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Church Planting

Part of our vision for Calvary continues to be that we would embrace the challenge of multiplying through church planting. This is a scary idea that is becoming more of a reality since Peter and Amanda Helm have stepped forward as strong candidates for our church planting couple. We’ve never seriously flirted with the idea of birthing another church in the Tri-cities[1]. Yet listen to the importance that church planting expert, Timothy Keller, places on it:

“The vigorous, continual planting of new congregations is the single most crucial strategy for 1) the numerical growth of the Body of Christ in any city, and 2) the continual corporate renewal and revival of the existing churches in a city.  Nothing else–not crusades, outreach programs, para-church ministries, growing mega-churches, congregational consulting, nor church renewal processes–will have the consistent impact of dynamic, extensive church planting. This is an eyebrow raising statement. But to those who have done any study at all, it is not even controversial.”[2]

Church planting is the single most effective strategy for growing the body of Christ in the city and renewing and reviving the existing mother church. In addition, new residents, of which Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam will be receiving many of, are better reached by church plants as are the younger generations.[3] Moreover, as we will find out in greater detail below, church plants are more effective at reaching unbelievers. To quote Timothy Keller again:

“Dozens of denominational studies have confirmed that the average new church gains most of its new members (60-80%) from the ranks of people who are not attending any worshipping body, while churches over 10- 15 years of age gain 80-90% of new members by transfer from other congregations.  This means that the average new congregation will bring 6-8 times more new people into the life of the Body of Christ than an older congregation of the same size.”

Why might this be? The answer is fairly obvious when you give it some serious thought. The focus of a church plant often must be radically different than many established churches where internal pressures often require a lot of resources to be allocated for members in the church rather than those outside of the church. A church plant is different. Let’s quote Tim Keller one last time:

“New congregations, in general, are forced to focus on the needs of its non-members, simply in order to get off the ground.  So many of its leaders have come very recently from the ranks of the un-churched, that the congregation is far more sensitive to the concerns of the non-believer.  Also, in the first two years of our Christian walk, we have far more close, face-to- face relationships with non-Christians than we do later.  Thus a congregation filled with people fresh from the ranks of the un-churched will have the power to invite and attract many more non-believers into the events and life of the church than will the members of the typical established body.”

If all of the above is true why don’t more churches plant churches? There are likely many reasons why established churches don’t plant new churches, but in what follows I will walk through some common objections to church planting.

Objection # 1 There Are Enough Churches

Answer: This is simply not true. Even if all the churches in the Tri-City were filled to overflowing there wouldn’t be enough churches to fit all the people. Secondly, it pains me to say that not all of these churches preach the Gospel or are faithfully reaching out to the culture. Thirdly, the Tri-Cities continue to grow exponentially so more churches are needed.

Objection # 2 Calvary Is Not Overflowing with People

Answer: This is true, but it is no barrier to church planting. In reality we need less than one hundred people to multiply through church planting. All we need is the willingness to plant and a desire to be obedient to Jesus’ command to fulfill the great commission. And the fact of the matter is, church planting revitalizes the mother church. Often the best thing you can do for the growth of the mother church is to church plant because people are drawn to vision and mission. Also, let’s not forget that God blesses the giving away, not just of resources, but of people. All this objection might imply is that we plant a church that is a bit different than Calvary, which is what we intend to do.

Objection # 3 We don’t have the financial resources.

Answer: Yes, we do. The conference is supporting us financially and there is money in our pockets that can be given to this adventure.

Objections # 4 Many churches in the community used to be more full than they are now. The church going public is shrinking. A new church here will just take people from churches already hurting and weaken everyone.[4] 

Firstly, we have already seen that new churches are generally the most affective in reaching new people for Christ rather than stealing people from other churches. Secondly, this assumes that older churches will be hurt by newer churches when, often, established churches can be challenged and revived by the birthing of new churches. Thirdly, this objection may wrongly assume that church plants only work where the population is growing, but church plants are also needed when the population is changing. In the Tri-cities the population is both growing and changing.

Objection # 5 What about Calvary?

Answer: Church planting often revitalizes the mother church through 1) Bringing new ideas to the whole body 2) Attracting and raising up strong, creative leaders who are drawn to a compelling mission and vision 3) Planting a new church, and developing the vision for a new church, forces the more established church to engage in some healthy self-examination. 4) The new church can actually feed new believers into the established church. People can be converted through the ministry of the plant, realize they need more stability and find there way to the mother plant.[5] And, again, “vigorous church planting is one of the best ways to renew the existing churches of a city, as well as the best single way to grow the whole Body of Christ in a city.”

Objection # 6 We will lose good leaders and friends.

Answer: Yes, and this is both happy and sad. God will bring more people and more leaders. We will still pray for our friends and they will still be serving Jesus in the Tri-cities. The Advancement of God’s kingdom is still worth these relational sacrifices.

Now, that we have responded to many of the common objections or misunderstandings that people have about church planting on my next blog post we will examine overiding biblical considerations in favor of planting.

* This material will be republished in Calvary’s upcoming Missional Manifesto.

[1] The Persian ministry while being a significant step in that direction would not fit the category of an actual church plant in my thinking.

[2] Timothy Keller. Why Plant Churches? Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Feb 2002. (Accessed July 5, 2013)

[3] Ibbid. Pg. 3

[4] This objection is taken from Timothy Keller’s paper on ‘Why Plant Churches’?

[5] All of these points are from Timothy Keller’s paper. I have simply reworded a few. I am relying heavily on Keller because he is like a church planting guru for evangelical Christians in urban areas.