Why Church Planting Is Essential: Australia Reflections, part 5
In part 2, we looked at Australian lostness.
When you are in a context that is in need of the gospel, church planting is always part of the answer. Such is true in Australia.
While I was in Sydney, I did an all-day conference on church planting: Multiply. You can find the audio for that conference here.
One organization doing a lot of church planting is "The Geneva Push." As you can tell from the name, they are reformed, but not of the "frozen chosen" variety. Their vision is to see hundreds of churches "evangelised into existence" (spelling is from their mission statement-- and the "Queen's English"). You can find out more about what they do here.
I've asked Scott Sanders to share why church planting is so essential. He shared this article--and you can interact with him about it in the comments.
One of The Geneva Push's founders, Al Stewart, regularly says "The question, 'Why do we need to plant churches?,' is the wrong question. We should ask, 'Why did we stop?' Every church in Australia began as a church plant."
As we ask why did we stop we need to keep wrestling with hard questions about why people aren't becoming disciples of Jesus in our existing churches and also see the great opportunity and potential that new churches have for intentionally reaching people with the Gospel.
Often (unfortunately not always) new churches are the result of God's people intentionally making more disciples of Jesus Christ (Matt 28:19-20). In my job I'm regularly speaking with young blokes about their plans to establish new churches from regional towns to our largest capital cities. There is much need and great opportunity to reach the unreached in Australia where only about 8% of population attended church in 2001. Thankfully, God continues to use his people to build his church throughout the world.
Why church planting? New churches reach new people. In Australia, church plants reach 16% of newcomers vs. 10% for other forms of outreach. While this research data is older (2003) it does highlight that planting, when done well, is more effective than other methods of outreach.
Anecdotally, in my church I've seen how establishing a new congregation or church centre creates opportunities for people to become more active in church life and more intentional in making disciples. Not only are there more opportunities to serve, there are less people to serve. It is amazing to see the impact on people as people pray, plan, and encourage one another from God's Word and see God at work in the lives of people as they make decisions to follow Christ. New churches often provide the opportunity to reach people in areas where no church exists and also in areas where a church exists but has been unable to reach a new demographic or 'tribe.'
One of the other positive impacts is how a new church motivates the sending church or mother church. The established church has the opportunity to benefit from gospel partnership, seeing God answer prayer, witnessing the joy of generously sharing people and resources and being reminded of the importance and need for discipleship, evangelism, and growth. In most cases, despite the pain of sending people out, God's people get invigorated for mission and excited about telling their mates about Jesus and God willing we see greater growth in the established church.