When it comes to restaurants, we hardly stop to examine whether our cities have reached a saturation point with the number and variety of cuisine offerings. New generations and new ethnicities long for something fresh, familiar or different. The establishments catering to the tastes of a critical mass survive – others don’t. Should we expect things to be any different with the spiritual tastes of the masses shoe-horning themselves into our cities?
Planting churches in all major cities
Dr. Tim Keller, former pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, is leading a charge to plant new churches in all the major cities around the world. His ‘City to City’ network has started approximately 400 churches in 50 cities. He offers compelling reasons, he states:
“A vigorous and continuous approach to church planting is the only way to guarantee an increase in the number of believers, and is one of the best ways to renew the whole body of Christ. The vigorous, continual planting of new congregations is the single most crucial strategy for (1) the numerical growth of the body of Christ in a city and (2) the continual corporate renewal and revival of the existing churches in a city. Nothing else – not crusades, outreach programs, parachurch ministries, growing megachurches, congregational consulting, nor church renewal processes – will have the consistent impact of dynamic, extensive church planting.” (timothykeller.com)
“As the cities go, so goes the country”
Dave and Vida MacBain have started a church plant in South Vancouver’s River District along the Fraser River (Wild Goose Community Church). As residential units are being built, 17,000 new residents are moving into the area. (Dave) MacBain says, “I believe that God is using us to create an environment responsive to the gospel in the River District. I believe God wants to use the River District as a beachhead for kingdom purposes in Vancouver. Tim Keller’s words still haunt me: “as the cities go, so goes the country.” He is praying for ten new families and ten experienced leaders to join him in his pioneering effort where developers have actively discouraged religious activity.
Mark Clark, of the Fellowship Baptists, hopes to plant satellites of the Village Church all across the country. A church plant from South Delta Baptist, Village Church started in his living room in 2009 with 16 friends. Clark’s sermons are now featured in 12 services at 3 campuses, to thousands of people in Surrey and Langley. He hopes to expand his network through campus pastors to Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and other sites.
Norm Funk of Westside Church writes that 90 per cent of Vancouverites don’t attend an evangelical church. Westside is committed to planting churches designed to reach the personal needs of the city in creative ways. On the church’s website, he adds, “In the early spring of 2009, Westside planted Reality Vancouver, a ministry led by Pastor Kris Martens meeting on Vancouver’s eastside. In 2012 Westside planted a campus on the North Shore, and in September of 2013 Christ City Church was planted in South Vancouver.” Church planting is in the DNA of every congregation established.
Loving God and a lost humanity
Mark Burch, C2C Associate Director, encourages potential church planters to network with his ministry to develop relationships with those who are already involved in a “Spirit-driven movement.” He says that the theological motivation for church planting in Canada is based on a love of God and a sense of the lost-ness of humanity. His website states that “C2C is a missions-based, national network, uniquely Canadian, that exists to see Canada reached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ… we want to see Gospel centered, Spirit led, mission focused churches planted across Canada… The C2C network is unapologetically interdenominational.” Over 20 denominations are currently part of this network.
According to an informal survey of church planters, reasons for planting new churches are that new churches reach: new generations, newcomers to the city or community, unchurched people who are willing to consider a new mindset, early adopters willing to try new styles of worship and practice, static church goers eager to use their gifts for the building up the body, and believers with an evangelistic heart for the lost and disenfranchised.
New churches don’t always last. The leader, core, style, strategy, venue, resources, and even the timing should be compatible with the needs of the community being reached. No leader can do it alone. There must be a deep understanding and respect for local cultures and neighbourhoods. Missional church planters may find that working off-site for income might be necessary if the founding core group isn’t significant or generous enough to support the leadership and mission of the church. The core team of leaders may ultimately determine the success of the initiative.
Todd Chapman serves on Fellowship Pacific Ministry Staff’s Lifecycle’s Team with the focus of Church Planting. He says, “the need to reach others with Jesus Christ is great. This is God’s call for the church and our responsibility. At the heart of church planting is transformation. The transformation of people in sending churches, of people in church plants and of people in the community. Church planting keeps the church relevant, sacrificial, impactful, service-orientated and living in faith.”
Chapman concludes, “God must act. The plant must meet cultural and community needs and be able to change as needs change to the point where the community values the church. Good leadership and commitment are vital. Visionary entrepreneurial leadership with a solid core team of devoted individuals who are hungry to accomplish the vision, humble to respect the vision and people smart to live out the vision. It is key to have a great start with good support. Success comes from healthy churches training healthy church planters and planting healthy church plants. Finally, no plant will be healthy without gospel focus.”