8 Answers for the Question, “Why Plant a Church?”
by Tom Regan
One rainy day in October 2014 I had a lunch with Darren at Mediterranean Kitchen. I had begun to more seriously consider church planting, but hadn’t said anything to anyone about it. Over lunch I confided in Darren that it seemed God might be leading me this way and it freaked me out. Lindsay, too. He laughed and said, “You know what’s crazy? I just drove home from Portland last week and thought to myself, “I think I need to hire Tom Regan to plant a church out of Imprint.” I was floored. Up to that point I had not spoken to anyone openly about this growing conviction, including Darren, until that day. I’ve learned to recognize the fingerprints of God when he directs our lives. This was one of those occasions.
In my journey toward church planting I’ve come to realize that because I live in the world of vocational church ministry and have seen the growth of the church planting movement, I can easily take for granted that people “get it.” That they understand the compelling reasons for church planting. Many people of Imprint do get it, because they personally benefit from Imprint having been planted. They’re experiencing the fruit of it. But others perhaps come from church traditions and cultures with little exposure to or knowledge of church planting and the “why” behind it—and they have legitimate questions as to why Imprint has chosen to plant a church. Understandably, they (and maybe you, too) ask questions like, “Why plant a new church somewhere nearby on the Eastside when there are already good churches in the area?” Or, “Why not focus on helping churches that are struggling?”
8 Answers for the Question, “Why Plant a Church?”
1. Because lost people still need to be found.
To say, “There are already many good churches in this area,” is like saying, “There are already a lot of fishing boats out on the Puget Sound. So why do we need more boats? Let’s just work to make the current fishing boats bigger and better.” But if your mission is to catch fish (Luke 5:10, Matt. 28:19, 20), and the sea is filled with more fish than the current number of boats can catch, we’re going to need a lot more boats, which means multiplying communities of fishermen and boats (i.e. disciples and churches).
Or to employ another biblical analogy: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the LORD of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest” (Matt. 9:37-38). Church planting is a movement that has been gaining momentum over the last 15 to 20 years, and it’s one of the ways the Lord is answering the prayer to send more workers into his harvest. The old way of merely focusing on building your own church through simple addition is giving way to a new mindset of multiplication.
2. Because church planting follows a biblical pattern.
Christianity spread as the gospel spread and churches were planted. Jesus’ Great Commission is not simply to evangelize, though it necessarily includes that; It is to make disciples (Matt. 28:18-20), which includes baptizing. Baptism means incorporating believers into a worshipping community, i.e., a local church. This is the pattern in the book of Acts (e.g., Acts 2:41-47).
Christians should not merely evangelize lost people and consider the mission complete if the non-Christian “makes a decision for Christ.” They need to be brought into a local body of believers where they can be shepherded and grow as disciples under biblically qualified leadership (Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Pet. 5:1-4). In order for this to happen more effectively, we need more local churches to bring them into, as every church, no matter its size, has a limit in its effectiveness in incorporating and discipling believers.
3. Because new churches best reach the unchurched—Period.
“Dozens of denominational studies have confirmed that the average new church gains most of its new members (60–80%) from the ranks of people who are not attending any worshiping body, while churches over ten to fifteen years of age gain 80–90 percent of new members by transfer from other congregations. This means the average new congregation will bring six to eight times more new people into the life of the body of Christ than an older congregation of the same size.” (Dr. Timothy Keller, Why Plant Churches)
4. Because church planting benefits the Planting Church.
Churches that plant churches have been found to be healthier than churches that do not. This finding was not simply a case of already healthy churches being the ones that plant churches. Rather, planting a church resulted in greater health for the mother church. Planting churches keeps the spread of the gospel and disciple-making at the fore of a church’s priorities and energies.
5. Because we want to replicate biblical, Gospel-centered church DNA and ministries.
There’s no one-size fits all church. We want to replicate the healthy Gospel-centered DNA of Imprint and its ministries, from which the Bible is taught and the life of the church is centered on Jesus and the gospel.
6. Because planting a church more effectively enables every member ministry.
All believers are ministers (Rom. 12:6a; 1 Pet. 2:5; 4:10, 11). Starting new churches-rather than just growing one church bigger—presents opportunities for new people to serve in new ways in both the sending and new church.
7. Because God calls particular people to plant churches.
Throughout the history of mission in the Christian Church, God has called particular individuals to certain missional assignments. Some pastors are called to assume new leadership of established churches or revitalize struggling churches. Some pastors are called to start new churches. I (Tom) firmly believe God has called me to this work of church planting. This calling has been affirmed through both internal conviction and external confirmation from trusted, godly church leaders.
8. Because Imprint Church is at capacity.
Imprint is running out of space in our current facility. For this reason and all the reasons listed above, we believe planting a church is a wiser and more ministry-effective route than adding more Sunday gatherings or doing a capital campaign in an effort to purchase property or build a new and bigger facility for the church to gather in.
To Extend and Proclaim the Kingdom of God
Feel free to pass this information along to others who may also be wondering why Imprint is planting a church. Imprint’s leadership believes this is what God is leading us to do. It’s not driven by ego or human kingdom-building. Our aim is to extend the kingdom of God by proclaiming the King of the kingdom—Jesus Christ.
This is not easy and will in fact make things harder for Darren and Imprint. But “harder” has never meant “not God’s will.” Like others have said, “Planting a church is like having a baby. There’s never really a good time.” But you do it because it’s worth it. We’re planting a church for the sake of the mission to make and multiply grateful and generous disciples through the gospel of Jesus Christ. So pray for the church.
Church Planting Pastor
For a more in depth look at the philosophy and heart behind church planting, check out Dr. Timothy Keller’s article called, “Why Plant Churches?”, from which some of the above material was drawn.