Theology for and the Process of Planting a New Church
Many years ago, America was known as a "Christian nation." However, in modern society, our nation is in a religious era in which individuals create their own belief and value systems instead of listening to God's teachings.
The amount of churchgoers in America today is rapidly decreasing as churches fail and close every day. Church planting is the process of planting new churches prepared to succeed and revitalizing established churches that need to be helped.
Why Plant Churches?
According to Peter Wagner in "Church Planting for a Greater Harvest" (Wagner, et al., 1990), a key means of growing the church is planting new churches.
The single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planting new churches."
With more than six billion people alive on the earth, the need for building new churches is huge. According to recent statistics, approximately 4 billion people are not Christian and approximately one third of the world's population is completely unreached by religion.
According to Lyle Schaller in Circuit Rider (Schaller, 1998): "The most important single argument for making new church development a high priority is this is the most effective means for reaching unchurched people. Numerous studies have shown that 60-80% of the new adult members of new congregations are persons who were not actively involved in the life of any worshipping congregations immediately prior to joining that new mission. By contrast, most long established churches draw the majority of their new adult members from persons who transfer in from other congregations."
Wagner cites several reasons for planting new churches in his book (Wagner, et al.). According to Wagner, church planting is biblical and was actually the New Testament way of extending the gospel. The expansion of the Church can be traced through Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and other areas of the world.
In addition, church planting translates to denominational survival. Church planting is designed for people who believe their denominational weight makes an important contribution to the wholeness of the universal Body of Christ.
Church planting is important in developing new leadership. Existing churches have established guidelines for clergy and lay leadership, and moving new people into positions of ministry is hard. However, new churches present excellent opportunities in leadership and ministry, benefiting all involved.
Church planting is a great way to revitalize existing churches. A new church in a community increases the religious interest of the people as a whole, which is a great benefit to existing churches.
Finally, Wagner believes that there is no more practical or cost effective way of bringing non-believers in Christ in a given geographical area than planting new churches. This makes church planting a smart choice for religious communities.
Church Planting Strategies
Planting a church is a lot like starting a family. No church can be built without effort. There is a process of development, with certain steps that must be taken. If they function well and are healthy, they continue to grow. It is a s simple as that.
According to The Church Planter's Toolkit (Logan et al., 1990), churches can be built through a variety of church planting strategies. When using the pioneer strategy, church planters gather a core group of members through evangelistic efforts and other means. Pioneering is the most common method used to plant churches.
Branching creates new churches by building a core group from an established parent church. The new group stays in the same area as the parent church and attracts new members to the community.
When using the colonization method, church planters take a gore group from the parent church. This group is relocated to a different area to plant a new church. Berkland Baptist Church used this method when it sent out church planting teams to different areas of the world.
When key church leader move, they often build new core groups in their new communities. This method is known as seeding.
Adopting occurs when an established church takes a new church group under its wing. Uptown Baptist Church, a large church in Chicago, has helped a number of new churches establish themselves using this method.
Partnering occurs when a group of churches work together to start a new church. Revitalizing occurs when unstable church work is taken over and restarted at the same site.
Transplanting takes place when a church property is sold and the congregation relocates to several new areas. When an apostolic leader sparks multitudes of new churches, it is known as catalyzing.
Steps Involved in Church Planting
While there are many different strategies for church planting, the steps involve are usually similar (Wagner, Logan). Due to the fact that church planting is a sort of spiritual warfare, church planters must be aggressive. When trying to build a congregation, church planters should round up all the spiritual troops it can, calling on people who they know are praying believers and recruiting new spiritual believers.
After a core group is established, a church planter should attend a church planter assessment to help reaffirm his spiritual gifts and calling. In addition, this assessment can help a church planter recognize his weaknesses and strengthens. When the assessment is complete, the church planter can select a good team for his church plant.
It may be helpful to find a mentor to help plant the church. The ideal mentor is a person who has experience in church planting and can give the church planter guidance on his life and ministry.
At this point, it is time to develop a church plant proposal, which will give the church planter an opportunity to express his vision and present a feasible plan. In addition to demographics and other logistics, a church planter should include a biblical position on unity in diversity and philosophy of ministry.
It is important for church planters to seek the support of an existing local church. A partnering church can provide support and guidance to a new church plant. It can help the new church plant move from infancy to self-support. It can provide the new church plant with a variety of things, including finance, meeting space, administrative, budgeting, volunteers, and more.
According to the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) Jesus called upon his followers to "make disciples." When starting a new church, it is important to set an example by balancing evangelizing, developing disciples, and training leaders. This is an important step in planting a new church as it incorporates everyone into the ministry and strengthens the whole congregation from the start.
Many people believe that Jesus' words in Matthew 28 to "go and make disciples" are a call to plant churches in all nations of the world.
In "The Master Plan of Evangelism," Robert E. Coleman (1994) discusses the importance of evangelism. "Why did Jesus deliberately concentrate His life upon comparatively so few people? Jesus was a realist. He fully realized the fickleness of depraved human nature as well as the satanic forces of this world amassed against humanity. In this knowledge He based His evangelism on a plan that would meet the need. The multitudes of discordant and bewildered souls were potentially ready to follow Him but Jesus individually could not possibly give them the personal care they needed. His only hope was to get men imbued with His life who would do it for Him. Hence, He concentrated on those who were to be the beginning of this leadership. Though He did what He could to help the multitudes, He devoted Himself primarily to a few men, rather than the masses in order that the masses could be saved. This was the genius of His strategy."
When building a core group of followers, a church planter must first make sure his systems, structures, and financial operations are organized and set up. The church planter must understand which members should serve on which ministry groups; who reports to whom; and how often members meet. In addition, he should have a sound financial plan in place.
Church planters should give converts small tasks to do, preparing them and training them to function in the new church and develop their spiritual gifts. The process grows as they are entrusted with greater responsibility. Training becomes more extensive as they continue to grow and possibly even take leadership roles.
Next, the church planter should prepare to publicly launch the church. Signs, maps, order of service, special events specifications, sign up cards, and more must all be prepared before the launching date.
Henry Blackaby talks about lessons in church planting in his book (1998). "Our church sensed that God wanted us to help start new churches all across Central and Western Canada. We had hundreds of towns and villages that had no evangelical church. To know where to start churches, some churches would start with a population study or survey. Then they would apply human logic to decide where the most promising productive places might be. By now, you know that I would take a different approach."