A few years ago a fellow church planter heard that Melody and I were hoping to start a church that would be in or near our neighbourhood. He was so excited. He told me that he had lived there for a time and that to reach the Glebe you had to live in the neighbourhood.
His assessment was very affirming. I had sensed that this observation was true. Glebites care a lot about their neighbourhood and are very interconnected (just look at our Buy Nothing Group). In addition, people are a bit skeptical and cautious when there is a lack of trust. If there was a hope of talking to masses of people here about hope and spirituality, one needs to be integrated into the community and trusted.
Trust looks like pursuing authenticity and integrity, where one’s actions line up with their beliefs and values. It requires vulnerability and admitting your mistakes and the shortcomings of those who came before you. Church planting will take living incarnationally and faithfully, patiently and consistently announcing the Kingdom of God.
I regularly get asked the question, “Why plant a church? Why not work within the established churches that are already within the city?”
It’s a good question. There are many different reasons that I could give that are all interconnected.
I could talk about my own strengths, gifts and interests. However, I am also likely drawn to church planting because of my own shadow side and weaknesses.
Yet, my desire to church plant is bigger than just strengths and weaknesses. I am committed to my neighbourhood. After my cancer journey I do not want to move and start over again with a new set of doctors! But moreover, I deeply care about the Glebe. I love my neighbours and my neighbourhood.
Importantly, a big part of wanting to start something is a desire to be faithful to God and obedient to the call that he has placed on my life. I’ve been training and growing to be involved in church planting for the last 7 years.
A big reason is my heart for seeing people from all over come to know that God loves them and deeply longs for a relationship with them. It has been said that “church planting is the most crucial strategy for helping the city-wide church grow numerically and for the continual renewal and revival of existing churches.” (Tim Keller, Why Plant Churches?)
Research has seen that new churches excel at engaging younger people, new residents to a community and new socioeconomic groups. It can be much harder for someone to break into an established church and get opportunities to serve or grow; however church plants create a perfect opportunity for developing new traditions and giving input.
In addition, it is much easier to reach people from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds in a church plant that is diverse from the beginning than an established church that is trying to transition to become more multiethnic. The church can seek to empower people who do not identify with majority culture from the very beginning and establish that as part of their DNA.
We also see that church plants are often good at reaching new people that had not originally considered being a part of a church community. It could be because the church planter knows that they need people! It doesn’t matter where you are in your faith journey, church planters are willing to engage with you! If they do not seek to grow the community outside of just their own networks of Christians, the church may not ever have enough momentum to become a sustainable and thriving congregation. The need to grow the community can drive the planter out into the community, building new relationships and seeking to see if people want to have spiritual conversations or are on their own spiritual journey.