I lived in Rocklin, CA for several years. This is a bedroom community of 70,000 northeast of Sacramento. Roughly half-way between my community and an adjacent city an Indian Casino was built. During the construction phase I commented to a friend, “I didn’t know that was Native American Land.” In response to my rhetorical inquiry, my friend said, “It wasn’t…until the tribe purchased it.”
Non-Native land became Native land because the tribe made the decision to purchase it. The tribe made it theirs by establishing a presence on the property. What a great analogy for church planting!
We may see a community, or an ethnic group and think, “God does not possess that place or those people. It is not His.” But it could be! If we were willing to establish His presence; if we were willing to possess a community, or people, in His name…through the starting of new missional outposts such soil could be claimed for God. This being the case, why don’t more existing churches consider the starting of new congregations? Often it has to do with existing churches and leader’s perception of the impact church planting might have on them.
Tom Rainer in his book, Effective Evangelistic Churches, identified “Ten “Missions Myths.’” Of the ten, five have to do with the starting of new churches. Let’s take a look at these “five myths.” A willingness to address them may contribute to our willingness to take new ground.
Starting New Churches Hurts the Mother Church: It does take sacrifice for an existing church to mother or parent a new church. It demands an investment of people, finances, time and energy. Viewing this from a purely human perspective, it might be seen as only an outflow of resources. However, seeing it from God’s viewpoint it is an expression of generosity. And generosity is rewarded.
Now is Not a Good Time: Is it ever a good time to do anything in ministry? It is true there are better times than others, but no time is the optimum time. Plan the best you can, but make your decision to parent on the Spirit’s prompting, not human timing.
We Are Not Large Enough to Start a New Church: One attitude I have noted in working with church leaders is that regardless of the size of their attendance they are one size too small to help start a new church. A church of 100 feels it needs to be, at least, a 150; a church of 200 believes it ought to be 225 or larger and so the argument goes. Truth be told, churches of any size can parent, if they so choose. Rainer discovered that more churches were started by those averaging less than 500 than any other sized church (Effective Evangelistic Churches, p162, Exhibit 9-5).
A New Church Will Hurt Other Churches in the Area: This rarely happens. “Usually the new church will reach people whom the existing church has not and will not be able to reach” (Rainer, p165). Church planting is about taking new ground geographically or demographically. It is not about attracting existing members of established churches. If the latter happens it is church pretending, not planting.
The Community is Fully Churched: This may be a dilemma somewhere, but not in North America. Instead we are a relatively un-churched society. “We need tens of thousands of new churches to reach people who have not responded to existing churches” (Rainer, p66).
What ground needs to be taken for Christ? Where does a new missional community need to be established? Be a myth-buster and pursue the birthing of a new congregation out of your church.