Today, I want to continue our discussion by diving deeper into a few questions that new churches typically ask: If I’m a new church, should I plant another church? Should I wait and let my own church develop? What if my church doesn’t feel ready because we’re so new?
The short answer to these questions is, “Yes, you should still be involved in church planting, even if you are a new church.”
The longer answer to these questions first requires a Star Trek reference. In the popular episode “The Trouble with the Tribbles,” the crew interacts with tribbles, these cute little animals that reproduce at a rapid rate. As soon as one is born, it reproduces and creates another tribble.
The tribbles get into every crevice of the station and eventually overwhelm all of the crew members. They’re eating the food that belongs to the crew, they’re disrupting work, and they’re causing chaos. At one point, Dr. McCoy says to Jim Kirk, “They’re born pregnant.”
This points to the idea of planting pregnant. If we were to define planting pregnant, it would be the process of planting a new church despite still developing your mother church.
Although we use a metaphor to describe it, it’s actually more of a missiological mission than a metaphorical picture. Church planting is something that all churches should prioritize because, when done correctly, it furthers the Kingdom of God.
Now, I understand if your church is apprehensive about sending 30 of its 60 members out into a new church. That’s completely understandable. But some thought and attention should be given to church planting by every new church. There are small ways to be intentional about planting, even from day one.
Not too long ago when I planted a church in Nashville, we stood in front of our very first service and the people at this first service probably had no idea what to expect of our new church. Still, we got up in front of everyone and told them that we were going to be a church planting church. We told them that we would be involved in planting, despite the fact that they had no idea what our new church would look like. We were already thinking of planting a new church within a year.
In fact, we took an offering for the church that we had dreams of planting; 100% of the offerings at our first service went towards the establishment of the church we’d later plant. We did not raise enough to fully fund a church planter, but we raised enough to lay the foundation for planting.
From the Beginning
Church planting was a value for our church at the beginning, and I think it should be for every church plant.
When we started our church, we made it our goal to plant one new church every year. That didn’t work out perfectly—it took us two years to start physically planting churches—but by having our minds set on planting, we were able to devote attention to it as our church developed. The plans that we made for the life of our church included details of planting. We gave attention to it because we knew that it mattered.
Church planting was never lost in the shuffle, and we never forgot that it was a priority for our group. It was something that our church committed to, even when we were unable to see the promise that God had called us towards.
We had no idea what a new church would look like when we laid the foundation to plant, but by prioritizing church planting, we eventually saw that new church come to life.
Making Planting a Value from Day One
This is why I believe that all new churches should make planting a value from day one. From the beginning, your church should have the intention and plans to multiply. Even if it takes a bit longer to plant a brand new church, your church can still live out principles of church planting in small ways.
It is ultimately up to church leadership to decide the level of involvement, but attention needs to be given to multiplication.
The reality is that your new church may not feel ready to fully invest in church planting. You may want to let your own church develop. You may fear loss of resources and people to the new church. All of these things are perfectly okay. But we must again remind ourselves that church planting is about God. It’s about doing kingdom work and spreading the good news.
This is what planting pregnant looks like.
Ed Stetzerholds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, serves as Dean of the School of Mission, Ministry, and Leadership at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.