That Won’t Work Here

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That Won’t Work Here

Dispelling four common myths about planting a church

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Several months ago, I had a conversation with a pastor of a mid-sized church. I’ll refer to him as “Tom.” As we talked about his church and the surrounding community, Tom articulated several reasons why planting another church in the area was a bad idea—and ultimately detrimental to his congregation. The reasons he cited, however, were rooted in common misconceptions. Unfortunately, Tom is not alone in his logic. Church planting has become a loaded topic with several contradicting opinions regarding its effectiveness and feasibility. If we are to fulfill our All of Jesus for All the World vision, we must address the myths that surround church planting. After all, if Alliance founder A. B. Simpson had bowed to the naysayers, he may never have planted the Gospel Tabernacle in the heart of New York City, and our movement of 2,000 gospel-proclaiming, community-impacting churches here in the United States and 21,000+ throughout the world may never have been birthed.

Admittedly, church planting can be hard work. Anything that bears significant Kingdom fruit always is; but the rewards are long-lasting and far-reaching. So, before we dismiss what could be a divine invitation to multiply our gospel presence, allow me to address four specific myths church leaders often cite to shelve or shutter church-planting initiatives.

Myth #1—“This town ain’t big enough for the both of us.”

When God calls someone to serve in their local church as a ministry leader or pastor, it can be difficult to avoid being sucked into the “church bubble.” The bubble can serve as a haven of rest, healing, and a gathering place for Christian community; but it can also induce blind spots when assessing the greater community and its needs. As I continued chatting with Tom about his perceived challenges to plant, he stated there simply wasn’t enough room for another church plant. After researching the community, I found the town’s population to be approximately 50,000 with 80 churches (all denominations), with an average seating capacity of 80 people. Mathematically speaking, if everyone in the community decided to go to church next Sunday, merely 6,400 (13%) would be able to get in. Even if all the churches offered two services, only about 13,000 could attend. What about the other 36,000? Don’t they need a church family to walk alongside them and help them grow in their knowledge of Jesus? This community needed not just one but several church plants to saturate its community with the gospel!

According to the 2018 Gallup Survey, between 80 and 85 percent of all churches in the United States have either stopped growing or are in decline, and an estimated three to four thousand close their doors each year.

What does this mean for established Alliance churches? Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few” (Luke 10:2). We need established churches to support new church planting-initiatives. The majority of new churches reach a completely different age or ethnic demographic than the established churches in their communities. Their ministry styles, expressions of worship, structures, and strategies typically differ from those of existing churches as well. The result is greater engagement, gospel saturation, and missional living for a much broader segment of people.

Myth #2­­—“Planting a new church will inhibit the growth of our own church.”

A good leader knows that the most valuable asset in an organization is its people. In ministry, there is almost no greater joy than having a trustworthy team member who is an anointed leader and gifted communicator—and wholeheartedly committed to the church and its mission. Think of the best leaders on your team. It took years of pouring yourself into them and walking alongside them throughout their spiritual growth journey. In the same way, church planting can feel costly to the sending church’s growth because it requires sending your best trained leaders out from your church community with no immediate tangible return on the church’s investment in them. Interestingly, however, the 2015 National Church Planting Study by Lifeway Research found that churches that train and send out leaders actually do better in reaching their own communities and grow faster than churches who don’t. Simply put, churches that get involved in church planting become more aware of their community’s needs and develop a more pronounced outreach mindset that renews their church DNA and reignites their core values.

Myth #3—“We can’t resource a church plant because we don’t have any resources to spare.”

Money. Staff. Leaders. Time. Resources. You name it. These are all essential assets to a church organization. Unfortunately, there never seems to be enough of anything. Pastors of churches of 50 congregants will say, “If I could reach 120, then I’ll have enough”; pastors of churches of 120 will say, “If only I could reach 400, then I’ll have enough”; and pastors of churches of 400 will say, “if only I could reach 800, then I’ll surely have enough.” Friends, Jesus’ command to go and make disciples, baptize them, and teach them to obey His commandments is enough. Our churches have apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers who are underutilized because they have not been released to launch new works using the gifts God has entrusted to them for His glory.

When the apostle Paul openly struggled with his afflictions and the difficulties that plagued his ministry, he wrote, “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead” (2 Cor. 1:9). To those who might already be feeling the burden of ministry, planting a church may seem like a death sentence. Becoming a greenhouse church is undoubtedly a faith-filled risk and will bring trials. However, the purpose of trials is to help us overcome self-reliance and rest fully in the all-sufficiency of Christ. We must trust in His provision. We must trust Him to raise up young leaders who will fill the vacant roles of those who have been sent out to plant. We must fully believe that “He will continue to build His Church and that the gates of Hell will not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).

Myth #4—“Our Church is too small to plant another one.”

In 1905, Albert Einstein developed the Theory of Relativity, a simple principle to explain a complex universe. In its simplicity, the theory states that there is no objective frame of reference for anything in existence. For example, we only know water to be hot or cold by measuring its heat in relation to something else. Likewise, when we say that a church is too small, it is only too small because we have likely sized it in relation to a larger church body. But we as believers know that contrary to Einstein’s theory, the “objective frame of reference” for the universe is God. To Him, no task is too small, too large, too insignificant, or “too impossible.”

We often make the assumption that small churches don’t have enough operating budget to plant. Traditional models rigidly suggest that hiring multiple, full-time staff, purchasing a building, and incurring other expenses make planting a church financially out of reach for most small and medium-sized churches. But church planting doesn’t have to be expensive! Fresh, organic approaches—like meeting in homes, coffee shops, and schools; sharing the pulpit; and utilizing volunteer support staff—can launch a new, vibrant church without breaking the bank.

Many small churches have successfully helped start new plants. Some have partnered with other local churches to pool resources to facilitate a plant. Statistically, it is common for parenting churches to replace all leaders sent out and experience a 10 percent growth increase within a year’s time. New Hope Alliance Church in Southwest Florida has experienced this growth three times! Every time it planted a new church, it released a significant number of leaders for the health of the plant. All three times, the congregation grew back to its original size within a few months. Through their obedience, 40–50 new believers have been baptized and discipled every year for the past decade!

Tom the Church Planter

Back to our friend Tom. After he shared his hesitation and concerns about planting, I was able to clarify these myths for him. I offered to partner with him in prayer to discern what God was calling him and his church to in this season. Recently, Tom notified me that his congregation has decided to plant a new church in their community!

Church planting is a biblical and effective way to reach the lost for Christ, with benefits not only to the plant and those it touches but also to the church that provides the resources to plant it. Join us as we work to advance a church multiplication movement throughout The Alliance in order to take All of Jesus to All the World. By praying and depending on the Holy Spirit, local churches will identify, develop, and deploy catalytic leaders who are eager to answer His call to plant multiplying churches for His glory.

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