By Shannon Youell
Does your church have a vision of multiplying? More often than not, we find ourselves (wishfully, on the back burners of our minds) thinking that planting a church would be great, but we don’t have any intentionality towards it. Yet Jesus called us to be “senders” from within to with-out. Unless we begin to examine why we should plant outwards, we will never cultivate the ethos of multiplication as part of our discipleship process within.
Some Tough Questions
So though we say we are called on mission with God, we often find ourselves asking: Why plant? Doesn’t that just diminish what we already have? Won’t it stretch our limited resources beyond sustainability? What is our mission anyways and to whom should our missional focus be toward? Are we here for sake of maintaining the local church or for the community—the parish that is all around us? Does God place us in particular places to be His proclaimers of the gospel of the Kingdom of God?
These are questions worth spending time wrestling over. Often we can’t imagine our church even imagining planting a new church community that might “compete” with what faithful practices we engage in. Yet statistically, new churches actually renew community interest to those who are de-churched or unchurched and brings renewed excitement to our existing congregations as they partner in new life. Because after a while, folk in our communities don’t even notice our presence anymore. A new church can generate curiosity in a community.
Recently our local news carried a story about a large household products store closing out and a new Save-On Foods grocery moving in. There were some reactionary expressions from established independent grocers that this large chain will ‘steal’ their customer base and eventually squeeze them out. Just this year a new grocery store opened and another announced they would be the anchor in a new commercial development, so a third mega store seemed overkill. Yet after a few days of reflection some of those same grocers spoke positively and welcoming of the new stores. It causes their customers to take another look around at what their shopping needs are and they shift to that which meets their needs or become more loyal to where they already shop.
Just within the last few weeks a new church plant launched in my smallish, yet rapidly growing community on Vancouver Island. Their first Sunday saw eight hundred people come out to two services. Some initial reactions are that this new, more dynamic expression of gathering together will “steal” some folk from the already established and numerically struggling churches.
Yet a renewed interest in seeking God can actually benefit the existing churches. As curious already-Christians and not-yet-believers explore the new plant, some will stay, some return to whence they came, and others, who taste and see that the Lord is good, will discover places where they find belonging. Often that is in the new plant, but frequently they begin to explore the other area churches until they find their place of home and faith.
Multiplication or Cloning?
Another misconception we can have about planting is that it can only really be church if it looks like us…as though we are cloning rather than multiplying. Creating a new gathering that looks like us has and will continue to be a way to plant churches, but it can’t be our only way. We must always consider our context and culture and what God is already doing in the places where He is preparing for harvest. Multiplying can take on many expressions that won’t necessarily look like our particular culture, yet brings the presence of the ministry of reconciliation into the places and spaces around us.
Here are some ways that some of our CBWC folk are pursuing joining God on His multiplying mission:
- Existing congregations who recognize they are primarily in the upper age group and perhaps declining in numbers yet long to see the legacy of the good work they spent their lives laboring at continue into the younger generations. Some of these faithful folk are the catalysts of prayer, resourcing and mentoring a second service with a completely different expression than they practice so that the faithful presence of God at work in their neighbourhood flourishes.
“TO EXPAND IN THIS MULTICONGREGATIONAL WAY MAY BE THE MOST RESPONSIBLE, COMMUNITY-RELEVANT WAY TO GROW.” (KEVIN MANNOIA – CHURCH PLANTING: THE NEXT GENERATION). MANNOIA GOES ON TO CLARIFY THAT HE IS NOT SUGGESTING HAVING MULTIPLE SERVICES DUE TO FACILITY CONSTRAINTS BUT OF HAVING “INTENTIONAL EFFORTS TO REACH DIFFERENT PEOPLE WITH THE SAME MESSAGE AND DEVELOP A NEW CONGREGATION WITH ITS OWN IDENTITY AND CHARACTERISTICS.”
- Neighbourhood focuses are a great way to bring God’s faithful presence through the already-believers in the hood to others who have yet to encounter Jesus. Some of our CBWC churches are focusing their missional impulses on the neighbourhoods in which their constituents live, building genuine bridges between people who live next to other, yet are strangers. They welcome the stranger and the alien and love them with Christ’s healing, restorative love, discipling folk in the Jesus Way before they even introduce them to Him. Church plants like this birth new churches out of sharing Jesus from within community rather than planting a church and then doing outreach in a neighbourhood. It’s more like in-reach!
- What about joining with other CBWC churches in your area to share in starting a new community of faith in a neighbourhood where one is not yet there? Sharing this work in energy and resources builds strong relationships broadly and local specific building up both the body and the kingdom. Bob Roberts Jr. says that church planting should be thought of more as community development than building a place for already believers to gather; he calls them “community faith engagers” rather than church planters.
These are but a few of the ways we can begin to cultivate the ethos of multiplication within our church communities. The key is getting involved somehow, someway–stepping outside our known practices to discover the Holy Spirit at work all around us in unexpected ways.
How about You?
CBWC is here to coach, mentor, train and resource you on whatever the multiplication path may look like for you. Contact us to explore how you and your folk can lean into the legacy of the past to propel the legacy of the next generations!