Commitment to Multiplication: An Interview with Brian Bolt

Bill Easum

In a span of ten years, Brian Bolt has gone from starting one Recovery Home to planting more than 50 churches with 30 plants scheduled to be launched on one day in September of this year (2016). How does one church planter go from launching one church plant to almost 100 churches in ten years? More importantly, how does a church plant 30 churches in one day? Well, as you will see in a moment, the answer is collaboration.

In the beginning, Brian joined the staff of Allison Park Church, under senior pastor Jeff Leake. Shortly after, Brian started an intra-church modelled recovery home, where residents were fully integrated in the local CityReach church connected to the home. They became a part of that local church family. Out of that ‘Hope Home’, a church was launched with 150 people. It wasn’t long before God challenged Brian to plant a church on the east side of town and he did. Soon they launched six churches with 875 people; then 3 churches; then 13 churches; then 8; then 20; and now this spring 30 churches will start in one day in September of 2016. Each batch of churches was launched in one day.

Along the way, Brian created the CityReach Network, a church-planting organization that plants and develops life-giving churches. The network has a staff of over twenty people that offer church planting, Hope Home, accounting, legal, and marketing services. CityReach Network is the primary support pipeline for the existing churches and the new church plants. When a new church is launched in an area where a CityReach church already exists, all of the churches nearby are encouraged to be ready to release some of their people to help the new site. CityReach Network also partners with several denominations to assist them in their new church plants. And through collaboration, they and another church have a school of ministry program where they offer one year of internet training.

cityreach churches

Six Lessons from CityReach

Lesson One: It doesn’t take a megachurch to plant multiple churches.

What’s beautiful about Brian’s story is that the original CityReach Church in Pittsburgh is not a mega-church. Today, it has an attendance of around 450 people. But it was much smaller, around 150 people, when Brian took a step of faith and planted CityReach Church Braddock.

Lesson Two: The church has to be financially committed to planting.

I asked Brian what it cost to plant the first church. He responded, “It took about 25% of our original CityReach church’s budget to plant CityReach Church Braddock.

Lesson Three: It’s a faith issue.

I then asked Brian if planting that church caused him any tension. He answered, “Of course we were concerned about losing people, resources, talents, and momentum. But what happened was just the opposite. We gained people. It’s a faith issue – faith versus practicality.” This last sentence is worth putting on your fridge.

Lesson Four: Your first plant is the hardest.

Our first plant was the hardest. I had to raise up the planter out of my church. I had to train them, and pastor them while pastoring the church. Now it’s a little easier. Because of the services we provide, planters come to us for training and support.”

Lesson Five: Work with what you have.

I asked Brian, “If you could tell a potential church planter one thing, what would it be?” He replied, “Make sure you heard from God. Get around people who are doing it. Most importantly, stop waiting for what you want and start working with what you have.”

Lesson Six: Too much control can keep church planting from becoming a movement.

Although Brian would love for his church to be a Level 5 Church, he doesn’t think his church is – not yet. I asked him why? His answer: “I think maybe we have too much control of the process for it to go viral. And it has to go viral to be a Level 5 Church.”

It’s going to be fun to watch CityReach when it goes viral, and I believe it will.

Postscript:

  • All churches that CityReach has planted are still viable.
  • 12 of the 50 churches have reproduced.
  • Approximately 10,000 people are involved totally on any given weekend.

Bill Easum has a thirty-year track record of growing congregations in two denominations. His last church, which he re-started and pastored for twenty-four years, grew to be one of the largest United Methodist Churches in South Texas. His record of “evangelization” and “social justice” ministries was acknowledged by Industrial Areas Foundation in New York as one of the finest examples in North America. Since 1987 Bill has devoted his time to consulting, coaching, and speaking. Bill is the Founder and President of The Effective Church Group, formerly 21st Century Strategies.

Join Bill Easum & Ralph Moore at Exponential East where they and over 150 other speakers will focus on the conference’s theme: Becoming Five. For more on this year’s theme, you can read the FREE eBook Becoming a Level Five Multiplying Church by Exponential founders Todd Wilson & Dave Ferguson.

This article was originally published through Effective Church Group. Used with permission.