Four Reasons I Love Church Planting
Years after each of them went through the great pain of losing their spouses, a curmudgeonly widower and a feisty widow were coaxed toward marriage by well-meaning friends. The wedding was a simple family ceremony in his house, and required no rehearsal. So when the minister used a new form to lead the couple through their vows, it was the first time each heard the words.
The groom stumbled through his responses clumsily, but the bride monitored every phrase. When asked, “Will you love, honor and obey him in all circumstances?” she puckered up in serious thought. The ceremony was stalled breathlessly, waiting for her answer.
Finally it came. “Love and honor, yes! Obey, no!”
The stunned gathering waited for the helpless pastor to find a way out of this impasse. But it was the groom who made sense of it all. “Well,” he said, “two out of three isn’t bad.”
And with that, they were wed!
Love is the start
The beginning of every good thing is found in love. “We love because God first loved us,” John reminded us (1 John 4:19).
The church pulses with love. She is, after all, the Bride of Christ. And every congregation is an outpost of divine love in a world that knows too much of bitterness and bile.
Growth and expansion is in the DNA of the church. Luke marches out the story of Jesus’ mission of love in the chronicles of church planting, in Jerusalem (Acts 2-7), Judea and Samaria (Acts 8-12), and to the ends of the earth (Acts 13-28), just as Jesus had predicted (Acts 1:8). So to love Jesus is to love church planting, for several reasons.
First, church planting is natural.
Christian Schwarz has tracked this for decades, documenting it in Natural Church Development. Christians testify, the Holy Spirit empowers, and the Body of Christ grows. New congregations develop as neighborhoods of Jesus’ people become communities of faith and worship. Only the dead no longer grow and develop.
Second, church planting is generational.
All human societies go through life cycles of growth and decline. Christian congregations follow similar patterns. Without intentional church planting among new populations and new generations, the witness of Jesus dies with the aging and the aging congregations. As all communities seek revitalization through renewal among the next generation, so congregations need to plant churches in order to meet the needs of ordinary human life cycles.
Third, church planting is contagious.
Carl George rightly noted that as social organizations, including church, grow larger, there is a need for smaller affinity groups where the personal touch of care and recognition can be maintained. Church planting nurtures small, energetic, affirming new Christian communities that can emphasize personalization even within the context of large church associations. Small groups are essentially house churches, where friends and neighbors can be invited to Christian community and witness in a caring, welcoming setting. And organized church plants take the same personalization of the gospel into new social settings, where depersonalization has faded the colors of hope.
Fourth, church planting is strategic.
Human communities become insulated and isolated over time. We lose our eyesight for others and build walls of protection between ethnic, racial, political and socio-economic groups. Church planting is Jesus’ way of leaping over barriers and reconnecting Babel’s splintering with Acts’ rejuvenation. The scenes of Revelation show it powerfully, when the Bride of Christ truly becomes the new humanity where people from every tribe, race, nation and tongue are once again one in the City of God. During this in-between time, church planting is our strategic lean into God’s future, pushing back against the powers of this age with the healing graces of the age to come.
Who couldn’t love church planting, when it oozes with Jesus’ own passions and purpose?