26 December, 2013 Richard Coekin
Planting reaches more disciples
It’s well established that new churches are generally better than established churches at evangelism, for four main reasons:
1. a planted church is usually more focussed upon reaching the lost than established churches, because they feel few and the most urgent task is obviously evangelism. Members of the planting group often volunteer, or are selected, because they have gifts and passion for evangelism and can tolerate their own needs being neglected for a while
2. planted churches can adapt their culture to be more attractive to the community that the church hopes to reach
3. newcomers often feel more welcome in a planted church than trying to join a church with long-established traditions
4. younger unbelievers or those with negative past experiences of church are often more easily persuaded to try a new church. In some parts of London, middle-class families may feel safer in a new church that has a traditional Parish or Community Church atmosphere. Larger established churches with historical “flagship” status can provide regionally beneficial training and resourcing. But the sum of people reached by lots of smaller effective churches is usually greater than by any one larger church, and some people prefer the intimacy of a smaller church.
Planting trains missionary disciples
Being involved in a church plant often provides a better mission-training context than a more comfortable established church context, prone to a consumer outlook. People who have been involved in our plants have generally experienced increased spiritual growth, as they have had to develop a clear understanding of the urgent need for the Gospel, a prayerful dependence upon God, a sacrificial commitment to the church and a lively awareness of being part of God’s Kingdom work.
Planting rescues marooned disciples
We used to talk only about reaching the un-churched, but the spiritual condition of many long-established denominations is now so unbiblical that we must talk more openly of reaching the post-churched as well.
We need to rescue believers who find themselves marooned, drifting away from a church that has drifted away from the Gospel. Sadly, this is likely in many Anglican parishes where statistics show that a quarter of Anglican clergy no longer believe that Christ died for our sins, a third no longer believe that Christ rose bodily from the grave and half no longer believe that Christ is the only way to salvation. In some cases a free church has fallen apart in an acrimonious split and believers are left travelling far and wide looking for Gospel ministry. So it’s common to find that, in a community where there’s no credible Gospel church, there are marooned believers who are either longing for a Gospel plant to arrive or who have lapsed but are ready to be recruited by a local Gospel outreach. This is not sheep-stealing but sheep-rescuing.
Planting revitalises disciples in the sending church
Losing people for church planting is costly but often invigorates a sending church by clearing space for others to take up ministry from those departing. It also encourages members to reassess why they stay, provides a back-wash of enthusiasm and a sense of achievement, and restores the priority of evangelism.
Characteristically, while a planted church will take some time to discover its “growth dynamic” (way of reaching people), the “growth dynamic” of the sending church is quickly reignited and the gaps left are quickly refilled. Churches that are near a plant, while often fearful of losing members to the plant, instead often benefit from raised local awareness.