According to the New Testament, evangelism is one of the primary tasks of the local church. The reality is that church planting can be one of the most effective methods for local churches to evangelize their cities and regions. With the renewed emphasis on church planting encouraged by the North American Mission Board, I would like to propose some values inherent to churches that seek to parent new congregations. The Bible encourages church planting as expressed throughout Paul’s ministry. He evangelized urban cities throughout his missionary journeys and left congregations of new believers in the wake of his ministry. In the book of Acts, Luke records the early history of church multiplication throughout the Roman Empire. In the New Testament, evangelism and church multiplication were inseparable. Sadly, many Southern Baptist churches function more like institutions than organisms. As a result, we have created complicated and cumbersome organizational structures that are difficult to replicate into new churches. This has caused a stagnation in church planting in the American context.
We need to remember that every Southern Baptist Church was a church plant at some point. Recent statistics show that 87% of Southern Baptist pastors believe it is the local church’s responsibility to plant churches (Spin-Off Churches, 13). We should be thrilled with the NAMB’s renewed emphasis on church planting (through SEND North America) and rejoice that most pastors believe local churches should engage in church planting. Unfortunately, only about 3% of Southern Baptist churches have actually participated in church planting through direct funding or parenting (Spin-Off Churches, 65). This reality seems to detail a giant disconnect between belief and action.
We need to be reminded that our heritage is ripe with church multiplication. The Sandy Creek Baptist Church, a North Carolina congregation, accounted for forty-two churches or missions in a span of just under twenty years beginning in 1755 (Spin-Off Churches, 19). Furthermore, church planting has been an emphasis within the Southern Baptist Convention from its inception by relying on lay leadership and non-professional clergy for a large portion of its existence. So, with her heritage and emphasis on church planting, the question remains, “What will it take to encourage more Southern Baptist Churches and pastors to engage in church planting?”
Five Church Parenting Values:
Kingdom Vision—Kingdom Vision sees beyond the local congregation. It envisions what God has in mind for places and people not in our immediate area. While kingdom vision begins with our local community, it extends to the nations as well as to those in between. It is the vision of Jesus, Paul, and should be the vision of every body of believers.
Evangelistic Zeal—Churches who will parent and support other churches passionately believe in evangelism. Evangelism is the catalyst for church planting. Our goal is to reach new people, not merely shift believers from other congregations.
Simple Church Structure—One of the greatest benefits of the SEND strategy with NAMB is their assistance with planters designing transferable church models for planters. Existing churches (even successful ones such as Mud Creek Baptist Church) have transitioned to a place that transferring their model is difficult at best. Existing churches should explore direct parenting, but a good place to begin would be partnering with existing churches.
Equipping Leadership—Church planting churches are committed to equipping leaders to extend ministry influence. Paul trained and taught Timothy, Titus, Mark, Barnabas, Silas, Apollos, and others. As he evangelized and established churches, he equipped others to lead thus extending his ministry influence.
Commitment to Multiplication—Multiplication is the endgame for church planting. In order to reach the masses of unbelievers in our nation and throughout the world, we must shift our pursuit of addition and seek to multiply. Building a planting mentality into the DNA of new churches is a biblical, historical, and healthy model for multiplying congregations and believers.
While these values might be challenging to implement, I would encourage taking small steps. One simple way we are adopting this approach at Mud Creek is by supporting a church planter in Baltimore, MD through the SEND strategy at the North American Mission Board. We are hosting our planter this Wednesday at Mud Creek. His name is Robert Theodore, and he will be planting the Block City Church in downtown Baltimore. He will be targeting an unreached area in the city. When he comes to Mud Creek, he’ll preach in our Wednesday service, share his story, and cast a vision to our church for the Block City Church. We are committing to support him for the next several years financially, through prayers, and by sending teams. Partnering with NAMB allows us to adopt these values while sharing the cost and benefit of church planting.
Resources on church planting:
Green, Michael. Evangelism in the Early Church, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003.
Payne, J.D. Discovering Church Planting. Colorado Springs, CO: Authentic Publishing, 2009.
Harrison, Rodney, Tom Cheyney, and Don Overstreet. Spin-Off Churches: How One Church Successfully Plants Another. Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Academic, 2008.
Moore, Ralph. How to Multiply Your Church: The Most Effective Way to Grow God’s Kingdom. Ventura, CA: Regal, 2009.