It really is a good question. Why wouldn’t a healthy church body just continue growing its own existing attendance, offerings, leadership, and “followship,” and let that be enough? Certainly, a church body may feel pushed to plant a church because its present facilities are limited, or it is land-locked so it can’t just build a bigger building. Perhaps it resists going to two services to accommodate growth because of the possibility of losing unity in the body. But shouldn’t there be more reasons for church planting than merely pragmatic ones? I believe that there are, indeed, several profound reasons for doing so that go far beyond the practical.
Churches planting churches is founded in God’s design for humanity to reproduce. God created man in His own image. God commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth with His image bearers (Gen 1:28). When we replicate God’s image across the earth, we speak of God’s rule and proclaim His glory! Reproducing image bearers sets forth God’s mission for spreading His fame. Later, Christ came to the earth to bring humanity salvation and before He left, He gave once again a more pronounced mission to “make disciples” (Matt 28:19,20). So each person made in God’s image who has been given new life through Jesus are to reproduce disciples of Jesus. The church is where disciples grow and flourish in Christ’s own image. The culmination then of a group of people making disciples of Jesus should naturally be reproduction–one body of believers forming a new body of believers for the purpose of making more disciples of Jesus. This is God’s plan.
Churches planting churches live out a mission founded in God’s design for humanity to reproduce. God created man in His own image, then commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth with His image bearers (Gen 1:28). When we replicate God’s image across the earth, we speak of God’s rule, proclaim His glory, and live out God’s mission for spreading His fame. Christ came to the earth to bring humanity salvation, and before He left, He gave a more pronounced mission to “make disciples” (Matt 28:19,20). So, each person made in God’s image who has been given new life through Jesus is to reproduce disciples of Jesus. The church is where disciples grow and flourish in Christ’s own image. The culmination, then, of a group of people making disciples of Jesus should naturally be reproduction–one body of believers forming a new body of believers for the purpose of making more disciples of Jesus. This is God’s plan.
Churches planting churches are forced to trust God. Trusting God is always an adventure into the unknown. God told Abraham to go to a place that “I will show you” (Gen. 12:1), and though several times he demonstrated lapses of confidence in God, Abraham did follow and is later recognized as a person of sweet faith (Heb. 11:8). God intends for His people to trust Him. Church reproduction is a supreme act of faith in God on the part of the planting body. It places the church in a position of dependency due to limited funds, limited people, limited facilities, and often limited leadership. It is a process by which faith takes root because people are forced to run to the Unlimited One for help. And is not total dependency upon God for the full expression of His great glory always the place where God’s people should find their resting place? Planting a church forces all involved to look to Him in a very intentional way, and in doing so, their faith is forged and strengthened.
Churches planting churches get to experience a taste of life in the early church. Paul makes clear in Romans 15:19 “so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ.” As you read his epistles, you see that the reproduction of godly men is the goal of the ministry of Paul, and he exhorts his followers to minister in such a way that they, too, reproduce godly men. (Titus 1:5; 2 Tim 2:1). Paul went into major cities from Jerusalem to Illyricum and in-between, seeking to produce churches that would reproduce churches within those cities. This process shows that a church is indeed to be a missionary congregation that is to live out the missional outreach of God to people to create a new people for His glory. Each time a church gives birth, it takes that body back to the roots of the early church and accomplishes the same purpose that Christ and the apostles set forth to accomplish (Eph. 2:20). I say that there is truly nothing like this experience in all of the world!
Churches planting churches stir up a greater passion for the things of God in the people of God. This is one of the sweetest results of church planting. Christ will build His church, and we as human beings simply get to be a part of it, but in the process, the things of God become a more precious and superior priority for the people of God. This happens in several, tangible ways:
- Prayer becomes vital – 1Thess 5:25 –“Brethren, pray for us!”
- Love for one another grows – 1Thess 3:12 – “…may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another…”
- Giving becomes much more important – 2 Cor 8:3-5 – “For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.” This passage describes financial giving, but a church planting a church is driven to other kinds of sacrificial giving, which may include people, possessions, and even property to help establish the new work.
- Service to each other blossoms –1 Peter 4:10 – “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” Every person serving is important in God’s Kingdom work, and never is this service more vital than in the forming of a new body.
- Leaning on God becomes the safe zone. Prov. 3:5-6 – “…in all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths.” Every time a new church meets together, there is a communal sense of the need to trust God. People experience many emotions as God directs their paths in the process of growing His church, and leaning on Him becomes the safe zone for each step along the way!
- People recognize the unique value of one another. – Rom 12:9-10 – “Let love be genuine…Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” Genuine love for God and for people happens in Christ’s church when the Gospel pulsates through its heart. This work of grace should not be taken for granted nor should it be forgotten. Christ died for people!
Churches planting churches will experience difficulty. Of course, like everything we set out to do in a very fallen world, planting a church can be difficult. There are a number of reasons for this. People who carry with them some sort of religious or “spiritual” agenda are often attracted to church plants. They can come with smiling faces and seem thrilled to be a part of something new, yet inwardly, they are really wanting something that is formed to their own liking. They often begin by being very service-oriented, but their service is simply the key they will use to open the door of their personal agenda. Church planters often face real spiritual roadblocks that are thrown at them often by the Evil One who wants to discourage the planter or even take the planter out. Anytime a church is planted, it should prepare for real spiritual battle. Church plants often begins with only a few people coming. Visiting families with children like to have nurseries and children’s ministries already in place for their families. If the core group starting the church has only one or two children, the experience of the visiting family can be discouraging, and that of the core group’s children can be lonely. These things and others like them seem small and insignificant, but they can be real threats to the overall success of the church plant.
The metaphor of birth is an excellent one for a church to ponder when working through both these difficulties and experiencing the joy of new life. Pregnancy, like the process of preparing to plant a church, is long and can be hard. Parents-to-be, like a church planting a church, battle anxiety about the unknown. Birth itself is painful and arduous, yet there really is nothing in the world like the birth of your son or daughter. It is an experience I will never forget! The same is true of a church giving birth to another church. It is an opportunity to claim a front-row seat to see the hand of God building His Kingdom for His great glory! Pray, plan, prepare, and pursue planting a church!