I remember the sentence that changed everything for me, like it was yesterday: “The most effective way to reach people for Jesus is to start new churches.” That was all I needed to hear to launch me into the exciting and scary world of church planting.
In those early days, I underestimated the difficulty and the pushback we would receive from other Christians and even Christian leaders. They would look at me puzzled as I would share our vision for a new church. Then, without provocation, they’d ask, “Why would you start a new church when so many of our existing churches have a need and are declining in impact?” They’re referring to the idea that it would be better to reach people using the resources and churches that already exist. That is completely an understandable point of view and something to think about when a new church planter comes asking for help.
However, the pushback usually comes from seeing the world through a simple economic model of supply and demand. When there is a seemingly limited demand for churches, why supply the community or region with more of them? As easy as that model is to understand, I think it is the wrong model. Using the model of supply and demand fails to recognize some important underlying reasons concerning the kingdom of God, community engagement and the call of discipleship.
What’s at stake
Let’s talk for a moment about why these three areas are important to understand in the context of church planting and why we do it.
1. The kingdom of God
The very first command in the Bible is “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:22). God, from the beginning, commanded all living things to reproduce, that is, “according to its kind.” For lions that meant “reproduce lions.” For plants that meant “reproduce plants.” For Adam and Eve that meant “have lots of children.”
Throughout the New Testament we see the church described as alive and a living body. Just as everything that is alive will grow, mature and reproduce, the same is true for the church. A church reproduces itself by starting another church. This is all a part of God’s kingdom work. God is passionate about his kingdom with the desire that his kingdom will encompass every community and every tribe ― and will reach every person.
Fred Herron adds to this thought in his book, Expanding God’s Kingdom through Church Planting(1), when he states:
“God intends the church to proclaim and demonstrate the kingdom so that his kingdom will spread to every people group on the earth. The passion in God’s heart for the expansion of his kingdom is a desire for all nations to glorify God the eternal King. He has given the church a kingly commission to go into the entire world and make disciples who are loyal worshippers of the King. The heart of God for kingdom expansion is the foundation for planting new churches.”
With this in mind, church planting becomes more than a novel idea. It comes with urgency. It is through planting new churches that God’s kingdom and God’s reign are extended into communities around the world that are under the reign of darkness.
We fulfill both the first command of Scripture and the Great Commission by multiplying churches. By planting churches, we take Jesus into the lives of needy people, we become partners with God’s mission, and we are actively expanding God’s kingdom. God’s heart beats for church planting and so should ours!
2. Community engagement
Planting churches is about reaching people, who seemingly feel unreachable, for Jesus. The stark reality is that most “lost” people are best reached in a community that is similar and somewhat comfortable to them. This is true of groups separated by language, geography and even core identity. With this in mind, we start churches driven by biblical convictions of reaching those who are far from God. We start churches because it’s a God thing.
3. The call of discipleship
The journey of discipleship is a journey to go. The more we pursue Jesus, the more we become like the one who came to “seek and save the lost.” This mission is a mission that requires us as Christians to go. We go to our neighbors. We go to our friends. We go to our families. We go to our co-workers. We go with the intention of carrying Jesus, the light, into our communities, cities and world. To follow Jesus is to embrace his commission, and his commission is an expression of love.
Disciples are ones that have been captured by the love of Christ. When we really begin to understand what that really means, then we too must go. Starting new churches is an extension of that call to go, an extension of following Jesus.
My hope and prayer is that as the future unfolds, Converge will become known as a family of churches that are about starting new churches in your community and around the world, no matter what the cost. The hope of the world is Jesus, and he chose the church to exist as his vehicle for achieving God’s redemptive plan.
(1) Herron, Fred. Expanding God’s Kingdom through Church Planting (Lincoln, Neb.: iUniverse, Inc. 2003), 19.