One of the great movements in the Evangelical world of the last decade is a move back toward the practice of church planting. It is something wonderful, but something that needs to be understood. I want to give a very BRIEF view (my philosophy) of how we at Bethany should approach church planting.
1st- Church planting is BIBLICAL. As a church, we need to be sure that our practices can be grounded in Scripture. For some reason, much of the church has missed this important biblical truth over the last century, but thankfully there is a resurgence. We see church planting as a usual and common activity of the church in the Bible, which we call “the early church”. Paul was personally involved in planting churches (Corinth, Thessalonica, Ephesus, to name a few). Along with traveling to plant churches, they also collected finances to help with planting churches (Think about 1 Cor. 16, 2 Cor 8, Rom 15). It’s a simple idea: every true believer is to be a part of a church. Where there are believers, there must, by necessity, be a church. Church planting is indeed biblical.
2nd- Church planting must be INTENTIONAL- In other words, we as an established body of believers must have as part of our ongoing vision the purpose of helping churches get planted as a crucial part of who we are. We think about worship and discipleship (Sunday School/Small Group) as an ongoing part of what we do. We should also do the same for church planting. This means we must think about it, often.
3rd- Church planting is MISSIONAL. The sole purpose of church planting is not so that there will be a “_____ Baptist Church” in another location that looks a lot like us. The purpose is so that there will be a church somewhere else, that will plant a church somewhere else (and the original church will likewise keep planting churches etc). Do you see through multiplication that church planting does indeed carry the Gospel proclamation? One thing I am excited about as we pray and pursue partnership with a Nepali congregation in Durham is that some from that body will eventually go home, carrying the Gospel INTERNATIONALLY! Church planting helps fulfill the Great Commission, it is indeed missional.
4th- Church planting must be STRATEGICAL. Let me put that another way, we must be strategic (that is, have a solid plan). Since there is no particular instruction in Scripture for church planting, we then rely on God given wisdom for how this should look. There are three main ways we church plant
1- We support them financially. We know that operating a church takes resources (lights, utilities, resource needs for practical ministry and then staff salaries). So we help them by committing to them financially. However, here is where wisdom is needed. The general wisdom on helping a new church plant is time limited for financial assistance. I consulted several local churches that are involved in church planting, as well as the Beulah Association (I served on the executive board for 4 years) and the State Baptist Convention. Each entity agreed that they entered into partnerships for a limited time financially. The NCSBC supports new church plants for 2 years. One local church supports for 5 years (the first 2 years at a set level, then they decrease their support for the next 3 until the conclusion of the term). While there are some differences in how each group assists financially, there is a consensus that it is for a set time. Why is this? The main reason is that each church wants to be as impactful as possible, planting as many churches as possible. In order to do that, we need to be sure we are planting churches that will also plant churches. Therefore we set these partnerships up financially for a term. HOWEVER, this does not mean abandonment.
2- We support them with particular needs. Even after a financial partnerships has reached its term limit, there is still room for helping with particular needs or emergencies. For instance, if a church we have partnered with has an urgent need to make a major building repair, etc, we can certainly help meet their needs. Likewise, we can continue to participate through ministry work, such as VBS, etc regularly. We never abandon any church we help plant.
3- Through prayer and encouragement. When we partner with a church plant, we commit to regularly pray and encourage the church and its’ leadership. That is something we never stop doing. We pray individually, as a corporate body, and we reach out and let them know they are still dear to us. This is undoubtedly the most important way we partner with a church plant.
4th- Church planting is MEANINGFUL. One of the main reasons we need to be continually involved planting new churches is that it helps us remember who we are and what we should be doing. Simply put, planting churches strengthens our church. It keeps our head in the game, so to speak.
My vision and plan is to continue to seek out ways we can help start new churches. Right now I’m working with Ralph Garay of the North Carolina State Baptist Convention who heads the Asian Church Plant department. He is helping me and Mon Biswa work out a new partnership. This is a Nepali church plant, and a very unique and special opportunity God has given us. Please pray for us, them and how we can work together for Kingdom purposes!