What is “church planting”?

Church planting can refer to the multiplication of ministry in one of two ways:

  • Multiplying congregations an existing local church (e.g. your church starting a lunchtime meeting for students in a college, or a Sunday afternoon meeting in the local nursing home).
  • Starting new local churches.

Why should we do church planting?

It has been argued that church planting is both a principle and a strategy.

Church planting is a principal because the message of the gospel demands it. God’s plan was never the rescue of isolated individuals. God’s plan is a community (see, for example, Revelation 21:1-4 or Hebrews 12:22-23). Local churches are not just a convenient way to teach people the Bible or a good way of doing evangelism; they are the expression of God’s purpose in the gospel. So it should be a matter of principal for anyone who believes the gospel to multiply and create more such congregations.

In the North West there are massive areas where there are no gospel churches; or where one or two gospel churches are reaching only a tiny percentage of the population. So the gospel demands church planting.

Sometimes people are worried about what other local churches might think if we get involved in church planting. Now of course people can go about church planting in a way that is arrogant or brash or unhelpfully divisive and we need to avoid that. But we must remember that God’s agenda is to create local, gospel centred, Bible teaching gatherings and that we will not please him by failing to do that because we are afraid of what men may think of us.

Church planting is also a strategy. Church planting is shown in the Bible to be the practice of the early church but the Bible doesn’t tell us we must follow exactly what the early church did. So it is not a command, but a strategy that is shown to work in the experience of the early church.

Church planting is an effective strategy. Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York has done some very helpful research into the effectiveness of church planting. They have found that church planting is an effective strategy for reaching both unchurched people and people outside the demographic groups of existing churches. On average new churches gain a far higher percentage of their attendees from people who are not in any church – whereas churches over 20 years old grow almost entirely through transfer growth from other churches.

This is at least partly because church planting presents a great opportunity to reinvent those things that are not Bible essentials in a way that relates more effectively to the world we live in. New churches present an opportunity to go back to the drawing board in thinking about many issues of church life – timing and length of meetings, venue, style, music, small groups, evangelism, staffing, membership – without the danger of anyone saying “but we’ve always done it like that”!

So why not consider whether you and your church could be involved in a church plant. It’s biblical and, who knows, you might even enjoy it!