“T-minus Six Months and Counting”
This week, I want to step away from our study in Galatians to revisit the
issue of our church’s ongoing vision to be a church that plants churches.
This message will not be a verse by verse study in Scripture but is more
a time to share what God is doing here at
Erik and Jess have spent much time
in prayer over this and just last week spent a final few days secluded off by themselves to seek God and finish
hammering out the vision for this new church plant. We have now come to a point in the process where we as the mother church need to be brought
up to speed on this process. Let’s
approach that the way a journalist would--by asking the who, what, when, where, how and why questions pertaining
to this endeavor. The
question has been answered broadly already—what we are doing is planting a church by God’s grace under the pastoral
Let’s go to the “why” question
next because in the kingdom of God if the why question is not answered correctly—that is, if the right kingdom
motives are not in place, then the other questions are irrelevant.
We covered this question of “why” in some detail in March of 2007 and copies
of that message are available at the
If you were here for that series of messages, you may also remember the repeatedly confirmed finding that new church plants are far more likely to reach the lost for Christ than established churches. According to one study by Barna, in a church that is older than ten years, it takes 89 church attendees on average to reach one person for Christ. If the church is between three and ten years old, it takes seven attendees on average to make one convert. For those churches zero to three years old, it takes three attendees on average to reach a person for Christ. We discussed why that was a year ago March. The point is—new church plants on average are about 30 times or 3000% more effective at winning unchurched people with the gospel than established churches. That pattern has also been found by people like Tim Keller who says that in new churches 60% to 80% of the growth is conversion growth—people becoming Christians, where in churches 15 years and older, 80% to 90% of the growth is transfer growth—existing believers transferring from one church to another.
We know that God is not circumscribed
by those statistics and it is certainly possible (and we trust an increasing reality) for established churches
Now to the “when” question about this new church.
When will this process begin in earnest on a church-wide scale? The answer is—next
next week, Erik will begin a recruiting process for the new church plant that has been approved by our leadership. We will talk more about
that a bit later, but Erik hopes to have all those who will be part of this new plant to formally commit to that
by the end of October. After
the launch team is recruited, their first group meeting will be Sunday evening, November 2nd. These
people will also at this time be ministering at
Another reason for these initial meetings is to help the new church to begin
to identify themselves as distinct from
Many wise church planters have advised us that one of the essential measures that must be taken to allow the church to establish its own identity is that at some point before the launch the two churches must completely separate from one another. There must be a point well before the launch date when the people on the launch team will no longer attend or minister within our church. That date of separation in the case of our daughter church is January first, 2009. As of January first, the people who have agreed to be part of the new church, and who have been ministering in both churches, will no longer attend or participate in the ministries of our church. This will be hard, but we don’t want to impede God’s work in creating a church that is new. Isaiah 43:19 says, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” We must get out of the way of what God wants to do in this new church. We must remember that as the mother church, we are not giving life to this church—only God can do that through his Spirit. Only he can create a new living, vibrant spiritual body for his glory. All we are doing is giving back to God his people so that he can use them for his glory in a new expression of Christ’s body here in the Twin Ports. We must allow God the freedom to do this and that means separation.
About two months after we have sent the folks off from our church, and three
weeks before the formal public launch date, the church will begin to meet together as a church on Sunday mornings
for what is sometimes called “preview services.”
These are not practice worship services.
They are non-publicized gatherings where this new church celebrates formal
worship services. These
three services provide the new church an opportunity to work through any Sunday morning ministry challenges that
need to be addressed. When
a group of believers that have never met together as a group begin their formal worship services, a number of first-time
decisions will need to be made and tested. How will visitors be made to feel welcome?
What does that look like and who is in charge of that?
What does the worship service look like?
How will child care be given and who will be staffing it?
Those kinds of issues will be resolved during these three preview services. The
formal public launch date for this new body of believers is set for
MARCH 15. That
date was chosen because it gives the church an opportunity to gather a few times before Easter Sunday which falls
this year on April 12th. That should be a wonderful time, not only to celebrate our risen Savior, but it also provides
a great opportunity to invite unchurched people on a day when some of them would be more open to visiting a church. The March date also
gives the church a chance to build a few months of Holy Spirit-induced momentum before summer comes to
That brings us to the “where” question. The precise location for the new church has yet to be determined, but all of those in
leadership agree that
Next, the “how”
question--or more precisely—“how is this new church going to be put together?” First, we trust that
God will work through and (when necessary) override the process that through prayer and the counsel of many the
leadership has decided upon. We
don’t presume to build this church. Jesus says in Matthew 16:18, “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Psalm
127:1 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.”
We are trusting that Christ will build his church, but he uses various means to do this.
We have prayed and discussed and sought informed, seasoned counsel on the
best way to do this and are confident of God’s leading.
The leadership has asked Erik to submit a list of names he feels the Lord
might want to be part of this daughter church.
We have worked with Erik to limit the total number of people who leave
We have also heard from several church planters that 10% of a church our size is a number
that would provide the new church with enough resources to begin ministry, while at the same time compel them to
trust God to provide their needs as they feel the real need to do evangelistic outreach.
It’s good for any church to be a bit hungry—this will establish the need
for the church to trust God from the beginning.
The ten percent figure will also mean a sacrifice for
Separation is hard and we are grateful that as we experience this pain, we can offer that to God as worship. Christ and the expansion of his kingdom are worth any price we must pay. The leadership has prayerfully worked to determine the line between, on the one hand, the pain and sacrifice that are simply inevitable in this process of separation--that’s a redemptive thing, and on the other—the bad thing of an exodus so large that it will cripple the mother church. No mother expects childbirth to be pain free, but it should not be crippling to the mother church.
Not all churches seeking to plant daughter churches are confronted with the possibility that too many people will leave the mother church. Often the church planter has to dig and scrape for even a small core group of pioneers to begin with. In many of these kinds of plants, the mother church barely feels the loss. In our case, with a church planter who has been on staff for five years and who, along with his family, is justifiably much loved, we must be careful not to release too many people. That is a GREAT concern for us to have! But it is a challenge we face, so Erik and the church leadership have worked hard together to craft a process that will end up blessing both the mother and daughter churches. Fifty people is the maximum number of people we feel is advisable to go with the new plant. The leadership just this week approved the specific list of people Erik will initially be asking. Assuming 50 of them will sense God’s call to go, this will mean sacrifice losses to many areas of our ministry and finances, but we do so in faith believing that God will honor our desire to expand his kingdom.
The reason I mention the sacrifice involved is not to make anyone feel guilty for leaving
to go with the new church. On
the contrary—we praise God for the privilege it is for
Another reason I mention the sacrifices that, Lord willing, we will be making is to inform us who remain that we will need to re-dedicate ourselves to the ministry of Mount of Olives and be especially active in ministry here. If you are not asked to go to the new church and have not been involved in ministry, you will be asked to be involved. This is a time not only for the new church to trust God to raise up people, but also for us to trust that he will raise up a new group of sacrificial givers and leaders to emerge from our own ranks. Let me give you one example. Right now, if everyone who is asked agrees to go, we will be short 19 children’s church and nursery workers. Even though we will be sending some children within that age group to the new church, that will in no way enable us to shrink our staff by 19 workers. We will need people who have never ministered in that area to step up. Other ministries will need new people to serve as well.
Another part of the how question is—“how are the two churches going to relate to one another?” We touched on this
earlier, but the two churches will be entirely separate from one another.
That will enable the new church to form its own identity and cut the apron
strings from the mother church. Those who leave
There is cost involved to both the new church and the mother church. Our selfish indwelling sin does not like paying any cost or making any sacrifice, but the Bible and church history plainly reveal that this is simply the way God chooses to advance his kingdom. God is honored as his people make decisions that will temporarily cost them for the sake of Christ. Those sacrifices communicate that their treasure is not in their kids or their social lives or their bank accounts—it is in Jesus for whom we are called to die. Jesus says in John 12:24-26, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”
At the end of the day—whether you go or stay, this season in our church provides us with a great opportunity to ask, “Do I want to bear fruit for Jesus. There may be people who are asked to be part of this plant who are genuinely not called to go. The leadership makes no claim to divine inspiration on the list of people who will be asked. We would however ask you that if you are asked to carefully, prayerfully consider a move before you decline being a part of the new church. You don’t want to miss out on the great blessing in this life and the next that is always given to those who follow Christ faithfully. Jesus says in Matthew 19:29, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.”
Another “how” question is, “how is the new church going to be funded?”
As a church, we approved money to come from the sale of the
One final question relate to “who.” That
is, “who will take Erik’s place as Director of Youth and Young Adults.”
God has provided here in a wonderful way.
As the youth parents already know, the Church Board will be recommending
for church approval the calling of Eric Svoboda to step into this important leadership role.
Eric is a man of God who has sensed a call to church ministry on his life
for some time. He
watches his life and doctrine closely and the leadership senses God’s hand upon him for ministry.
He is a gifted man and our young people have responded exceptionally well
to him in his current youth ministry. The leadership feels very blessed to have Eric and Jen in our fellowship and ministering
on staff, pending church approval. Eric Svoboda intends to begin his new ministry here near the end of October as
That in brief is the who, what, where, when, why and how of this exciting new chapter
Page last modified on 9/29/2008
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