Principles of New Testament Church Planting
The Great Commission provides us with the scriptural foundation behind our desire to plant churches. In Mark 16:17, Jesus said, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." There are several conclusions we can draw from this verse of Scripture.
First, the Commission is universal. The term "every creature" is certainly all-inclusive. There is no "people group" on the face of the earth that is excluded from our Commission. We cannot afford to rest until every person in our community, regardless of their race or social position, has had an opportunity to hear the gospel presented effectively enough to allow them to make an informed decision.
Secondly, the Commission is urgent. We need to place a high priority on evangelism! Statistics show that only fifteen percent (15%) of the churches in North America are growing. And, of those that are growing, only one percent (1%) is growing through new converts. The rest are growing through "transfer growth." That tells me that we have not taken the Great Commission seriously. If we had, then all of our churches would be growing through new converts, the people we have led to the Lord. We need to discover a new urgency in our call to evangelize our communities.
Finally, this passage communicates personal responsibility. Jesus said, "Go ye." The Lord’s Commission extends through the ages to every one of us. As Christians, we must give priority to evangelizing the lost.
The Biblical Pattern
In the first century churches were committed to church planting. We read of the church at Thessalonica, "For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything." (1 Thessalonians 1:8)
Here we see a local church that spread the Gospel throughout their entire region. To the Thessalonians, the Great Commission consisted of more than a mandate to build their own local church. It also included the planting of new works in neighboring communities. This group of Christians was committed to Church planting.
The Principle of "Reproduction"
From the beginning of creation we see the principle of reproduction. It is the purpose and plan of God that everything produces "after its kind" (Genesis 1:11). That is true of plants and animals and is also true of churches. Churches should produce after their own kind. Fruit bearing is a spiritual principle of life (John 15). Paul commissioned Timothy to commit the things he had heard to "faithful men who shall be able to teach others also" (2 Timothy 2:2). Our ministries should be reproducing themselves in the lives of faithful men who will go out from us to plant new assemblies for Christ.
This is exactly what we’ve seen in the Victory Churches over the last twenty years. First, God commissioned us to build a "model church" in Lethbridge. At the time, it was one of the largest and most powerful churches in Canada. Then we built a model "region" of churches in Southern Alberta. After that, we went to Calgary, and built a model "city-wide" family of churches. From there, it expanded into a "model Province."
What we did in Calgary we were able to reproduce in Edmonton. What we produced in Alberta was reproduced in Provinces across Canada. And what we produced in this nation we are endeavoring to reproduce in as many nations as possible before the return of Jesus Christ! This is the principle of reproduction!
Whenever we reproduce a model that God has given us, we understand that a reproduction doesn’t have to be inferior to its prototype. Nor does the original model have to be perfect before you start reproducing it elsewhere. For instance, take the "Model-T" automobile. When they first came out, they didn’t even have an electric starter. You used to have to "crank start" them and jump out of the way before the crank broke your arm.
In fact, the electric starter was invented as a consequence of a man named Charles Kettering having his arm broken while crank starting a car. After his arm was broken, Kettering thought, "There must be a better way to start a car than this!" So he invented the electric starter. He turned a problem into an opportunity and made a great improvement on the original invention.
The same is true within VCI. I don’t want Lethbridge to be our best model. Our model is continually being upgraded. I believe that we can do better in some of these other countries than we did in Canada. Why? For one thing, we made a lot of mistakes in the process of developing. These other nations don’t have to make the same mistakes we made. They can pick up where we left off and make their churches even better. It’s the principle of reproduction. The more churches we plant the more efficient we should become.
The Principle of "Sending"
In our desire to fulfill the Great Commission, there must always be a blending of the willingness of the individuals to initiate a new work for the Lord with the deliberate sending and commissioning of people to a work. Paul and Barnabas were sent from their home church in Antioch by the direction of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 13:1-3).
Local churches must be willing to release leaders to plant new churches around the world. In the natural, a healthy body does not grow by having one cell that grows to an unlimited size. In fact, if one cell in your body grows to an unlimited size, you will end up with a malignant growth. You will end up with a diseased body.
They way your body is intended to maintain its health is by division and reproduction. Cells reproduce themselves by dividing.
Some churches need to do this very thing in order get off a plateau. Instead of becoming introverted, they need to get a "Great Commission Vision." As they divide to plant a "daughter" church, they will experience growth themselves.
Paul and Barnabas were sent out from the church at Antioch. When people begin a new work, sometimes the Holy Spirit speaks to their hearts and they "go." Other times people are "sent" by those in authority over them. Both methods are legitimate and scripturally based.
When we left our church in Lethbridge, the elders laid hands on us and "sent" us to Medicine Hat. They were willing to send us, and we were willing to go. As a result, we left responsibility.
Whenever God changes the direction of your life it should be confirmed by those in authority over you. You don’t just wake up in the morning and experience a great change of direction in your life. Usually, it comes through seasons of prayer, as God prepares your heart over a period of time.
The Principle of Giving
A giving church is a growing church. No church has ever suffered in the long run by releasing members to begin a new church. There may be a short time in which it looks like they’ve experienced a loss, but in the long run they will increase. The principle of "sowing and reaping" not only works for individuals, it also works for churches.
While it may be difficult to release some of their most productive people, mature pastors will do it because they are more interested in the total work of God than they are in their own local church. In the long run, the principle of release works in the pastor’s favor. Many times, the people you’re not willing to release become a hindrance to you.
My wife and I have always been more interested in helping people fulfill the vision for their lives, than we are in getting people to help us fulfill the vision for our lives. Through the years we have had to release some of our key men to other ministries. We have had to release Dick DeWert to the television ministry and Roy Beyer to the Canada Action Family Coalition. These men were key leaders for years. But, when we released them into their next phase of ministry, there were men to replace them almost immediately.
Ultimately, it will be best for the Kingdom of God and us, if we are willing to release people to fulfill the call of God on their lives.
The Principle of Faith
Over the years, I’ve noticed that many pastors walk by sight. They continually watch the attendance board, the church budget, and the membership roll. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as it doesn’t become the main focus. These things are an indication of the quality of ministry that’s happening in the church, so we ought to pay attention to them. But we can’t make ministry decisions on the basis of these things. Establishing a daughter church demands great faith. It takes a lot of faith to release a group of people from your church to start a daughter church, and then pay them for leaving. But, the benefits far outweigh the problems and the cost.