Steps to Becoming a Church Planting Church by Eugene C. Scott
Church planting may look trendy, like wearing skinny jeans. If so it is one of the longest lasting and most effective trends in history. God initiated the church planting movement as long as 2,000 years ago. Every church since was started by someone.
Today, God continues this kingdom work and is renewing the church in the U.S. through new church development. Last year around 4,000 churches were planted nationally.
As good as that news is, that only brings us to dead even with church closers. And, as you will see below, it does not help us keep pace with the growing U.S. population.
Therefore, I invite you to join the movement. Below are seven steps that will help you and your church get involved.
Recognize the Need:
Many people believe we have finished evangelizing North America. David T. Olson’s research says otherwise. His 2008 book, The American Church in Crisis reports on research gathered from 1990 through 2007 on church growth and health in the United States. His conclusion: The American church is in crisis!
The U.S. population gains one person through birth or immigration every fifteen seconds. Yet, the Christian church remains stagnant with approximately 51 million people attending weekend worship in 2007. Virtually the same number attended in 1990. In the west, the percentage of people attending an Evangelical church averages 6%. And that does not even take into account the U.S. population growing by nearly 53 million between 1990 and 2007. And that most churches recorded no growth. With over 250 million people not involved in church, there is a definite need for more churches!
Join the movement:
Thirty to forty percent of new church attendees are unchurched. Church planting is the best way to reach the unchurched. Some say the church is dying. But if you hadn’t noticed, God is into resurrection.
Can you imagine what would happen if more churches joined the church planting movement in the same way so many have the world missions movement? Maybe only God has that kind of imagination. But I believe that is what we are being called to.
How do you and your church join this challenging and exciting movement?
We all know that unless God builds the house we labor in vain. Prayer is our access to God’s blueprint, wisdom, and power supply for any kingdom building endeavor. Set aside time for you and your leadership to ask God how you should go forward with church planting. This is listening prayer. Listen to God’s heart for those who don’t know him and who have no faith community. God will show you his plan for your church in joining his greater kingdom work of renewing the church here and around the globe.
Determine where you are in the process:
No living organism can grow indefinitely. Most churches slow or stop growing in years five through ten. And most go into decline around year forty. But churches were not simply designed to grow bigger. The church was created to reproduce. Biblically and by God’s design every church is a church planting church. If your church has never—or not for a long time—reproduced another church, something is amiss. Remember reproduction is how your church came to be! The reproducing church is God’s Plan A for reaching the world with the good news. Both locally and globally.
But before you launch out, it is important to determine what stage of readiness your church may be in. And don’t worry if you are behind the starting line. This may be a time of consecrating yourselves just as Israel did before Joshua led them across the raging Jordon River into their promised kingdom. God is patient.
We at Aspen Grove Church Planting Network are prepared to help. Let’s talk.
We can visit your church and address questions, steps, and concerns about becoming a church planting church. We have multiple resources for exploring this rich and challenging call of God.
We can take you through an assessment of your ministry to determine where you may be in the process. Other churches have done this and found it renews their own vitality and ministry.
Read the biblical texts recording Jesus sending out the seventy-two (Luke 10), the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16), and then the entirety of Acts with an ear toward church planting (specifically Acts 1:8, 8:1 and the story of the church in Antioch, chapter 13). What does each of these say about church planting? What if Acts does not so much detail Paul’s “missionary journeys,” but rather Paul’s church planting journeys?
Join other churches or a network in a church planting mission:
But don’t try this at home. Seriously, though, not many churches can simply decide to plant a church and successfully do so. The cost is too high and where do you start? We are no longer a build it and they will come culture. If we ever were. This is why we started our Network.
Together we are stronger and more effective. Networks pool funds and share best practices, systems, structures, and professional and relational support.
Because of this shared strength, some networks are boasting a 90% rate of bringing a new church to the established stage. Networks are now planting over 80% of the churches in the U.S.
This is the same idea behind foreign mission agencies many local churches participate in. Not many churches can send their own missionary into a foreign field. Therefore, they join a mission agency. Joining a network such as AGCPN as a local mission agency reaching the unchurched for Christ is the same step your church has probably already taken when you decided to support either a foreign mission agency and/or a local outreach organization.
Starting new churches that are concerned with reaching the unchurched is the most effective way to reach people for Christ. Plus, unlike para-church ministries, starting a new church automatically enfolds those reached for Christ into a worshiping community of faith.
And, of course, once the mission group becomes a local church, there is one more congregation supporting other local and foreign missions. This is the multiplication scripture encourages us to participate in when reaching our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. Each church started and established carries a local impact as well as a global reach.
Decide which level of participation your church is ready for:
Church planting is not only for large churches. As I said above, working together gives all involved more leverage and reach. At Aspen Grove, we have several levels of participation so every church can be involved.
These churches have seen the need for church planting and have prayerfully decided to join God’s kingdom movement through including AGCPN in their mission budget. As little as $100-300 a month could provide a church planter with the essential life-line of an experienced church planting coach or the ability to offer outreach events to the unchurched.
Patron churches also pray for our planters and may give the new church such things as Bibles for gatherings, communion or child-care supplies, a sound system, etc.
Becoming a Patron Church allows churches to join God in this crucial mission even though they may never plant directly themselves. Becoming a Patron Church is also a good first step before becoming a Partner Church and a church that may actually plant a sister congregation.
These churches too have seen the need for church planting and have prayerfully decided to join God’s kingdom movement through becoming a church that supports church planting with finances and leadership.
Partner Churches participate hands-on in a church plant. Thus their commitment reflects a higher sacrifice and not only significantly financial support the over-all mission of the Network but also, by becoming a Cluster Church, directly support a church plant through providing funding, people, and leadership resources.
Partner Churches also may eventually plant directly out of their own congregation, with the help of the Network and other Cluster Churches.
These churches are ones that have planted before or are ready to do so themselves. What they need from a network is systematic and or structural support. For example, these churches would secure Aspen Grove to assess a potential planter, or for help with a demographic study of the plant community, or for coaching both for the parent church and/of the planter.
David T. Olson’s study further found that the only denominations and groups that are at least keeping up with population growth are those that are planting churches. This is good news. “The only way to increase the number of Christians in a city is to plant thousands of new churches,” said Tim Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. It’s not too late to join in.