Does your church have a vision of multiplying?
More often than not, we find ourselves thinking that planting a church would be great, but we don’t have any intentionality toward it. Yet, Jesus called us to be “senders” from within to with-out.
Unless we begin to examine why we should plant outward, we will never cultivate the ethos of multiplication as part of our discipleship process within.
Though we say we are called on mission with God, we often find ourselves asking: Why plant? Doesn’t that just diminish what we already have? Won’t it stretch our limited resources beyond sustainability?
What is our mission anyways and to whom should our missional focus be toward? Are we here for the sake of maintaining the local church or for the community – the parish that is all around us? Does God place us in particular places to be his proclaimers of the gospel of the Kingdom of God?
These are questions worth spending time wrestling over. Often we can’t imagine our church even imagining planting a new church community that might “compete” with what faithful practices we engage in.
Yet statistically, new churches actually renew community interest to those who are de-churched or unchurched and brings renewed excitement to our existing congregations as they partner in new life.
After a while, folk in our communities don’t even notice our presence anymore. A new church can generate curiosity in a community.
For example, within the last few weeks a new church plant launched in my smallish, yet rapidly growing community on Vancouver Island. Their first Sunday saw 800 people come out to two services.
Some initial reactions are that this new, more dynamic expression of gathering together will “steal” some folk from the already established and numerically struggling churches.
Yet a renewed interest in seeking God can actually benefit the existing churches.
As curious already-Christians and not-yet-believers explore the new plant, some will stay, some return to whence they came, and others, who taste and see that the Lord is good, will discover places where they find belonging.
Often that is in the new plant, but frequently they begin to explore the other area churches until they find their place of home and faith.
Another misconception we can have about planting is that it can only really be church if it looks like us, as though we are cloning rather than multiplying.
Creating a new gathering that looks like us has and will continue to be a way to plant churches, but it can’t be our only way.
We must always consider our context and culture and what God is already doing in the places where he is preparing for harvest.
Multiplying can take on many expressions that won’t necessarily look like our particular culture, yet brings the presence of the ministry of reconciliation into the places and spaces around us.
Here are a few manifestations of churches joining God on his multiplying mission:
1. Existing congregations who recognize they are primarily in the upper age group and perhaps declining in numbers yet long to see the legacy of the good work they spent their lives laboring at continue into the younger generations.
Some of these faithful folk are the catalysts of prayer, resourcing and mentoring a second service with a completely different expression than they practice so that the faithful presence of God at work in their neighborhood flourishes.
2. Neighborhood focuses are a great way to bring God’s faithful presence through the already-believers in the ‘hood to others who have yet to encounter Jesus.
Churches focus their missional impulses on the neighborhoods in which their constituents live, building genuine bridges between people who live next to others, yet are strangers.
They welcome the stranger and the alien and love them with Christ’s healing, restorative love, discipling folk in the Jesus Way before they even introduce them to him.
Church plants like this birth new churches out of sharing Jesus from within community rather than planting a church and then doing outreach in a neighborhood. It’s more like in-reach!
3. Churches in the same area who join together to share in starting a new community of faith in a neighborhood where one is not yet there.
Sharing this work in energy and resources builds strong relationships broadly and locally, building up both the body and the kingdom.
Bob Roberts Jr., pastor of NorthWood Church in Keller, Texas, and founder of Glocal.net, says that church planting should be thought of more as community development than building a place for already-believers to gather; he calls them “community faith engagers” rather than church planters.
These are but a few of the ways we can begin to cultivate the ethos of multiplication within our church communities.
The key is getting involved somehow, someway – stepping outside our known practices to discover the Holy Spirit at work all around us in unexpected ways.
Shannon Youell is church planting coordinator at Canadian Baptists of Western Canada (CBWC) and the British Columbia-Yukon regional church-planting director. A longer version of this article first appeared on the CBWC church-planting blog and is used with permission. You can follow CBWC on Twitter @TheCBWC.