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Frequently Asked Questions & Answers
From the Sponsor Church
Sometimes church members wonder why new churches are needed, especially when it appears that there is a church on every corner of town. The answer is that there is a theological foundation, a Biblical example, and practical reasons to plant new churches:
Theological foundation – Our God is a missionary God. He promised to bless the nations through Abraham and his descendants. He called Jonah to preach repentance in Nineveh. Jesus gave us the Great Commission. Revelation 5 tells of people from “every tribe and language and people and nation” purchased by Jesus Christ for the kingdom of God. Based on a biblical understanding of God as a missionary God and of his Son as the only way to the Father, we have no option but to be co-laborers in God’s redemptive purpose for the world.
Biblical example – Even with a theological foundation, there is often disagreement on how best to fulfill the Great Commission. The book of Acts gives examples of numerous methods used by the early church, including mass evangelism, healing, teaching, confrontational witnessing, one on one witnessing, persuasive arguments, intellectual debate, and personal testimony. Whereas these are methods used to spread the word, Acts also describes the most effective strategy for fulfilling the Great Commission. That strategy was the Apostle Paul’s. During his three missionary journeys Paul traveled the known world planting churches. Although this greatest of missionary church planters used every evangelistic method possible to fulfill the Great Commission, his intentional strategy to accomplish that purpose was to plant churches.
Practical reality – Some people are hesitant to support church planting. They argue that it hurts existing churches by draining resources, draws too many members from other churches, that there are already enough churches to do the job, that it promotes a spirit of competition, that most church starts are weak and doomed to fail or stay small, that new churches don’t respect tradition, and, that it costs too much. Although these objections can be true if a church plant is ill-conceived, poorly planned, or haphazardly implemented, they do not negate the strategy. The greater reality is that church planting can be a great blessing and benefit for the kingdom, the sponsoring church, and certainly the lost. It has been shown that:
- New churches can bring new focus, purpose, energy, and excitement to the sponsoring congregation. Once an existing church sees how God can use a new church to reach new people in a new way, they will want to do it again!
- New churches usually cost less to get going than it takes to maintain the programs of an existing church.
- New churches can focus in new and creative ways on unreached people groups, whether that group be defined by ethnicity, language, generation, location, or a subcultural affinity. The purpose is to grow by conversion, not by transfer from other churches.
- New churches generally baptize more people per capita than do older churches.
- New churches can shape themselves to reach specific communities and groups. They are not bound by traditional styles and methods. They can, therefore, change and adapt quickly if needed.
- New churches do not minimize the ministry of existing churches. Most church planters appreciate their heritage and tradition. They also realize, however, that the challenge of a postmodern anti-Christian culture demands new methods and approaches.
- New churches are needed to get the job done. The unfortunate fact is that almost all denominations are declining and the majority of churches have plateaued or are declining, while the population is growing. New churches are desperately needed just to stay even with population growth.
- New churches are fertile ground for calling out and developing new leaders, whether planters, staff members, or especially lay leaders.
- Finally, when done right, new churches actually encourage cooperation in the kingdom, not competition. This is true if all involved understand the purpose of a new church plant.
These theological, biblical, and practical reasons are why SBTC is passionately, urgently, and financially committed to the strategic church planting in Texas and, cooperatively, throughout the world. The question now is, “Are you ready to be a church-planting church?”
This is one of the most difficult questions to answer. The kind of church one should plant will depend on many factors: the community one is targeting, the characteristics of the people to be reached, ethnicity, socioeconomic level, cultural and generational characteristics, whether the area is urban, suburban, inner city, small town, or rural, the makeup of the planter, and, certainly not least of all, the vision God has given the planter and the sponsor church. On the other hand, the least important criteria are what the planter and sponsor church like, what they have done in the past, and what worked in a totally different setting. Ultimately, the question is: Where does the vision God has given for planting intersect with the community to be reached? That is, what will it take to reach this particular group of people at this time and in this place? Some possibilities include:
- Program Based: The church is organized around a few programs that connect well with its focus group.
- Purpose Driven: The new church is organized around the five purposes of the church – worship, ministry, evangelism, discipleship, and fellowship. This model usually has a systematic way of moving new believers to commitment and maturity.
- Seeker Focused: The new church makes every decision based on connecting the church and the gospel with the typical lost person in the community. The weekend service is for communicating with the lost. Worship and discipleship for believers take place in small groups or a weekday believers’ service.
- Ministry Based: This model, often used in inner city or high needs areas, uses serving people in the community as a means of connecting them with Christ and the church.
- Cell Based: The new church is organized around small groups that meet in various places at various times throughout the week. These cells come together for a weekly celebration or worship service, but most of the functions of the church are performed through the cells.
- Simple/Organic/House Church: This single cell model is usually lay led, starts small, and intentionally stays small. Growth is through rapid reproduction of new simple churches.
- Affinity Based: The new church is focused on reaching a people group defined by some common generational, cultural, or lifestyle characteristic.
- Language or Ethnicity Based: The new church intentionally focuses on a particular language group, nationality, or ethnicity.
- Multicultural: The new church intentionally incorporates from the beginning a variety of cultures and ethnicities in its leadership and its style.
- Bivocational: The church planter derives some or most of his income from secular employment, thus eliminating some of the financial stress on the new church.
- Multihousing Based: The new church is focused on an apartment, mobile home or some other type of multihousing community.
Obviously, several of these models can overlap and more than one may be manifested in a single new church. At the same time, every one of these models has its variations and different applications. Finally, every model must take into account location, language, ethnicity, receptivity to the gospel, socioeconomics, and other factors.
Regardless of culture, ethnicity, race, or personal background, successful church planters do have some common characteristics. Taken together these characteristics are usually referred to as the Church Planter Profile. They do not necessarily have to do with education or ministerial experience, as important as these are. Rather, they are based upon behavioral patterns in the following areas:
- Visioning Capacity: Has the candidate ever successfully cast a vision and started something from scratch?
- Motivation from Within: Has the candidate demonstrated initiative and determination?
- Creating Ownership: Has he shown that he can get people to “buy in” and accomplish group goals?
- Relating to the Lost and the Unchurched: Has he demonstrated a pattern of sharing his faith and getting to know the lost and unchurched on a personal level?
- Spousal Cooperation: If the candidate is married, have he and his wife shown that they function as a team and share a ministry vision?
- Relationship Building: Has the candidate demonstrated that he is proactive in getting to know people on a personal basis and is responsive to needs and concerns?
- Organizational Growth: Has the candidate shown that he can lead an organization or ministry to grow?
- Responsiveness to Community: Has he shown the ability to get involved in his community and understand the “pulse” of the community or people group?
- Utilizing Giftedness of Others: Has he demonstrated the skills of equipping and delegating and has he led people to function in their areas of giftedness?
- Flexible and Adaptable: Has the candidate shown the ability to handle changes creatively and successfully?
- Building Group Cohesiveness: Has he demonstrated the skills of successfully incorporating newcomers and dealing with conflict?
- Resilience: Has the candidate shown that he can rebound from setbacks?
- Exercising Faith: Has he shown the ability to trust God and wait for answers?
Certainly, only Jesus fulfilled all these characteristics perfectly! The assessment process, however, will help the church planter be self-aware in areas of strength and areas where development is needed. The results of the assessment will also aid him in recruiting and developing a church planting team.
Too often churches assume that it takes a lot of money to be a church-planting church. The reality is that any church, no matter the size, the age, or the socioeconomic level, can be involved in some way in church planting. Some sponsoring opportunities involve:
No regular monetary support required:
- Prayer: A church can join a planter’s intercessory prayer team.
- Encouragement: A sponsor church can offer encouragement to the planter and his family by writing notes of encouragement, by providing support during difficult times, by having them over for a meal, etc.
- Legitimacy: Since a new church is required to have an official primary sponsor church, sometimes a church with limited financial resources can serve as the legitimizing spokesperson for a qualified church planter.
- Space: Many sponsor churches can offer meeting room in their facilities, especially for a new ethnic church start.
Material Resources: Sometimes a sponsor church can offer a one time gift of Bibles, discipleship literature, sound equipment, chairs, etc.
Options when regular monetary support is involved:
- Sole sponsorship: One church takes on full responsibility for planting a new church. No help is needed or sought from other churches or denominational entities.
- Sole sponsorship with partners: One church takes on the primary responsibility for planting a new church but also seeks financial assistance from denominational partners.
- Multiple sponsorship: Several churches in a particular area join efforts as a cluster to plant new churches. They share financial support at varying levels. This option may or may not involve denominational partners.
- Networking: Several churches spread across the state may agree to join efforts to plant churches in strategic areas. Again, they share financial support with or without denominational partners.
- Adoption: A church may choose to join an existing sponsorship arrangement by financially supporting a new church already in progress.
- Church Planting Center: In a few instances, a church or network of churches may want to establish a center for church planter discovery, development, and deployment.
An area that sometimes creates conflict is the relationship between the sponsor church and the new church. A lack of clear expectations, mutually agreed upon lines of accountability, and good communication could turn the church planting experience from a blessing into a disappointment for both the sponsor and the planter. Before a church decides to enter into a partnership to plant a new church, the following questions should be addressed:
I. Doctrinal and methodological issues:
- Are the planter and the new church in doctrinal agreement with the sponsor church? Has the planter read and understood the Baptist Faith and Message 2000?
- Does the sponsor church understand and accept the methods and style of the new church regarding worship, outreach, discipleship, etc?
II. Facilities, finances, and legal issues:
- If the new church is meeting in the sponsor’s facilities, have logistical issues been discussed and agreed upon? Will rent be paid? Will help with utility bills be expected? Is there a plan for the new church to grow into greater responsibility? There needs to be an understanding about use of facilities, when they are available, who can have keys and access, scheduling of facilities, maintenance, etc. Is a written agreement in place?
- Who will handle the new church’s finances? Is there someone (other than the planter and/or his wife!) who is qualified to handle money? Is the new church ready to have its own bank account? How will tithes and offerings be handled? Is there a plan for the church to take over its own finances? Who will approve the new church’s budget and expenditures?
- Who will handle Cooperative Program and other missions giving?
- What kind of access will the planter and the new church have to the office equipment, telephones, and supplies of the sponsor church? Is this clearly understood?
- Do any insurance, liability, social security, annuity, or legal issues need to be dealt with?
- Is the new church ready to legally incorporate?
- Is there a clear understanding on how and when funding checks from the sponsor, the association, and the state convention will be handled?
- What will be the planter’s relationship to the sponsor church’s staff? Will he be considered a staff member? Will he be expected to attend staff meetings? If not, is there a time and a person the planter will be meeting with regularly?
- If the new church is not meeting in the sponsor church’s facilities, is distance a factor in accountability?
- Are there other partners besides the sponsor church involved, i.e. co-sponsor churches, local association, state convention? Are expectations and relationships clear to the planter and to the primary sponsor? Is the planter free to seek other churches as partners?
- Does the planter have a relationship with a church planting coach? Does the sponsor understand this?
IV. Cultural issues:
- If the new church is of a different language, ethnic, or cultural group, has the sponsor church made every effort to understand cultural differences? These issues may include communication styles, worship styles, decision making styles, time perspectives, accountability and responsibility perspectives, perspectives on planning, scheduling, and setting goals, discipline of children, dress, use of facilities, food, and many others.
- Have the sponsor church and new church agreed to seek to understand each other’s differences? Do they both agree that all cultures are under the judgment of Scripture?
- If language is an obstacle to communication, is there someone available to act as a translator?
It should be emphasized that every situation is different. It is important for the sponsor, the planter, and all other partners to discuss these issues before the church is launched and funding begins and to regularly review progress and challenges and to make adjustments as necessary.