Church plants: Raising up leaders, reaching the unreached
By Jack Taylor
Who would expect that a brand new church plant would see a young woman come to faith in Jesus, be baptized, and then go to serve as a missionary in Egypt, Cameroon and Jordan all within three years?
Redemption Community Church held its first service on Easter 2013 as a plant out of Parkland Fellowship in Surrey. Founding pastor, Dustin Laird (with wife Kim) says that “As churches are planted, and strategically see themselves as a partner in the work of the gospel with other local churches, churches are able to complement one another and provide the hope of the gospel to more and more people.”
Parkland Fellowship and Fellowship Pacific formulated a plan to see a church planted through “a five year commitment of tapering financial support from both organizations to ensure a gradual growth towards self-sufficiency.” That allowed Redemption, as a newly birthed congregation, to focus on their mission and identity as a church family without being overly concerned about their finances.
The new work launched in hopes of reaching a specific demographic of their community with the gospel. Despite their best efforts they have seen another distinct group converge into a unity of worship. Laird sees that God shaped His own church and he has learned not to spend all the congregation’s energy “trying to reach those not yet in the church at the expense of shepherding and discipling those who God brought together.” The wisdom of a few years of ministry experience is evident in this young leader.
“I had no experience, little knowledge, and not a typical church planter’s personality. I had been in youth ministry and was very satisfied… I couldn’t imagine being elsewhere,” says Laird. God moved the Laird family to sell their home and relocate to a new place even before they had a job. They began this new journey with a sense of great faith and unity.
Now, at Redemption, “ýoung leaders have emerged and sensed the call of God on their life to serve Him vocationally and are now receiving training for full time ministry. There have been many opportunities to celebrate as lives have been transformed by the gospel!”
The impact on a church planter’s marriage and family can be significant as Laird admits. The stress of finding a balance for family, work and community outreach can be challenging “and it takes its toll while this balance is worked out.” Stretching one’s faith is wearying and defaulting into seeing the Scripture as “a source for sermon material rather than the living word of God” for personal transformation is a reality a leader can slip into. “Feeling as though my faith needs to appear strong and steady has led to a gap between how I feel I must present myself and how I actually feel, and it’s a killer for one’s personal faith to try and maintain that tension over time.”
“I would encourage church planters to intentionally praise the Lord and celebrate what He is doing instead of always keeping an eye on what hasn’t yet come to pass. Victories can feel few and far between, with challenge after challenge in the meantime. Growth can be slow and there will be setbacks. Having a vision and striving for it is important to help you persevere, pray faithfully, and learn to depend upon the Lord. Failing to find ways to see and be grateful for the Lord’s presence and work can lead to frustration and dejection. As a shepherd of the people, you need to serve those who God gives you the privilege of leading faithfully. Push for Kingdom growth and champion evangelism. But guard your heart to ensure it is so that God is glorified as people turn to Christ, not so that you feel successful.”
To the larger church on why church planting is important in Canada, Laird says, “Church planting provides benefits to the greater work of the Kingdom. It provides more opportunities for individuals in a community to have a church to connect with. I’ve known adults who have terrible memories of school, so struggle to worship in a school. I’ve met others who have terrible memories of church, and find a neutral location like a school or theatre the only place they would be willing to try going back to church. Some churches in our city provide theological training to lay leaders, others run sports leagues. Worship styles are varied, along with locations, programs, and preaching styles. The list goes on.”
“The Canadian cultural landscape is ever changing, and church plants help address the need for contextually relevant expressions of the gospel amongst a growing diversity of people groups in our nation. Church plants allow for churches that currently effectively minister to their communities to do so, while others serve freely in a complimentary way. A diversity of people being reached by a diversity of churches to the glory of the one true God is beautiful thing.”
When a church plant is initiated a “vacuum of leadership is created, and God calls leaders to step forward and serve as elders and leaders.” This is a benefit for the body of Christ as a whole. “Our church has had young leaders serve, who might not have had the opportunity to develop their gifts.
Laird concludes. “The journey of church planting has allowed my family to draw near together, to rest together, and to make the most of the time we have together. My wife and I have a deep sense of shared partnership and investment in the ministry and it is a joy to celebrate the work God does through our church together. God has been faithful in countless ways, often my faith has been bolstered in this journey. And it has been good for my sense of self, particularly in those moments in which I remember that the Lord has graciously called me to this task, but that the world doesn’t rest on my shoulders. It has been good for my soul to rejoice that God has called me and uses me, but that my proper place is as a worshipper of the One who is worthy, so I step aside and do my best to ensure that all the glory and praise is given to the Lord.”