Archives For church planting

Church Planting

When Kay and I arrived in Orange County, it wasn’t our mission to plant a mega church. We wanted to plant a mission church.

That is, we wanted to plant a church that would plant other churches.

  • We wanted to plant at least one daughter church per year, and we’ve gone beyond that.
  • We wanted to send out at least 200 career missionaries, and we’ve sent out hundreds more than that.
  • We wanted to send thousands to the mission field, and we’ve sent tens of thousands.

I’ve been saying this for 30 years now: You don’t judge the strength of a church by its seating capacity, but by its sending capacity!

The ultimate goal of the Purpose Driven paradigm of church leadership isn’t just maturity. It’s missions.

If you’re just starting out, or have any interest at all in church planting, carefully read these 10 basic principles of planting a multiplying church.

1. Start with focused prayer.

Kay and I spent six months praying and asking God where we should go. The Bible says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1 NIV).

More than any skill, talent, or resource, you need God’s guidance, direction, and blessing! So…

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I’ve planted several churches, and I know how hard it can be. I’ve never “closed” a plant, but I’ve sat with several others that have. It is painful — but sometimes it is helpful.

I think that doing an “autopsy” is a helpful part of the learning experience, and something that is not done often enough. Here is one such reflection from John Thomas, a former planter.

As an aside, one of the more fascinating documents we references in Viral Churches was an autopsy report by Todd Hunter. At the time, Todd was director of church planting for the Vineyard and later the head of the Vineyard. Now he is an Anglican Bishop (and we shared a pulpit and some fellowship time last week with the Anglican Church in America). You can download that report from 1986 (an eternity in church-planting years) here.


A Guest Post from John Thomas

Of course, I had heard the stats about church planting failures. Regardless, I went for it knowing the Lord was leading me to start a new church for his glory. I read all the books, attended the conferences, took…

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Over the years, I’ve seen lots of great church-planting practices, and many not-so-great ones. Too many churches open and then close too often because instead of looking to God, they were looking to themselves. Even more unfortunate is the fact that many church plants continue to exist but are like an enclave for the small community of people who attend. It’s like the community couldn’t care less that the church exists.

We must always ask ourselves: What difference does my church plant make in this community and in the world?

It’s a significant question that will take lots of prayer and a good plan. As you consider this, let me share three church-planting practices that need to die if we are to begin and sustain church plants that glorify God and keep us on mission with him.

First, we need to stop the sort of messaging that communicates (implicitly or explicitly) that all other churches are really bad and ours is the best.

I have seen this a lot over the years. For example, a mailer may go out and the messaging says something like:…

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Church planting is part of Saddleback’s DNA. We’ve started at least one church every year since the beginning.

It is simply who we are. We believe that mature churches are just like mature plants or mature people: They bear fruit.

You can tell an apple tree is mature when it starts growing apples. You can tell a Christian is mature when he or she starts winning other people to Christ. And you can tell a congregation is mature when it starts having babies — planting other churches.

I believe any definition of fruitfulness for a local church must include the planting of new congregations, in addition to growth by the conversion of unbelievers. If we’re not reproducing, then it is a sign that something is unhealthy in our congregations.

As I’ve often said, a church’s health is measured by its sending capacity, not its seating capacity.

Regardless of size or location, your church can help start new congregations. At Saddleback Church, we started our first church plant when we had 150 people coming to the weekend services. The truth is, it doesn’t take a megachurch to start new churches.

Over the course of our history, Saddleback Church has planted…

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Planting and Growth

Can our people articulate a simple Gospel message and call men and women to faith in Jesus Christ?

There’s no question that church planting has become the hot new thing. And I’m glad.

When I started my first church in 1988, it was an oddity. Now, it is mainstream.

This morning, I am in a hotel in Boston, about to talk to evangelism leaders, and two young men came up and said, “Are you Ed Stetzer?” Turns out I am, and they are church planters/pastors meeting in a high rise hotel in Back Bay Boston, at Reunion Christian Church.

Today, it’s normal that church planters are everywhere — even in Boston when I’m here talking about evangelism to evangelism leaders.

Books, conferences, and initiatives that champion church planting are manifold. This is a good thing. But it seems to me we’ve got better conferences and bigger excitement and, according to the research, only incremental progress when it comes to the evangelistic fruits of actual church planting.

Statistically, we have more church planting, but slightly less evangelistic impact. And, most importantly, too many church plants don’t have the needed evangelistic…

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You can’t plant a church without partners and you can’t grow a healthy church without evangelism. But those will look different for different planters in different contexts.

It has become fairly common to send a large (30+) group of people somewhere to plant a church. Others seek to build a group exclusively from the harvest in their new community. The churches I’ve planted never began with a core group. I have always parachuted in – that’s really the best description. While I have never begun with a core group, at the same time, I’ve never begun without a team. Once on site, I set about building a team.

Biblical kingdom growth is evangelism that results in new churches. Though I’ve never seen a church planted with 100 percent new believers or lost people, it is certainly biblical to expect a large number of the members and attenders to come from the harvest. It is concerning to see an increasing number of church plants where the vast majority of the people are dissatisfied, disgruntled, or re-energized Christians.

Sadly, strategies that lend themselves to transfer growth have become the norm. In…

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Outside TemperatureIsn’t it easier to point out the wrongdoings of others and tell people what to do, rather than be a part of the solution?

My wife and I have noticed this in our children—they love playing the victim. So whenever there’s conflict, instead of figuring it out themselves, they come to us crying out “injustice!”

I wonder where they learned that from? I knew I never should’ve let them watch Sesame Street…

In order to fix this attitude, a few days ago, my wife began teaching them the difference between being bossy and being a leader. Here’s the difference:

  • Bossy people point out the wrongdoings of others, expect others to fix their issues, and are never wrong.
  • Leaders take responsibility for situations, don’t dwell on problems, focus on solutions, and make change happen.

As I was reflecting on this new paradigm of parenting (my wife is amazing by the way), I couldn’t help but notice the similarities that it had with thermometers and thermostats. Let me explain:

  • Thermometers point out what currently is, expect others to do something with that information, and they provide us with the standard—they are never wrong. Thermometers are indicators.
  • Thermostats, on the other…

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MoneySince the turn of the century, many denominations have made a strong effort to funnel resources toward church planting. This support helps to secure facilities, execute marketing campaigns, provide equipment for ministry, and even underwrite pastoral support.

That’s a good thing.

More denominations are prioritizing church planting—and that’s a good thing.

Not only have denominations created departments that financially support church planting, the church planters have the blessings of the denomination’s leadership, which often helps them gain access to established local churches to seek financial sponsorship.

In the new millennium, networks have followed a similar pattern, though to a lesser degree due to their smaller resource base.

The Landscape Is Changing

Fast forward to today.

I am often asked, “How do you see the funding options available to church planters changing in the future?”

My view is that there will be less funding readily available to church planters from the current sources. But before we get discouraged about the future prospects, we need to realize that we can’t—and shouldn’t attempt to—buy our way into a church multiplication movement in the West (North America, Australia, England, etc.).

The truth is: most denominations and church-planting networks run out of money for church…

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Map with pins 

Mission leaders like to talk about Church Planting Movements (CPMs), but I believe it’s unlikely we will ever see one in our current context.

A Church Planting Movement has a specific definition: a movement of church planting characterized by a rapid, even exponential, multiplication of churches within a people group or population segment.

Something like that will be unlikely to happen in the society in which we live. In an industrialized society, like our own, with labor segmentation in place, people assume specialization. Whether we like it or not (and I don’t) people have a hard time seeing the mechanic as the pastor.

This type of thinking hinders an exponential movement, which is why we find CPMs most often in non-industrialized societies. But that doesn’t mean all movements are impossible here. In our context, we should target a different goal.

Church Multiplication Movements happen when the number of churches grow by 50 percent in a given year.

There may be various factors that prevent a Church Planting Movement in our context, but I believe we have seen and can continue to see Church Multiplication Movements. As Warren Bird and I explained in Viral Churches, these Church Multiplication Movements happen…

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When we planted Grace Church in a local movie theater two years ago, we assumed that one day we would have a more permanent location. Meeting in a theater is not without challenges, and we assumed we’d eventually have a place for offices and more permanent meeting space, etc.

We also had plans (which are currently in process) of sending out a planter and were excited about planting a new church. We think it is essential to plant and to do it early so that multiplication is part of the life of our church.

We think it is essential to plant and to do it early so that multiplication is part of the life of our church.

However, we did not expect that we would be multiplying our local campus so soon.

None of us could have expected how that would happen. But last week, we announced the launch of a new second campus of Grace Church after Indian Hills Church voted to dissolve and transfer their assets to Grace Church. Their desire was for Grace to start another campus there—and we are glad to do so.

So, now we are launching a new campus. In other…

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Expo West ScheduleI love church planting and church  planters, and I know  how difficult planting a church can be. When Kay and I planted Saddleback 33 years ago, we had zero support – no conferences , no training and only about a half dozen books on church planting-mostly written for missionaries overseas. In fact when I finished seminary, I was the only guy in my graduating class going out to plant a church.

Today, of course, church planters have many training opportunities, but the granddaddy of them all is the EXPONENTIAL conference. I call it the super-conference. For affirming vision, encouraging the heart and aggregating the most approaches to church planting in one gathering, nothing else compares to it.

Why do I love the Exponential conference above all the others? Because it offers one-stop shopping for learning everything that’s out there today. Exponential has become the clearinghouse for all of the many wonderful approaches, methodologies and styles that God is using in church planting. And since Exponential as an organization does not plant churches, but instead serves the church planting efforts of everyone else, there is no competition with other ministries,…

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Exponential Webcast Live FreeIf you can’t make it to the upcoming Exponential 2013 church planting conference April 22-25, or if you’re coming but leaving team or family members at home, the folks at Exponential have made the conference available to basically anyone in the world who has Internet access via a high-quality webcast–FREE to anyone who registers.

This year, Exponential is talking about Jesus’ Great Commission to His disciples, specifically five key shifts we can make to be better at making and releasing disciples. As you know, discipleship has been a major focus at LifeWay Research, as we released findings from theTransformational Discipleship study throughout 2012 and early 2013. Our research revealed a discipleship deficiency in U.S. churches–large numbers of people who claim Christianity, who even regularly attend church, but whose lives show little to no evidence of transformation.

I’ve been encouraged to see an increasing number of organizations and churches talking about discipleship and the changes churches need to make. At the upcoming conference in Orlando, I and several others from our team will be there talking about discipleship and what we’ve learned from our research. On Tuesday, April 23, from…

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