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How can I get involved in church planting?

There are many ways to respond for those who sense the calling of Jesus to plant churches that share His good news with those who so desperately need to hear. As you pursue the ways he has gifted you and the passions that he has laid on your heart, you can get some idea of how you can be involved and where or among what people group you should be involved.

The greatest level of involvement anyone can pursue is to go and start a church planting church yourself. This means actually becoming a catalytic church planter. Perhaps you are already in ministry and have a desire to be closer to the “front lines.” Or maybe you have become a leader in your church and are sensing God’s confirmation of pursuing ministry bi-vocationally. We strongly encourage those considering church planting to complete a church planting assessment given by a denomination or network committed to Jesus’ mission. One example of such an assessment would be the First Steps Assessment Center presented by the New Work Development Team of the Chicago Metropolitan Baptist Association that the consultants of ScatterUs Ministries assist them in providing. Any good assessment center will give you a sense of what way you should pursue church planting, and not merely a decision of approval or disapproval.

For the majority of you who have not been called to lead a church planting team as a catalytic planter, some of you may be able to get involved in a new church that is being started and learn to become part of the church planting team. Every new church needs people who will volunteer to pursue the vision of the lead planter towards accomplishing the mission of reaching a community or people group. If you hear of a new church being started by your church or denomination in your area please prayerfully consider committing to help that new church directly for at least a year.

For the majority of you who are neither called to be a catalytic team leader, or a member of a new church team, please consider the following other ways you can be directly involved in church planting by supporting an individual church plant:

Church planters, whether full-time or bi-vocational, no matter what strategy or model they have chosen, are always in need of financial support for their church’s general budget and material support towards their outreach endeavors. Direct financial support may seem to be the least connected way of encouraging a church planter, but in many ways it is the most important. Often the level of financial support a church planter receives directly effects if they are able to stay on that field or take the next step in their strategy. In center-city or urban centers the living expenses can be astronomical. Bi-vocational work is usually not enough to meet the needs of their families and can be very difficult to secure in this economy. However God calls you to be involved in church planting, we pray that He leads you to directly invest financially in church plants as an offering to Him above your tithes to your local church. Please also consider discussing the possibility of direct financial assistance with your church’s missions committee. Often it is difficult for churches to imagine the need for missions giving beyond their denominational projects or people who have been sent out from their local congregation.

Church plants many times have a plethora of outreach opportunities with few hands to assist in their projects. Planning a mission trip from your church is an excellent way to engage your people missionally, and build a strong relationship with a church planter. Remember, your team will benefit far more from the trip than the planter ever will, as they learn to humbly serve and experience ministry in a setting different than your own. When engaging in a missions trip, remember to respect the strategy of the local church planter. He has already spent a good deal of time, effort, and prayer, developing an approach that is appropriately contextualized to his setting. Follow his lead in the projects that he desires to be done, rather than coming with your own agenda. Look for ways your giftedness can bless his strategic plan. Realize that some of your projects will seem menial, or may not make sense to you in your setting, but will have great strategic value for the planter. Also, keep your eyes open, because some of the projects will be ones you will be able to implement on your own home mission field. Finally, do not expect the church planter to pay for any of projects or any of your own expenses. Calculate that cost into the basic cost of the trip, and plan to the leave the new church with a generous further donation on your departure.

We are instructed by the Scriptures to be praying for “all the saints.” This need to pray for our Christian brothers and sisters certainly includes new works! Remember, their prayer resources are often very limited as well. They do not have a well established traditional prayer ministry. They are often facing serious spiritual warfare challenges with precious few assets to deal with those issues. Find ways to connect with them frequently and intercede on their behalf before the Father. Call them, or text them often to let them know that you are praying for their specific needs. Commit to pray for them if they have a prayer team or prayer strategy. Ask to get their newsletter. Ask for specific prayer requests. Often church planters assume that the only reporting you will want from them are statistical results. Ask them instead for the stories that are demonstrating the movement of the Holy Spirit in their setting. Pray along the lines that the Spirit is already moving.

These are just a few pointers in the basic care and maintenance of your new church planter. Remember, they are frail and often broken human beings who God has called to be on a journey that is far beyond their own capabilities. Often they are standing on nothing but faith…. and sometimes only hope. They are hobbits being swept along in a great story. Be as gentle and encouraging as you can be with these heroes of the Kingdom.

What is a church multiplication movement?

David Garrison, in the booklet he published for the International Missions’ Board of the Southern Baptist Convention carefully explains the strategy being employed in the two-thirds world to facilitate the spread of Christianity. Expectedly, this strategy is quite similar to the one used in during the rapid and organic explosion among Greco-Roman Gentiles in the book of Acts. This strategy is best defined as a church multiplication movement.

The principle of encouraging multiplication movements is a core value that drives the mission of ScatterUs Ministries. As an organization we are committed to: Empowering Church Multiplication Movements – For Jesus’ church to accomplish its goal of global evangelistic impact, church starting movements must be multiplied both geographically and culturally. These movements must be recognized as the valuable Kingdom assets that they really are.

While Christianity is burgeoning in the two thirds world, that is not the case in North America, or for that matter in much of the “developed” western world. In Latin America, one new church is planted every eight minutes. In Communist China, 37,500 people became followers of Jesus today. In Hindu India, 27,200 people became followers of Jesus today. In sub-Saharan Africa 17,000 people became followers of Jesus today.
We must learn how to contextualize the strategies used in the “missions field” to re-reach the West. The strategies being used in the two-thirds world focus on rapid church multiplication movements. We need to start thinking not just in terms of planting individual churches, but rather what can be done to start a multiplying movement.

BBC recently reported that all religion will be extinct in New Zealand within one generation. How soon will that be announced in Australia, Canada, or Great Britain? Over the past hundred years weekly church attendance in England has shifted from 90% of the population to only 10%. When will that “feat” be matched in the United States? Let’s pray that we learn how to treat the West as an actual missions field. Christians in the two-thirds world already feel forced to try and figure out how to reach our affluent continents themselves as their people immigrate here for work. Much more disturbingly, Muslims already see the great potential of a “mission field” here in the West. When will we begin to see this opportunity ourselves, and begin starting church planting movements in our own backyards?

Is there really a need for new churches in the US?

In many neighborhoods and communities in the United States it can seem that there is already a church on every street corner. Why in the world do we need to start new churches? Are not many new churches already being started? Should we not focus on ensuring the health of churches that are already existing?

The answers to these questions lie in straightforward observation of the basic statistics. The United States is the largest post-Christian nation on earth, and the fourth largest unchurched nation immediately after China, India, and Indonesia. In 1900 there were 28 churches for every 10,000 Americans but in 2000 there were only 17 churches for every 10,000 Americans. No county in America has seen a decrease in the unchurched population over the past decade. 64,000 communities have absolutely no evangelical church present. In fact, churches of all denominations see 72 churches per week cease to exist. These same denominations plant around 24 new churches per week. This means the North American church sees a net loss of 48 churches per week. If this rate of decrease continues we will see the absolute extinction of Christianity in North America within this century.

Now many try to make the case that perhaps larger churches are merely outcompeting smaller churches in a way that will be healthy for the Kingdom in the long-run. Perhaps the focus needs to be on helping smaller churches become more like their burgeoning neighbors.

While admittedly many smaller, dying churches are unhealthy, one problem with this theory is that it relies on an assumption of a basic kind of health in American mega-churches. In reality, while the market-share of mega-churches increases in North America drastically every year, half of all churches in the United States had no conversion growth whatsoever last year. In fact, growth of evangelical churches as a whole is a pathetic 2% which is not even outpacing population growth. This means we are not even reaching our children with the gospel! If the mega-churches are healthier than small churches, their influence still isn’t enough to have an evangelistic impact.

Another problem with this theory, however, involves the actual fruit of the mega-church movement. One study shows that mega-churches of an average size of 2856 saw on average 112 people come to Jesus over five years. Micro-churches of an average size of 51 (many of which are new church plants) saw on average 32 people come to Jesus over five years. This means that while there are many things mega-churches do well, in fact so much better than other churches that they are cornering the market on North American Christianity, one of the things they do not do well is evangelism. The micro-churches (read this church plants) are 1600% more effective evangelistically!

Simply put, the most effective evangelism strategy on earth is church planting. If we are really serious about reaching the lost in North America we must be passionate about planting churches. The last time the focus of the Church shifted so drastically towards a mega-church church model was the building of the great cathedrals in Europe right before the colossal collapse of Christianity in Western Europe inebriated by its own boredom.

In conclusion, perhaps it is more helpful to think of church planting in terms of saturation. The Lausanne Congress in the 1970’s set the international saturation goal to consider an area to be “churched” as one church per 500 people. Currently the national average is one church per 909 people. So, even if all of the current churches were perfectly healthy, we would still nearly need to double our number of churches in the United States just to be a truly saturated missions field. Granted, in some counties of the United States (particularly in the south) we have achieved saturation. In some northern and urban counties, however, the numbers are even more startling than the national average. In the Chicagoland area, for example, Christians of all denominations would have to start over 11,000 new congregations to reach the saturation goal.

What is your local church doing to help reproduce itself? What species of organism can truly be considered healthy if it has no plan for reproduction? Indeed, starting new churches will be challenging and costly. Everything Jesus ever asks us to do in obedience to him is. Starting new churches, however, is the best gage for the health of an existing church, and the best way to ensure that the church’s ministry impact will be broadened and exist well into the future. Please, for the sake of Jesus’ Kingdom, encourage your local church to be involved in church planting, and find a way for yourself personally to become engaged as well.

Endorsement

Rev. Ted Lam who is now retired from the Oklahoma BGCO ( 4/1/08) says that without the tracking system, they would have never been able to start & keep track of
around 400 new church starts over the last 10 years.

tlam@bgco.org / Cell: (405) 990-9122

Lord, Scatter Us

I would like to share with you today a tale of two cities.  It is not just an interesting comparison but this should change or reinforce our worldview, our values, what we do and what we celebrate.

Every time I speak in another language or through an interpreter, I’m reminded of the first city

Immediately after the worldwide flood recorded in Genesis, God made it very clear to Noah and his family what they were to do.  In fact, it’s stated three times.

17 Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.” Gen 8:17 (NIV)

1 Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. Gen 9:1 (NIV)

7 As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.” Gen 9:7 (NIV)

It was a reminder of God’s first command to the first man and woman:

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Gen 1:28 (NIV)

Sounds like a simple enough command to follow, or does it?

Being fruitful and increasing in number meant having lots of kids and grandchildren.  But filling the earth meant that some would have to move away to new parts of the world maybe never to see them again.

God was telling them to scatter…

In Gen 11 and see how they did in carrying out God’s command.

1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward,[a] they found a plain in Shinar[b] and settled there.

3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel[c]—because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth. Gen. 11:1-7 (NIV)

We don’t know the specifics concerning how the scattering happened but anthropologists will acknowledge that there are flood stories in the folklore of peoples all over the major continents.  Most of the stories are mere shadows of the true story recorded in the Bible since the story was passed down many generations orally and without a written record to preserve its accuracy.

Now let’s fast forward a few thousand years to a second city: Jerusalem

After Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection and immediately before He ascended into heaven, he told his disciples:

7 “…It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:7-8 (NIV)

God was about to scatter them for a different reason – to get the good news out.

Ten days later, God sent the Holy Spirit onto a bunch of Galilean disciples that spoke one language (Aramaic – similar to Hebrew) and instead of confusing their language, he gave them the supernatural ability to speak in the various languages of the Jews who had gathered in Jerusalem from many different parts of the world to worship God.

In Acts 2-7 we find them being fruitful, multiplying and increasing in number.

1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing,… 7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith. Acts 6:1, 7 (NIV)

But we don’t see them being witnesses beyond Jerusalem yet, not until Acts 8.

On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison. 4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Acts 8:1b-4 (NIV)

In the New Testament, there are several things that were scattered:

1)    The disciples themselves – as in this case

2)    The word of God – it’s scattered or sown and there’s someone who gathers or reaps the harvest – people become followers/disciples of Christ

3)    Financial gifts to others:

6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Cor 9:6-7 (NIV)

We all like to gather, to reap the harvest.  We celebrate when our church body grows.

BUT before the harvest, there must be the scattering.

Let’s be honest.  We’d much rather gather than scatter, reap than sow.

1)    We’d much rather gather by welcoming new members to our church than to scatter by commissioning members to go elsewhere to spread God’s kingdom.

2)    We’d much rather gather by leading someone to believe in Christ than to scatter by initiating a conversation about the Lord.

3)    We’d much rather gather by receiving a check in the mail than to scatter by sending one out.

Why?

1)    Gathering often makes a name for ourselves.  Scattering makes a name for the Lord.

2)    Gathering brings security.  Scattering is risky business.

There will be both scattering and gathering but the act of scattering is an act of faith and obedience that makes certain that our heart is right when harvest time comes.

When we stand before God, our only Judge, I believe He will reward us not for…

1)    How many disciples our church has gathered but for how many disciples we have gathered and then sent/scattered.

2)    How large a building our church has built (seating capacity) but how we have spread His name and reputation (sending capacity).

3)    How many anniversaries our church has celebrated but for how many new ministries and churches we have reproduced.

As people, we celebrate our age, but do we not celebrate our children, grandchildren and great-grand-children even more.  As the Church, should we not do the same?

Join me in praying that God would continue scattering us until the whole world knows about the Lord.  Lord, scatter us wherever there is the need for more disciples and more churches.

New Logo Design

Endorsement

“For those Kingdom players who want to see a completion vs. an incremental growth strategy implemented in their region, this tool will put all partners on the same page.”

Rev. Keith Draper, Executive Director, Chicago Metro Baptist Association