By Benjamin Spalink
New churches can be birthed in different ways, but discerning when and where to plant can be challenging. The following three parameters are generally a good place to start.
First off, there must be a specific missional vision driving the church plant. A vision is a God-given and Spirit-inspired dream for a new faith community, usually born out of prayer and listening. New churches should be birthed out of a missional desire - in other words, the new church is understood from the beginning to be a response to a missionary God who desires to reach the lost, lonely, hurting and marginalized with the good news of the Gospel and the restoration of Jesus’ kingdom. Church planting is a means to a missional ends, not an end in itself. The missional vision can originate within a network, within a potential parent church, or in the heart of an aspiring church planter.
2) Gifted and passionate missional leader
Secondly, a church start requires an identified church planter, usually a pastor or missionary. While a church may have a vision for a church plant, there needs to be a leader who will spearhead the initiative. This leader should have four qualifications. They are spiritually mature enough to be able to handle the challenges of church planting. They have a missional orientation and have apostolic and/or evangelistic giftings. Thirdly, they feel personally called by God to engage in this particular ministry. The call is paramount, for it is the call of God which carries the planter through the valley periods. And lastly, they know and have deep connections with the people, network or community to which they are being called to reach. If they don’t, then a “learn-the-city” period of a year or more is important at the front end of planting. A church planter can be an ordained Minister of the Word, an elder or deacon, an evangelist or a commissioned pastor. They must have the blessing of their local parent church and of the classis.
Thirdly, the planter needs support. The solo planter model is increasingly seen as hazardous and isolating. To plant a church, a planter needs a core group of partners who believe in the vision and will support the planter in carrying it out. Ideally, the parent church or network is instrumental in rallying support for the church plant. This support can look varried - financial, material, people, administrative, etc… Church plants also require the support of classis and the denomination (Resonate Global Mission).
If the previous three items are in place, then the parent church and planter can move forward with the church plant. The following is a sketch of possible models for how churches can be planted and what they may look like in our region (Mid-Atlantic). This list is not exhaustive.
A church can form a second service or site, which serves as an extension of the parent church. The church carries one identity with one administrative and leadership body, but is present in different locations or at different times, thereby enabling the church to reach new demographics.
Family of Churches Model
A church can reproduce itself, (E.g., each subsequent church retains founding church name, vision and values) and leadership retains connections for support, accountability and partnership, and some administrative functions are housed centrally, while allowing each local church a measure of autonomy and independence. These can be called a Family of Churches. This is similar to the parish model. With the parish model, there is central apostolic/bishop leadership. This can be an effective way of reaching multiple neighborhoods within a larger city if the founding church vision is broad enough to pertain to the whole city.
A church will plant a church in a new location (near or far) with a unique vision for reaching a new community/network/neighborhood and intends for this church to be a spinoff church, completely independent of the parent church after a period of time. In many cases, the daughter church retains connections to the parent church by continued involvement in a local network.
Planter Driven Model
A pastor (perhaps not CRC) is engaged in the work of forming a faith community. They may not be officially affiliated with a parent church. It may, perhaps, not even be their intent to form a church - they are simply living missionally, making disciples, and seeing community growing around them. In this case, they can become a church plant by coming under the oversight of an existing church or church network and formalizing their plans to become an organized church. This is similar to the adoption model, which is when a church plant that is already in progress desires the benefit of community and accountability by joining the denomination.
We’d love to hear your thoughts and questions.
If you or your church has a desire to plant a church, please contact MidAtlantic Ministries at firstname.lastname@example.org.