Our church is planting a church. We do not have a seating capacity problem or a parking space problem and we are not trying to open a new location closer to people who are coming from far away. None of those are bad reasons to plant, they are just not the best reasons to.
The church I pastor is 60 years old and stable, but is by no means bursting at the seams numerically. We have committed givers, but between our mortgage debt and other ministry needs, we do not have piles of money lying around. It’s easy to look at megachurches with much bigger budgets, streams of people, and deep leadership pools and believe they should plant churches. They should. We may think newer churches that do not own buildings and haven’t yet institutionalized most of their ministry processes are good launch pads for church plants. They are. When it comes to us, though, we could conclude we are just not called/ready/able to plant churches. With that, I disagree.
My mindset is that virtually every church should be a church planting church. Big or small. Older or younger. Affluent or not. Perhaps the only qualification I would hedge a bit on is church health—even then, the mission of church planting has a way of focusing unhealthy churches and calling them to greater maturity.
Church planting was new to our church and it has become exciting for many people within our community. Here are the five most important reasons to be a church planting church.
Be a church planting church because you love Jesus. In the Great Commission Jesus calls His followers to make disciples, baptize, and teach. Conversion can happen outside of the church, but, historically, baptism has meant inclusion and membership in the local church where learning to follow Jesus is a communal pursuit among Christians. In planting churches, we show our obedience to Jesus.
Be a church planting church because you love lost people. Summarizing several major studies, Tim Keller concludes that a new church will draw six to eight times more people into the body of Christ than an existing church. Presumably, a healthy percentage of those are people who are not yet Christians. Existing churches tend to be primarily concerned with the members they already have. Church plants are free to put the vast majority of their energy into loving and reaching the lost.
Be a church planting church because you love Christians. Church planting encourages and challenges mature Christians in fresh ways. Members of planting teams must often be far more missional than attenders of established churches. This forces Christians to grow as evangelists and stretch their faith. It also opens up opportunities for new leaders. Our church is sending a lay elder, another man who likely would have been a lay elder in a year or so, two key ministry leaders, and other talented servants to a new plant. This has created space for new elders and others to step up and lead.
Be a church planting church because you love communities. One of the unfortunate byproducts of the regional church model is that communities no longer center around churches the way they once did. The suburb we are planting in sits between two of the largest megachurches in the country, both of which have international influence. The reach of these massive churches has squeezed out several smaller-sized, local congregations. This community and many others need local churches with people who live nearby and want to make a difference in the neighborhood. Communities will be better places because of good local churches.
Be a church planting church because you love the local church. Earlier this year, we had a big celebration commemorating our 60th anniversary. One of the highlights was an interview with our founding pastor who described coming out to this area saying, “It was like landing on the surface of the moon.” He planted the church while in seminary, pastored it for a short time, and left when he graduated. He hadn’t been back since. When he walked in that morning, I asked him, “Well, how did we do?” He could barely speak because he was so moved. Here he was standing in the building that is home to a church that he started by going door-to-door in the one subdivision that existed at the time and inviting people to a meeting at the town’s school. 60 years later, we are still here and, God willing, we will be until Jesus returns. Every church was once a church plant. If you love local churches or even one church, you must have a deep gratitude for planting. I hope that gratitude is seen in your love for planting churches.
Adam Fix is the Senior Pastor of Our Saviour Evangelical Free Church in Wheeling, IL. He is a founding member of Reach Chicago, a network of churches committed to planting churches in the city and suburbs of Chicago. He is married to Holly and together they have a daughter. Adam really enjoys coffee and cookies.