Recently, I had the privilege of meeting with a handful of some of the most innovative church leaders in the U.S. to discuss a new form of church. Prior to this meeting, I was convinced that multiple sites were more productive than church planting. After this meeting, I’ve changed my mind; church planting has more potential than multiple sites – if it is the DNA of a church and not just a part of it. Why? Because church plants have the potential to reach geographically far beyond the reach of multiple sites and because church plants done right always reproduce, whereas most multiple sites do not. This meeting was a huge eye-opener for me. It made me want to be a planter again.
Church plants done right always reproduce.
Consider the following: Hope Chapel in Hawaii has only planted seven churches but those seven churches have resulted in more than seven hundred church plants. No multi-site church can come even close to matching that number. What if there were hundreds of churches like Hope Chapel? Give that some thought.
So today I want to say more about this new form of church. Keep in mind that I’ve only seen two of these churches, but I can say that it is the most biblical form of church I’ve ever seen and I look forward to the emergence of more of these churches.
The key word to understanding this new form of church is multiplying as opposed to reproducing. There are a number of churches that are reproducing through multiple sites but there are only a handful of churches that are experiencing multiplication through planting hundreds of churches. Please note that there is nothing wrong with reproducing churches: thank God for them. And please note that size has nothing to do with this new form of church.
So, what are some of the characteristics of this new form of church?
These churches are committed to tithing the firstfruits of everything they do to church planting. This means that they commit the time, energy, and money first to church planting before anything else. They plant churches before they build, before they add a lot of staff, or before they add programs. They live and breathe planting churches. It’s who they are and what they were planted to be. Take away church planting and they would wither and die. Church planting isn’t optional; it’s their reason for being.
Church planting isn’t optional; it’s these churches’ reason for being.
The metric for success of these churches is how many people they give away. They understand that life was meant to be given away, so they give people away to plant churches. They also send people into the marketplace to share the gospel. They believe in that in losing they are gaining. Even though the Sunday morning experience is well done, it is not their main focus. These churches have a different scorecard for faithfulness – sending.
These churches are committed to balancing making disciples with planting churches. They understand that being able to plant churches requires focusing on developing biblical disciples rather than consumers and pew sitters. They know they need to have a disciple pipeline so that there is always a fresh group of people to send out to plant and people to replace them.
These churches believe that every person in the church has the potential to be a church planter or a part of a church planting team or a backyard missionary. Every member understands that he or she has the potential to be a planter, and is trained to be one if God calls him or her to plant.
These churches ensure that church planting continues beyond the present leader by building church planting into the constitution/bylaws and the DNA of the church.
These churches expect their church plants to plant another church within three years of existence. These churches have no intention of merely planting a church; they intend to plant hundreds, maybe thousands of churches. So, they instill the need to plant in the DNA of the planter prior to planting.
These churches grow by multiplication rather than addition. Most thriving churches in the West grow by addition, accumulating larger and larger crowds on Sunday. Even if they go multi-site, the overall church still gets larger and larger. Nothing wrong with that other than the fact that the span of influence is usually geographically limited. Most of what these churches do is designed to feed their growing number of people. While growing is better than dying, this new form of church believes that multiplication is better than addition.
Now we’ve come to the heart of why reproducing churches find it hard to become multiplying churches. Their addiction to addition growth keeps them from fully committing to multiplication through church planting. Mortgages have to be paid, staff have to be hired, and buildings have to be maintained. Church planting gets whatever is left over. Multiplying churches fund the church planting efforts first and their own needs second
Their addiction to addition growth keeps them from fully committing to multiplication through church planting.
Bottom line: church planting is so embedded in these churches that they would have to bend over backwards not to plant. Only time will tell whether or not this form of church will go viral in the West. It already has in many parts of the world.
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.
This article was originally published through Effective Church Group. Used with permission.