I am frequently asked why we at Emmaus are so committed to church planting. Is it a biblical conviction? Should all churches be doing this? Is it just a fad? What’s the deal?
While I am thankful for the resurgence in church-planting we are not comitted to it because it is popular but because it is biblical. I really believe that it is right and that it is effective. As leaders we have attempted to create a culture that prayerfully and purposefully longs and plans for church planting. Below are some of the reasons why.
SOME BIBLICAL & LOGICAL REASONS–
Multiplication is embedded in the Great Commission. The resurrected and reigning King Jesus has deputized his followers with the charge of making disciples. This charge is the vehicle by which God is bringing the gospel to the nations. Let’s not miss the obvious: Christ desires this to be effective. He wants to see disciples made. Therefore, at the very start we must conclude that multiplication is embedded in the Great Commission.
Church Planting rises out of faithful Great Commission Churches. Faithful churches work hard to make disciples; like the Apostle Paul they gladly embrace the paradigm of spending and being spent for souls (2 Cor. 12.15). This includes local missions (neighborhoods), regional missions (state), national missions (country) and international missions (nations). The result of a church grappling with the Great Commission is a church that is pregnant for missions. It has a heart to reach its neighbors and the nations.
What happens when people and resources are deployed to this end? Disciples are made. When you make disciples you will need more churches. This just makes sense; you will need to be pro-church planting if you are pro-Great Commission. We want to see disciples made in our city, state, country and among the nations. Therefore, we want to pursue church planting in those same spheres. Church planting and faithfulness to the Great Commission go hand and hand.
Church Planting follows the New Testament pattern. After being instructed in the University of Jesus and having seen him ascend to heaven, the disciples got to preaching (Acts 2-4). The book of Acts chronicles how they began preaching and then there was opposition (Acts 4-7). That opposition forced them out to the nations (Acts 8.1). What we see from there in Acts is the work of the Apostle Paul and others, going from town to town shaking the trees and watching the fruit fall. Churches are planted all over the Roman Empire as disciples are being made. There is no indication that this priority should ever wane or shift. So if church planting is cool again, then praise God that First Century cool is back.
Church Planting is an effective long-term evangelism strategy. Short-term mission trips have their value and place. However, long-term missions, if you can pull it off, are always preferred. If you desire to reach a particular community in your city for the next 100 years, how are you going to do it? The best plan, hands down, is to put a church there. Not only does this work, but it is biblical. The church is God’s evangelism program. Let’s plant some long-term commitment in communities. I often dream of being old and grey and looking at dozens of churches planted as part of the ministry of Emmaus Bible Church. I smile at that and pray for that with joy because our impact would not be tied to just this church, seasonal programs, or even a generation, but to many communities, many churches, and many families.
SOME PRACTICAL REASONS–
Church Planting stretches members. As a pastor of a church plant I can look around at the people serving and know that if they were at another church they probably would not be doing what they are doing. The fact that they are at a new work forces them to step up and lead. They can’t stand on the sidelines and watch someone else do it, they have to do it, or it won’t get done. This stretching is, I believe, quite healthy.
Church Planting stretches leaders. If you are going to be committed to church planting then you have to be training people to understand how to make disciples. In other words, you have to be training people to be disciples and make disciples. The church-planting pastor has a little bit of crazy entrepreneur in him. He wants to start, build and sustain the organization only to send his best people away and rebuild it. While his belies the traditional approach to building personal kingdoms of comfort and safety it does seem to reflect the biblical pattern. And it does force leaders to be constantly working hard to make disciples in light of a big-kingdom view.
Church Planting is not (very) expensive. Believe it or not, it is not incredibly expensive to plant a church. Most people look at what they are doing and say, “There is no way we can afford to double this.” The fact is, they are right. However, you don’t need to double it. You need to send a guy and some friends into a community to make disciples. Renting a small space is usually not rediculually expensive (I know this is not universally true) and a budget to suport ministry does not have to include every single “want to have” available. At the end of the day, you need a pastor, leaders, a Bible, and somewhere to meet. Along these lines, we have been greatly encouraged by other churches coming alongside of us and offering to support church planting financially as we endeavor to see a church planted in Gretna, Nebraska (more info). This too is a great encouraging gift from God that echoes New Testament patterns (2 Cor. 9).
It is important to note in this that there are obviously situations where churches are not directly involved in church planting. Things like finances, personel, and various seasons in church life could make this more difficult. However, as a pastor we are always to be working to faithfully obey the Great Commission therefore church planting should be on the radar. This may involve a reorientation of thought for some and for others it is just a connection between evangelism to discipleship to church planting. They all come together under the rubric of being a missionary, living sent by God proclaiming the message of the sent Son in the power of the sent Holy Spirit.
My prayer is that pastors and churches would have the priority of faithfulness to the Great Commission and all if its implications. In some cases this means a reorientation of discipleship that includes being a missionary who pursues the planting of churches.