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Planting A New Church

I am a church planter—not just because I have planted churches, but because I believe in church planting. It is God’s design to grow His church on the earth. Church planting advances the Kingdom of God by taking the light into the darkness. It involves going to people and places that need to experience the love and power of God through Jesus Christ.

What makes church planters is not so much the act of planting churches or a trail of church plants, but the deepest conviction that church planting is God’s intended way to win the lost, to pastor and disciple those who believe, to train and equip the army of God, and to activate and send the Body of Christ into the world to plant more churches.

Things To Consider When Planting A New Church

If you’re planning to plant and pastor a new church, then here is a short list of things you need to consider before you set out.

  • Who are you trying to reach? Where do they live? How do you plan to reach them?
  • Will you need to do language studies before you start? Will vocational or professional training come first? Have you had any cross-cultural experience?
  • Are there any churches in the area already? Do you know their story? Are you planning to build a relationship with them before you start? 
  • What’s the budget for your church plant? 
  • When will you begin? Who needs to know? How will you communicate it?
  • What style of community church and worship service will you have? 
  • Do you have team members? Do you have a plan for developing launch team members? Do the launch team members know what will be expected of them? Who will lead the team?
  • What kind of support can you expect from other churches and church leaders, such as within your denomination, movement, church network, community church, house church, cell group? What kind of accountability do those partners expect?
  • Have you set clear goals? Have you set a timeframe for reaching them?
  • Are you and your spouse in agreement on planting a church? How will the church plant affect your family? 

Clearly, this list is not exhaustive, but includes some topics church planters, lead pastors, and launch team members need to carefully consider. Though there are various schools of thought about specific details of how to plant churches, these same questions are valuable.

Before we go further in talking about church plants, though, it might be helpful to have a shared definition of what I mean by churches. 

What Do We Mean When We Talk About “Churches”?

I always go back to God’s word when there is a question about our understanding of such things. Let’s take a look at what the Bible says about churches and church planting. 

The Idea Of Vine & Branches

In John 15:5, Jesus said to His disciples, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Jesus was speaking about things to come, explaining that He was the source of all that His Father in heaven would do on the earth; if they continued to follow Jesus in everything pertaining to their life and work, they would see the results of His work through them. 

But what does the concept of vine and branches have to do with churches and church planting? 

Well, for a start, there is only one vine—not many vines, but only one. Jesus was not referring to denominations, movements, or what we call churches (of which there are many), but to himself: 

The Son of God, sent by the Father, full of the Holy Spirit, to die for the sins of the world, to be raised from the dead, to send the Holy Spirit once ascended so that his work on earth would continue through his Body, the Church! What there are “many of” is branches. One vine, many branches. Simple, right? (I wish!) 

Let me explain further: Since there is only one vine, there is only one Church. If we are talking about planting new churches, then we must talk about something that is not separate from or additional to the one true and living Church, that is Christ’s.

Planting A New Church Is About People

Planting a new church is actually bringing about church growth. We are not starting something “new” as if it doesn’t already exist. And to be clear, since Jesus is the vine, we are the branches. People, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. People, born-again, Spirit-filled. People, called by name, set apart, consecrated, Spirit-gifted, mantled with the destiny and purpose of God, to advance His Kingdom throughout the earth! People. 

As pastors and church leaders you will need buildings for the church to meet in, and equipment to facilitate the ministry—that is, running programs, holding worship services, having meetings—but none of these things together or separately are the Church. The Church is the people. 

Don’t forget this, and if you truly believe it, then as you plant churches, keep restating what you believe with your life, for the rest of your life!

A Story About “Going” To Church

For a long time, a small group met in our house week after week, year after year, every Saturday night. Those were some rich times of ministry for my wife and for me. 

Over the years, different people came, some to stay, some just passing through. One man who was a “regular” would be among the first to stand up at the end of each evening and say, 

“Well, I gotta go now ‘cause I gotta go to church in the morning.” 

As he moved to leave, I would meet him at the door and say, “Just remember, you can’t go to church, you can only be the Church!” He and I would laugh before we blessed each other and said goodbye. 

This went on for some time until one night he got up in his usual manner, saying what he always said, but before I could answer he laughed and said, 

“Yes, yes, I know, ‘You can’t go to church, you can only be the Church’. 

As warmly as I knew how, I responded by saying, “No you don’t know, because when you do know something that God has revealed to you, it changes the way you talk and the way you act. It’s called, my friend, ‘transformation’.” 

You can’t go to church because the church is not a physical address or a building on the corner of a city street. It is not a worship service, meeting, or program. The Church is God’s people. This is the truth. 

My Story Of Planting A New Church

Years ago, when I set out as lead pastor to plant and pastor my first church, the District Superintendent of the denomination that I was with said, “We are sending you to another city to ‘organize’ as a new church.” It was his way of explaining a church plant. 

He was right—it took a lot of organizing as well as personal effort to plant that church from scratch! 

From the time we “went public”, there was no turning back: No Sundays off, no excuses for not delivering weekly sermons and Bible studies, meeting with the launch team, counselling church members, doing weddings and funerals, worship service preparation, etc. Planning, scheduling, organizing? You bet! But all that activity, and all my performance did not create or sustain His Church. Organize a church into being? I think not. 

What you end up with is a Christianized organization with its members and regular activities. What is needed—what every church planter and launch team needs—is a revelation of Christ’s Church by the Spirit of God, preferably before stepping out to plant a new church.

What we say or how we talk so often expresses what we think. When our thinking changes, then how we talk changes, too. If information is meant to inform, then a revelation of the Spirit is meant to transform. Jesus was not trying to inform his disciples with regard to His Church, He was imparting a revelation to them. Later, on the day of Pentecost when the disciples received the Holy Spirit, their transformed minds understood things that they could only know by the Spirit. 

As a consequence, they talked differently—no longer confused and scared by Jesus’ bewildering departure, but clear-minded and emboldened by an infusion of the Spirit of God. Peter’s response to the gobsmacked crowd that day would mark the beginning of a transformation that continued in many others who repented, believed, and followed Jesus. 

One Church, One Church Planter

So what’s my point? The point is that it is actually wrong to think that you can plant something that already exists. As Jesus explained, just as there is only one true vine, there is only one true Church. And there is only one Church planter! He said, “My Father is the gardener,” and He has planted His Church through His Son by the Holy Spirit. The Bible makes it clear that Jesus’ Church already exists and will prevail on earth until the Lord, Himself, returns. 

This brings us back to our definition. Church planting (“new” implied), is really about the Church being fruitful. 

There is no new vine to be planted, there are just branches to be grown. The growth is the Lord’s work in us and through us. He causes us to bear fruit, rather than we make ourselves fruitful (or productive) in his name. 

When God works through us in marvelous and miraculous ways, then He gets the glory and the testimony belongs to Him, rather than to man. Remember, as the scripture says, we are all, “like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). The house is God’s work. “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1). 

And so, when it comes to church planting:

  • The planting is God’s
  • The building is God’s
  • Even our ability to bear fruit is His!

When we understand this by a revelation of the Spirit, then our transformed heart and mind come into alignment with the heart and mind of God. 

Without this kind of alignment, any new work that a man or woman begins will end up being more about their good intentions—and falsely founded on the idea that they are starting a new church. Truly God wants His Church to grow; however, we must carry a revelation of His Church in our hearts and minds in order to remain in Jesus as we step out to do His work. All church growth depends upon this, as apart from him we can do nothing (John 15:5). 

So what we really mean when we talk about planting new churches is adding branches to the true vine that will, hopefully, bear much fruit. But adding a new branch is not like building an extension onto your house. 

The only way this kind of branch is added to the vine is when an individual repents, believes in Jesus, and follows Him. It is the individual, not a community church, that is added to Jesus. The new believer, then, becomes another branch in the living vine, with great fruit-bearing potential. 

This is key to pastors and church leaders understanding what is “new” about church planting: It is not about the nation or the city or the town you go to. Nor is it about the building or equipment or programs or worship services you run in your church plants. 

It is, ultimately, about each individual you reach with the gospel who gives their life to Jesus and is born again by the Spirit of God. A dead stone that is now living! That is what makes things new. 

But?

But what about the re-grouping, re-branding, re-packaging of the saints? 

What about lead pastors discipling those who are already “in Christ”? 

What about training and equipping, activating and sending? 

These are all good, necessary and important, but this is not new church planting, but rather shepherding believers to maturity. 

The chafing point in this is that we can work hard and spend huge amounts of resources caring for and being pastors to those who already believe in Christ, yet never see them become fruit-bearers in advancing the Kingdom! In fact, we might dare to conclude that the fruitfulness of the Body of Christ when it comes to church growth is a measure of our own ministry. And the cutting edge of the Church will always be in reaching the lost with the gospel of God’s love and forgiveness through Jesus Christ—in one word: evangelism. 

Our challenge is to do both well, that is, to pastor the Church in such a way that they are activated and sent out as “fishers of men”. Any other reason for church planting suggests we’ve failed to understand the apostolic and prophetic foundations of the Church (Ephesians 2:20). 

Advice for would-be church planters? In the words of Ed Stetzer, “Don’t let your church be a cul-de-sac on the Great Commission highway.”

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What Every Lead Pastor Needs to Know About Church Metrics

There isn’t a church planter or lead pastor who doesn’t care about success. Some may not admit this, fearing that might seem “unspiritual” to others. However, the desire for success in ministry is a common driving force.

Of course there are acceptable ways of talking about success. For instance, we talk about church growth all the time. Whether through winning people for Christ and discipleship of new converts or attracting existing believers to a church plant that seems new and fresh, growing churches is what it is all about. But which church metrics do we use to evaluate success? What kind of church data and tool can determine if we have met our goals?

In this post we’re going to provide an overview of church metrics and discuss their use (and misuse):

Keep reading to learn why and how to set church metrics that matter. 

Popular Metrics Church Leaders Use To Evaluate Success

Within churches, growth is often publicly shared and showcased through testimonies: Acts of miraculous faith, servanthood, irrational generosity, fruitfulness, and transformed lives, of course, are the markers of a person’s walk with Jesus. 

Yet shoptalk between pastors most often reflects a numbers game. Some of the most commonly sought after and tracked  church data includes :

  • Attenders and attendance 
  • Membership rolls
  • Salvations 
  • Salvation follow-ups 
  • Baptisms
  • Tithes and giving 
  • Discipleship
  • Outreach programs
  • Small group numbers
  • Staffing numbers
  • Volunteers 
  • Team members

The list of church metrics goes on, from the rational (number of cars in the parking lot) to the slightly more obscure.

Back in the 80s, the senior pastor who I was serving at the time carefully tracked how many cassette tapes (remember those?) of his message were purchased each week. For him, success was measured through tape sales!

Tools You Can Use To Track Church Data

If these are the church metrics that matter to you, you can find a whole slew of tools and church management software that’ll help you set goals and track your metrics. The advantage of chms software is that it allows you to spend less time managing the data, and more time developing insights so you can make better decisions. 

For many church plants, and church leaders with rapidly changing congregations, understanding what’s happening in your church can be very valuable. With a host of free tools available, including Church Metrics from life.church, you can simply use an iPad and their iOS app (also available as a mobile app on Android) to very quickly get a much richer understanding of what’s happening in your church. 

Below is a list of some other church management software with metrics functionality:

  1. Wild Apricot 
  2. Elvanto 
  3. Breeze 
  4. Chmeetings 
  5. TouchPoint 

But before you go and check out the pricing and functionality for those tools, read on friend. 

Measuring success: a numbers game

There is nothing intrinsically unspiritual with counting numbers. Or should I say, there is neither anything spiritual nor unspiritual about analyzing and evaluating performance in relationship to established goals. The science of statistics is used worldwide to track everything from sports to world pandemics in real time. And now, with the help of social media, measuring popularity and success has soared to a new level. 

Whether you are selling merchandise, raising money through crowdfunding, building a YouTube channel, or preaching the gospel, knowing who you are aiming to reach, whether you have reached them, and their response to your message, is vital. 

You want to reach the world for Christ, right? As a pastor, you probably meet the group you pastor at least once a week. In the past (that is, pre-COVID), people typically gathered at service times. Since last year, many Sunday services are now live-streamed, which has changed everything. 

People who would normally “go to church” can stay home; but now anybody who has access to the internet and a link to your livestream can join in, too! As a pastor you’re wondering:

  • Who are these people?
  • How is the outreach of your service affecting or influencing them? 
  • What decisions and actions are they taking because of it?

Perhaps these are the same questions pastors have always asked; but now, with the help of the internet, your potential to reach people has increased exponentially. 

Sure, we have had television evangelists and Christian programming for some time, but broadcasting has become both affordable and accessible to almost every local church around the world. All of a sudden, there is a real chance for you to make a connection—a touchpoint—with more people than you ever were able to before!

Why Measurement Matters

But back to the numbers game. Putting aside important discussion about KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) we need to measure our performance. 

Of course, fear of criticism (and goodness knows, pastors get enough criticism!) can keep you from inviting any kind of feedback. But without a means of measuring performance there is no credible way of knowing, this side of heaven, if your ministry is effective. 

Mind you, as I have already said, if you have no clear, well-defined goals to begin with then you really won’t have anything to measure. With no results to measure, then the value of doing (programs, services, and events) is justified by the work you do (time, effort, and resources), rather than the results it brings.

For now, assuming that you have some clear goals in place, some form of measurement is not only helpful, but essential. Effective ministry is the result of clearly articulated goals, strategic planning, activation and empowerment, and then honest evaluation. What makes this spiritual is when we prayerfully seek the heart and mind of God for his purposes to be accomplished through our lives, for the sake of His son, Jesus.

The Misuse Of Church Metrics

So whether you are a pastor or other church leader of a church plant or nonprofit, you will benefit from tracking church metrics in real time, and using them to follow up with better decisions, and even optimize stewardship. The challenge with such things, though, is not in the measuring. Rather, it is a problem with ourselves, an issue of identity. 

An issue of mistaken identity

Our sense of self-worth is far more dependent on our performance than most of us are comfortable admitting. The outcome is that we are likely to measure our own personal value by what we do rather than who we are. We feel good about ourselves when we are performing well, and bad when we are not. Even worse, we may be tempted to believe that we are better than others who do not perform as well! 

Consequently, we look for, even crave for, anything that would indicate that we are doing a good job—a better job—the best job!

When our sense of identity is derived from being loved and accepted based on how we’ve performed, then we live not in the love of Christ but in the fear of man. We might be able to meet up to someone else’s standards for awhile, perhaps, but never God’s! 

This is why, before we turn to church metrics to measure our success, we must rest, again, in the reality of the unconditional love of God the Father. God’s love is not based on our performance but on who we are. Leaning too heavily on the numbers will always lead us astray. The trouble is that the indicators the world looks for are not the same as God’s. Numbers may result in misleading conclusions about our ministry efforts, not because the numbers are wrong, but because of the way we interpret them. 

What Metrics Really Matter—And Why

Let’s be honest: According to the world’s measuring stick (particularly in the United States), high-achievers who demonstrate an almost super-human capacity for work are not only rewarded for what they do but are also exalted as models of success. 

Again, there is nothing wrong with working hard, just as there is nothing wrong with measuring the fruit of your hard work.

However, when we apply God’s measuring stick to our lives, we find He is looking for something very different. For Him, what matters most is not the numbers but what’s in our hearts. 

Measuring success with Heaven’s ruler

While we are tempted to simply count fruit, God looks first for its quality! Faithfulness, trust, devotion, sacrifice, servanthood, humility, love—all these characteristics mark us. And though they need to be expressed through action, that is, through what we do (see James 2:20), when they are found in us, as the core of our being in Christ, God is pleased.

So, how do we strike a balance between resting in God’s unconditional love, on the one hand, and the work that He has called us to, on the other? How do we evaluate our performance and that of our team members, spiritually speaking, while at the same time not trusting the count of measurable things to inform and direct us with regard to the things that cannot be counted? 

The balance, I believe, lies between knowing who you are in God’s perfect love in Christ—fully forgiven, fully accepted—and the undeserved calling to serve God on earth so that He might do His heavenly work through you. By faith and in trust, we lay down our work to rest in the confidence of the knowledge that He will accomplish His work through us.

When I was a boy growing up I loved going to the playground. After the swings, my next favourite equipment was the teeter-totter. To play, you need two willing subjects, one at each end: one to “teet” and the other to “tot”. In the middle was a balancing point. If there was equal weight, with equal exertion at both ends, a well-calibrated instrument would stabilize, becoming still and resting in the balance. This theory is sound, but remember: Most children want to go up and down, producing endless motion rather than balancing perfectly at rest! 

Not surprisingly, knowing who we are in God and doing the work He has called us to is more like the back and forth, up and down of children playing on the teeter-totter than a theology of balance:

 What we know and experience in the world in which we live gives constant pushback against who God is and how He works. 

Our challenge is to live in a natural world ruled by natural principles and laws, yet operate instead by the rules and principles of the Kingdom of God. Sometimes these things seem to come into balance and we find harmony in the two realities, but most of the time they just seem to clash. 

The key is not so much finding a balance between what we know in the natural and what is revealed to us in the Spirit, but rather resting in God between the two.

The Art Of Biblical Church Data Interpretation

So where does that leave us? Well, it brings us to a simple conclusion: If you really want to know how you are doing, you might want to think about who you are asking and what your motives are in asking.

Once all the measuring is done and the numbers have been calculated, the results may all be the same, yet the interpretation of those results might lead to different conclusions.

The senior pastor I mentioned who counted the sales of his sermon recordings as an indicator of his success fell into adultery and lost his ministry. He was a great preacher and he did sell a lot of tapes; but this was not enough to keep him from unnecessary failure with a catastrophic outcome. He chose to look at the numbers he wanted to see with total disregard for what God wanted to show him in his heart.

Remember when Samuel went to Bethlehem to anoint a new king to replace Saul who God had rejected? He was asked to anoint one of Jesse’s sons. We know in hindsight that David was the one who was chosen; but if it had been up to Samuel, he would have picked Eliab. 

1 Samuel 16:6 says, “So it was, when they came, that he (Samuel), looked at Eliab and said, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him!'” 

When Samuel measured the man standing in front of him, he concluded that this one would be a good candidate to receive a kingly anointing. But the prophet got it wrong. What might have been a real win for Eliab ended up not to be so, because ultimately God’s measuring stick was used, rather than man’s. “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart'” (1Samuel 6:7).

In the end, Samuel anointed God’s pick: David. That day Samuel, the man, functioned in his calling, fulfilling his prophetic assignment because he acted upon God’s judgement and not his own.

Bottom line? 

How God sees and measures can only be known to those to whom He chooses to reveal such things. And so, when it comes to church metrics, let’s continue to count, measure, record, analyze, and evaluate church data. Sure, choose interactive church management software (ChMS) with the best functionality for your context. 

But don’t forget that what will matter most in your life and ministry is how God measures you and the work you have done in His name.

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What is Church Planting? (And Why it Matters in 2021)

There is no local or global disciple making without church planting. Period. The future of Christianity and of God’s mission rests on this practice.

In this post, we’re going to cover off some the biggest questions about church planting. Keep reading to find out:

What is church planting?

Simply put, church planting is starting a new church from an existing church.

Church planting fulfils the mission of God in every place, space and context in which we find ourselves. Its activity is rooted in Jesus’ instructions in the New Testament Bible.

In Discovering Church Planting, JD Payne reads this out of the Great Commission of Matthew 28. For Payne, church planting “tells us how to make disciples” and “offers a paradigm for reaching villages, tribes urban enclaves and entire cities with the gospel.” He is on-to something important here about scope and why to talk about it.

Church planting process from Missional Church Planting
Church planting process from: https://missionalchurchplanting.org/2013/11/06/cultivating-personal-discipleship/

If the church is understood as the people of God, then where on earth (or beyond) can people (boldly) go that the church cannot go? Where can nations exist without the people who establish its culture, laws and structures?

It follows that where the people are, there can be the church. Where the church is, there is Jesus Christ. If new churches are not reaching the unreached people of the future, then who will? What activity can?

What The Great Commission says about church planting

Church planting, then, is not just one of many different strategies and practices that respond to the Great Commission of Jesus. It is the best strategy and the best practice. Experienced church planters Roger McNamara & Ken Davis make this clear. In The Y-B-H Handbook of Church Planting, they suggest that:

“Church planting best fulfills the directives and goals of the Great Commission because as churches are planted in every nation, disciples are made in that nation just as Christ commanded should be done.”

Roger McNamara & Ken Davis

In the Bible these local, new churches are reproduced out of an existing church from somewhere else. The people of God in one place with one people group establish a community of the people of God in another place and another group.

Why church planting is important

It is that simple—in words. It is much more difficult when the rubber-hits-the-road. The lives of the twelve apostles, new believers, and the Apostle Paul in the Book of Acts reveal the stakes: church planting either costs or very nearly cost them their lives (c.f. Acts 7; 12; 27). 

How the Apostle Paul planted churches

The Apostle Paul’s theology and practice make church planting integral to God’s mission. The Jesus Film Project highlights in their blog how Paul’s missiology of church planting fuelled his missionary journeys. His training and appointing of local leadership in new churches filled with new believers reveals his desire to multiply the global through the local church. This emphasis is picked up by Chris Bowers and Scott Zeller in their blog too.

Dangerous as it might have been, church planting as a practice was not stopped because the future of Christianity was, for Paul, the greater cost. McNamara and Davis say that the Apostle Paul in particular “did many things, but he never neglected” the practice of “planting new churches.” In the end, Paul ran the race and fought the fight of church planting (c.f. 2 Tim 4:7)

This cursory review or preliminary Bible study on the topic strongly suggests that church planting should be at the tip of the missional spear. The Great Commission of Jesus, the Book of Acts, and the theology and practice of the Apostle Paul demand it. 

Why church planting matters in 2021

The activity and priority of planting churches in the Bible is a foundation for all disciples today, because the world still holds a very great many people who do not know or follow Jesus Christ. “Church planting is needed,” says James R. Nikkel, in Church Planting Road Map, “because new communities need to be reached for Christ.” 

This demands some understanding of the past and present of 2020 but much response of the future of 2021 and beyond. Starting with understanding the cultural moment now, Christopher James, in Church Planting in Post-Christian Soil, paints a detailed and methodical picture of the great expanse and rise of secularity in North America in the last 50 years. It seems apparent to James that in Western culture God is more fantasy than fact—believed in by the minority, not the majority of people.

Church planting is relevant

What does surprise about James’ work, however, is his analysis of the minority, Christian church. James says,

“Rather than demoralizing the faithful, the minority status of confessional Christians seems to counterintuitively contribute to the vitality of their religious identity and mission.”

Christopher James

In other words, he believes that the mission of God has never been more relevant. If the mission of God is in a context of vitality, then the same stands for planting churches. Though secularism may be dominant, James believes paradoxically it has “proved to be a rather fertile environment for fervent Christianity.” People are ready. The time for planting is now.

Church planting demands a response

But this comes down to how the church responds. The people of God today, like those of yesterday, need to establish communities of the people of God for tomorrow.

Planting churches, therefore, matters in 2021 not only because there will still be a majority of people who do not know Jesus. It matters because there will also be robust minority of Christians who can assess their role and calling in the outworking of the mission of God. 

This means that anyone, whether a follower of Jesus or not, should think in some way about how church planting impacts their personal and corporate future. Below or some areas for you to consider in this process of discernment.

5 church plants to look out for in 2021

Whether you live in the Vancouver B.C. area or not, this unique season of church online means that you can look out for a handful of new church plants that I can recommend from in my context in 2021.

  1. Tidal Church: located in North Vancouver, B.C. Tidal Church is led by John and Kate Payne, who are experienced church planters from the UK. This church emphasizes the gifts of the Holy Spirit, small groups and the word of God. While the soft launch with their core team is happening in 2020, they are looking to ramp up their gathering and online presence in 2021. Read about John and Kate here.
  2. The Way Church: located in Vancouver, B.C., The Way Church is led by Rachael and Jason Ballard, the latter of whom is a mainstay in the Youth Alpha Video Series, now showcased online. Jason’s leadership and experience with the Alpha is exceptionally relevant to this moment where digital and video is the predominant medium through which church members are reached, and the values of the Kingdom of God are on display to the world beyond Vancouver. Learn about The Way Church here.
  3. City Life Church: also located in Vancouver, B.C., City Life Church is led by Todd and Stephanie Lueck. It was recently planted by its mother church City Life Chilliwack, who believe that the mission field is not only global, but local in the city centres. Find out more about City Life Church here.
  4. C3 Manhattan: Planted out of the mega- influential mega-church of Redeemer Presbyterian Church (which has been led by Tim Keller) this C3 church is a great blend of young vibrancy and traditional orthodoxy. If you’re not based in New York City, no problem. Their online services are eclectic and Christ focused. Plus there are many different C3 church across North America, Europe and beyond. Check out C3 Manhattan here.
  5. Christ Church SF: Located in the heart of San Francisco, Christ Church SF was planted through the Acts 29 network, a church planting group led by Matt Chandler. Christ Church SF embraces the Father’s heart to see places of influence, like the city centre of SF, transformed for the glory of Jesus. Learn more about this church here.

Why should you join a church plant

If you are excited about Christian missions and you want to discover your life’s passion, then you should join a church plant in 2021. It is those who join-in and plant churches that are also the ones who establish the short- and long-term future of Christianity.

“We discovered that churches that have a DNA of reproduction are among the most effective churches at reaching the lost and unchurched across America.” 

Thom Rainer

Here, in the book Church Planting from the Ground Up, Rainer and other church planters suggest that there is no better context for fulfilling your passion in Jesus in reaching the world than in a church plant.

The passion of evangelism and multiplication naturally spills out of one new church plant and into another. It is like wild fire. David Garrison speaks as such in, Church Planting Movements. Whereas “church planters may start the first churches” he goes on to say that other “churches themselves get into the act” and the birth of a movement occurs. Local churches in these areas go the extra mile, not giving up on discipleship, spiritual development or worship.

Being part of a movement is special. For church planters and bloggers, like Steve Sjogren, it creates a momentum that should cause us to “rejoice, if you have it. The calling and passion is worth it!

Why church planting isn’t for everyone

Whereas church planting is a missional practice that every Christian should deeply consider, joining church plants as a church leader or committed member is not for everyone, and some new church plants can emphasize unhealthy long-term behaviour.

First, you should probably avoid a church plant if it is too focused on the numbers, that is, the quantity of members or attendees. John Jackson, in High Impact Church Planting, speaks plainly about the unique position church plants are in the missional lifecycle. He believes, “New churches must reach new people or they die!” If this is true, then new church plants might be tempted to over-emphasize the importance of numbers.

In an environment where numbers become the focus of growth, other elements of church planting, like spiritual and emotional growth, can be put to the wayside. Sadly, church leaders, like Karl Vaters, have gone through this experience. What you can do, however, is learn from his experience!

Further reading

If you found this interesting, check out this post Church Planting Advice from Hillsong’s Brian Houston. And if you’re starting a church, check out our list of the best church management software.

What do you think?

Are you interested in church planting? Been a part of a church plant? What was your experience? Have you discovered any church plants that we haven’t mentioned? Let us know if the comments below.

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Church Planting Advice: 10 Tips From Hillsong’s Brian Houston

If you’re a church planter, or a lead pastor starting a new church plant and looking for church planting advice, make sure you check out these ten tips from Pastor Brian Houston, from Hillsong. He’s the pastor of Hillsong, a network of established churches across the world, with stacks of experience of the challenges facing lead pastors and Christians when starting a new church. 

Even if you’re a Senior Pastor, or church leader of an established church you’ll find this post contains some thought provoking principles for expanding and growing your 

In summary – here’s what this article on church planting advice covers:

  1. You must recognize your grace zone
  2. Cherish the baby steps of the new church plant 
  3. Determine to be ethical and true to yourself
  4. Expand from a position of strength
  5. Be sure you have counted the cost
  6. Pray for the right people, in the right place, at the right time
  7. Not just easy places or nice places, but right places
  8. Avoid the perils of shortcuts, or individuals who promise the world
  9. Value connection and relationships
  10. Church planting can be part of the answer or part of the problem

It was in 1999 when Bobbie and I were given the opportunity to do something — which for us at that time was a bold and innovative step. We were asked to take on the leadership of my parents’ inner-city church in ADDITION to the church we were already pastoring in the Northwest of Sydney — Hillsong Church.

Bold and innovative because although today in 2013 there are countless models of incredible multi-site churches, back in 1999 it was totally new territory in which we knew of few, if any, role models to look to for guidance.

Fourteen years on, our City Campus is an established church, a thriving and integral part of Hillsong Church and along the way we have learned a great deal about multi-site expansion and global evangelism and  church planting; as Hillsong has spread to some of the worlds most influential cities. I am not called to plant churches everywhere, but where we do, my hope and prayer is that we can build significant churches whose impact for the Cause of Jesus Christ spreads far beyond their own walls. When we started Hillsong London many years ago, impact and influence seemed like a far away fantasy –and yet that is exactly what has and is unfolding through a healthy local church congregation in that city.

I’m no expert, but I have been asked many times what are some of the keys to successful expansion, and so here are ten principles for church planting that I have learned on our own journey:

Church planting advice for church leaders

1. You must recognize your grace zone

Church planting is a GRACE and if you stay “within the sphere of the grace God has given you,” His holy spirit, favor and blessing will be on your endeavors. Not every opportunity is a GOD opportunity and I find that people struggle when they don’t recognize this. It is important to stay in your lane and run your own race.

2. Cherish the baby steps of the new church plant

Christian church planting is PIONEERING and that means you have to recognize the old adage that “you can’t run be before you can walk”. The first time I was at one of our ‘Heart and Soul’ nights at Hillsong New York City, the worship team had a mid-song train crash. Perhaps I made them nervous, as apparently it had never happened before, but we had to start the song all over again. That is just one of the examples from some of the great memories that just two years on, we can all look back on and laugh about. 

Since then, the worship team in New York City has taken giant strides forward and even in those early days the services were electric. But just like when your baby starts to walk, those ‘crashes’ are the precious memories in pioneering that we should always cherish, learn from and laugh about.

Even when Hillsong churches have started with great crowds (such as in Cape Town and New York City), it has taken time for leadership to emerge — to find out who really is ‘in it for the long haul’ and for the crowd to become a family who carry the heart and vision of our church.

3. Determine to be ethical and true to yourself

Church planting must be INTEGROUS and though we might all have varying ethics and values, it is important to be true to God, true to ourselves and considerate of others in our approach to church planting. It really is a case of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

For example, when expanding Hillsong Church Australia into Brisbane and Melbourne, we have been very deliberate in our early communications and gatherings, to encourage those from other congregations to stay in their own local church. We gave people opportunity to register their interest in being part of our church online and we have limited our communications to that group of people. The foundations on which we start our churches are critical if we intend to establish healthy and life-giving campuses long-term.

4. Expand from a position of strength

Church planting is CHALLENGING, in fact sometimes starting something new is the easy part. Building and progress depends on momentum. Planting or expanding is an exciting idea, but don’t underestimate the challenge of planting well AND keeping home strong. The extra pressure on your greatest resource can be underestimated and your greatest resource is not facilities or finances — it’s PEOPLE.

Starting another service, opening another campus, or planting another church will test the quantity and quality of your leadership in most areas of church life. Don’t weaken your home base by expanding too quickly. Because weakening your base is not a momentum builder — it’s a momentum stopper. Lost momentum is very difficult to regain and wise church planting is not done prematurely.

5. Be sure you have counted the cost

Church planting is COSTLY and can be very difficult if you are unable to invest sacrificially into the work you are starting. Faith is essential in any new venture and there is no doubt that dependence on God and His miraculous supply is part of the adventure. However, many years of pain and heartache can be avoided if you have counted the cost and sacrificially invested into the new ground you are claiming.

6. Pray for the right people, in the right place, at the right time

Church planting involves LEADERSHIP and it will be more successful when you sow some of your best people into your launch team core group. If you are solving a problem by repositioning someone who is causing frustration, you are only transferring the problem. It is when you give your best that you can expect the best outcome — which is again why planting or expanding should be done from a position of strength and not vulnerability.

7. Not just easy places or nice places, but right places

Church planting is STRATEGIC and for Hillsong that has rarely meant going to the ‘easy’ places. We have prospered by planting in Europe — a continent steeped in church history yet in many respects, so Godless.

When I first spoke at Hillsong Paris, I remembered numbers of conversations where people simply couldn’t get their heads around us preaching about Jesus as someone other than just a historical figure. Today, I love seeing so many young churches beginning to flourish in various European cities. Its easy to think that perhaps ‘Bible belt cities’ would be easier than the heart of Manhattan; but with the right people, in the right place, at the right time, it’s amazing what God can do!

Likewise, when my parents started their ministry in the city of Sydney, it was regarded by some people as a ‘preachers graveyard.’ But that ‘preachers graveyard’ has become home to Hillsong Church — Hillsong College -Conferences and Music; influencing more people than we could have ever have imagined over the last three decades. God is faithful and I believe that the best is still yet to come!

8. Avoid the perils of shortcuts, or individuals who promise the world

Church planting is TEAMWORK, which means building a leadership team and core group who are there for the long haul. My experience is that often the people who promise the most, don’t always come through with the most. Great churches are built with a core group of people who are faithful in the little things. I’d take a group of ordinary people devoted to an extraordinary God, over a charismatic someone that talks a big game, but hasn’t proven faithful in the ‘day of small beginnings’.

We have had some amazing miracles with land and buildings in our history, but we have also said no to numbers of opportunities and partnerships because there were ‘strings attached’. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is!

9. Value connection and relationships

Church planting is LONELY, and many a church planter has perished through isolation.

Proverbs 18:1 says, “The man who isolates himself is not wise” and if you disregard your friendships and relationships when planting churches, your world can get small very quickly. Perhaps you can start churches anywhere, but wisdom is sensitive to relationships — while still refusing to be ruled by the insecurities of others.

Our mandate is “to champion the cause of local churches everywhere”, and the greatest way we can do that is exemplifying what God can do, by partnering and being in good relationship with other churches in our city, and without building on other people’s foundations.

10. Church planting can be part of the answer or part of the problem

Church planting is TRENDY and in the twenty first century, technology and opportunity enable us to expand in ways that were unthinkable to generations past. Does the world need more churches? The short answer is yes, but the world doesn’t need more mediocre churches. The world needs healthy and vibrant churches that are genuinely fulfilling the Great Commission in their cities, towns, villages and nations. Churches that are filled with life, worship, biblical teaching and healthy, accepting community — churches that point people to JESUS. Evangelism, and discipleship matters as we fulfill the Great Comission.

I pray that together, we can ‘champion the cause of local churches everywhere,’ and stay committed to the building of what Jesus Christ said He would build — His Church!

This post was originally posted on Medium: https://medium.com/the-mission/10-principles-of-planting-and-expanding-through-the-lens-of-a-pastor-66edd39e8f03

What do you think?

What church planting advice do you have? What’s worked for you, and what hasn’t? Let us know if the comments below, and come and join our Lead Pastor Community to lead, and help others lead better.