65 new churches.
Amalgamation. Fresh Expressions. Satellites. Church Plants.
When I first saw this in the new senior staff proposal I thought what a bold, exciting challenge for us as a people of God to recapture our church planting DNA. That was long before I ever sensed God drawing me to serve as part of our CABC’s Senior Staff; long before I would find myself being one of those who are seeking to recruit and assess planters as well as figuring out support and creating space in peoples minds for new work.
In the months since coming on Staff the two loudest laments that we hear regarding the church planting/missional initiatives are “Hey what about us who have been hear all along?” and “Why do we need another Baptist church- we already have X number of churches here?”. Well, lets try to deal with those two laments.
The first is a lament that any reading in missional material will prepare you for as you start talking about a renewed focus of mission in the local community. It’s true, when I was in pastoral ministry and we started moving in the missional direction the first “concerns” we heard expressed were from long standing members who were concerned about their needs their friends’ needs. In that instance we sought to assure them that we all matter in the body by a renewed emphasis of pastoral care but reminded them that those who were not a part of our community of faith mattered as well.
And so the same with our churches.
The CABC as an organization exists only because we as local churches want to do ministry together, to care for one another as well as see God’s kingdom expanded. We exist to serve our member churches by coaching our leaders, both pastoral and lay in the good and difficult seasons of ministry. Via the Director of Clergy Formation & Health we continue to seek to have our clergy healthy and therefore better equipped to serve. Through the Director of Intercultural Ministries we continue to meet the needs of our vibrant and diverse cultural communities and the opportunities that God is opening up with them. As always we are all available to come and share the great stories of God moving us as his people in these days.
We have not forgotten those who are already here.
In fact church planting is a way in which we can even show care to our existing congregation. You may not have thought of it this way but Tim Keller in his article on “Why Plant Churches” indicates the whole body of Christ benefits and is renewed because of church planting.
First, church planting brings new ideas to the whole Body. If you have been impacted by either Willow Creek (Bill Hybels) or Saddleback (Rick Warren) material then you benefited from new ideas that were generated from a church plant. Existing congregations can learn new skills and methods, through a church plants freedom of innovate we begin to have what Keller identifies as our own ‘research and development” department.
Secondly, church planting is one of the best ways to surface creative, strong leaders for the whole body. Church plants typically will draw people who value creativity, risk, innovation and future orientation. For many of these individuals they would never find a home in many of our existing churches which value tradition, routine, tenure and kinship ties. New plants give these believers an opportunity to use their gifts to benefit the greater Christian community.
Thirdly, church planting challenges other churches to complete a self-exam. I remember pastoring in Norton when Apohaqui was replanted. As the congregation in Norton watch God do exciting things amongst that community there was some who had fear and wondered if Norton United Baptist days were numbered. There were others who saw this a great chance to do a self-examination about who they were as a people called by God with a purpose. They rediscovered the purpose that God had called them to and now 15 years later are a stronger congregation because of a church plant down the road. We are also hearing of creative partnerships being formed with church plants that provide a redemptive story instead of a death knell.
Finally, a church planting can be an evangelistic feeder for a whole community. The evangelistic nature of a church plant often sees many people come to faith and then wind up in some of the already established churches around the plant. A church plant may reach an individual with the gospel but they may discover that there is a congregation closer to their home or they may feel more comfortable in an already existing structure so they chose to go there instead of the plant.
So when we are talking about church planting and concern about whether we care about our existing member churches- we do. In fact, we believe that Church planting can be one of the dynamics that help us renew our existing churches.
My enthusiasm for this bold mission is still strong because of the hope it can bring!
Next time I’ll address the lament of territorial rights.
Much of this article was inspired by Tim Keller’s article “Why Plant Churches” which can be found here http://thenewcom.com/doc/Why_Plant_Churches.pdf
TRIVIA QUESTION: What 1985 song was I thinking about as I wrote this article?