by Brandon A. Cox: If the local church is the hope of the world… then we need more local churches.
As I write this, I’m a couple of hours away from teaching a lab at Saddleback Church’s Hope Renewed conference on Planting Purpose Driven Churches. I’m a huge believer in the power of church planting for extending the reach of God’s kingdom throughout the world.
The story of Grace Hills, the church we’ve been planting since Saddleback sent us to Northwest Arkansas six years ago, has had some exciting things happen. We started with one other family and this past Easter, we had over 550 people attending. That’s cool! But growing larger isn’t the most beautiful part of our story.
It’s that we’ve managed to spread out and multiply.
- We’ve sent two families to an unreached tribe of people in Papua New Guinea.
- We’ve started planting three daughter churches in the United States.
- We’ve partnered with other churches and plants throughout the country and the world, as well.
As Rick Warren always says, “The effectiveness of a church is measured by its sending capacity, not its seating capacity.”
Here’s the bottom line…
If you are in an established church, you should be planting daughter churches.
If you are in a new plant, you should be planting daughter churches.
But if it’s going to happen, what are the essential ingredients?
And by the way, I’m not trying to minimize the theology behind church planting. I’ve written about that elsewhere, such as in this post about A Biblical Ecclesiology for Church Planting. I’m just assuming we’re talking about planting Christ-centered, Bible-believing churches that would agree on the basics of biblical theology.
1. A visionary leader who creates a culture of multiplication.
Pastors are like thermostats who determine the temperature of the churches they lead. When you’re hotly passionate about Jesus, his body, and his word, so will your church be. And when you’re determined to plant churches to the point that you talk about it and make it part of your language, your church will follow.
It’s about the power of the phrase: “This is who we are.”
- We are a church planting church.
- We will help the church down the street.
- We’re about the whole kingdom, not just our corner of it.
Leadership is, in large part, culture creation.
2. A strategy for starting churches that works in your culture.
You can launch large, with momentum, which involves a timeline of six to twelve months and a series of steps leading toward a launch with as many people involved as possible. Ron Sylvia literally wrote the book on this with Planting Churches on Purpose.
You can also start a church in a slower, more organic way by making individual disciples, gathering them into a small group, and multiplying that group until the movement grows into a church.
I believe both approaches have their merit and too many people argue over which is more “biblical.” The problem is, different leaders, in different contexts, should use different approaches.
- It depends on where you are.
- It depends on the gifting of the leader.
- It depends on what resources are at your disposal.
- It must be all about the local church.
3. A simple, flexible structure.
The more complex something is, the harder it is to duplicate it. Some churches have more committees and programs than they have people. Other churches have such stringent written policies and processes that everything gets slowed down.
A church planting movement needs churches that are simple in their structure and flexible enough to change along the way. For example…
- Multipliable churches gather for worship and scatter for groups and don’t do many other meetings.
- The pastors are free to lead and cast vision and every member is a minister.
- Multipliable churches focus on God’s eternal purposes, not programs that consume energy.
4. A scalable process for making disciples.
I’ve written another post about having a scalable model for making disciples, and it’s an essential when it comes to leading a multiplying movement. Basically, every church needs to be able to lead people through the next step on their spiritual journey.
You need a simple way to lead people into membership in the body. That’s a membership class or a Newcomers Lunch or an introductory small group.
You need a simple way to help people grow in spiritual maturity. This is why small groups are so vital.
You need a simple way to help people discover their gifts and start serving others. Your ministry teams serve this purpose.
You need a simple way to help people articulate their faith story and live on mission with Jesus.
5. Systems that improve as the church grows.
You don’t have to have the best kids ministry or greeting ministry or music ministry to get started, but each of these areas of ministry and plenty of others need to be growing as you go.
Your various systems for connecting people, serving families, greeting newcomers, leading worship, preaching well, etc. need to be improving and growing.
“If we get better, we won’t have to worry about getting bigger.” – Truett Cathy, Founder of Chick-fil-A
Do you need money to plant a church? Well, it helps. But you can plant a church without money. What you do need is visionary leadership, a discipleship process, continually improving systems, and last but definitely not least, the blessing of Jesus and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit!
PS – I’ve helped a lot of pastors and church planters with coaching. We talk about the personal and spiritual life of the leader and we also get down to the nuts and bolts of developing a timeline, a launch team, small groups, using social media, outreach, and more. Interested in getting coached? Read a little more here.