with other churches in the community. In some cases, it is due to sinful pride of established church leaders. In others, it lands squarely on the church planters or campus leaders. I'll write more about this soon, but some things that create tension and a lack of potential partnership are:
- If everyone excited about the new church are disgruntled former members of other local churches
- If the pastor/planter/minister refuses to befriend other pastors in the community
- If the selling point of the new work is "We're not like the other churches in town"
- If winning the community is not about winning the lost, but about being the biggest and most talked about church in town
- If the church planter is really a church poacher
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! - Psalm 133:1 (ESV)