I’ve been in church 47 years. I’ve heard a lot of sermons about evangelism. But I don’t have a single example of even one of the churches I’ve been in actively and intentionally starting a new church or a new work to reach others for Christ. Do you find that odd? I do.
From what I see in scripture, the church is supposed to be motivated to reach others by continually going out and starting new works. We just don’t do it. We talk about it a lot. We rationalize how we are doing it and make some pretty large leaps. (“We have a food closet, so that’s outreach, right? We have our messages online. That counts.”) We even have training classes about how to reach out. But if we are honest, I think our motivation is more about building the attendance at our own churches than it is about growing the kingdom of God. We’re preaching. We’re just not going.
One of my favorite senior pastors was Arthur Evans Gay. I just loved the way he lived the gospel. I remember hearing him standing by the front doors to the church talking to a family that had driven 35 miles to our church. I was impressed by how he welcomed them and then told them of a great church in their community they should try. He told them how they could have a greater impact in their community by plugging into their local church. I don’t think he ever thought of them as a potential “giving unit” or a solid family that could strengthen his church. He saw them as a family of believers that could have a greater impact for Jesus if they plugged in at home. That’s a kingdom mindset.
We buy gimmicky evangicubes and frisbees with scripture on them and train our kids how to “share” their faith. Aren’t we actually training them more to make a sales pitch than really share anything? We send out direct mailings, advertise on Christian radio and promote events to bring people in. Didn’t Jesus tell us to go and get them? It seems pretty strange to me.
Forty-seven years and not a single example of a risk-taking church intentionally penetrating a nearby area by planting the gospel. Do you have any examples in your past?
As a church planter now, I am committed to make going part of our DNA. My dream is to see us plant another church in three years. Then, three years from then, each church should plant another. Three more years … each of those 4 plant again. Three more … 8 plants. That would mean 16 churches in 12 years. 32 in 15 years. Some will not make it but nearly 70% will. Neighborhood churches, schools, home churches. If each church just has 30 people we will have over 1,000 people growing in Christ and sharing life. If each church is just an average American church it will mean more than 2000 people.
The mission of Jesus Christ must become viral. Unfortunately I don’t think we even have a sniffle. Our measure of success has to move away from numbers, buildings and budgets to living out the Great Commission by starting new works and advancing the gospel.
I have had 10 pastors in my 47 years. Not one of them actively promoted planting an entirely new work to reach unreached people. Not one of them challenged their people to give birth to a gospel station.
It’s time for that to change. It’s time for us pastors to release our grip, step away from feeling threatened and do all we can to see the spread of the gospel in new churches. It’s time to model the Great Commission for our congregations.
Nothing else—neither crusades, outreach programs, para-church ministries, mega-churches, consulting, nor church renewal processes— will have the consistent impact that dynamic, extensive church planting has. This is an eyebrow raising statement, I know. But to those who have done any study of the subject, it is not even controversial.” -Tim Keller, The Cutting Edge Magazine