The heart of a church planter
A number of years ago, church planter Bill Hybels popularized the phrase “The local church is the hope of the world.” I believe it!
I know the local church has come under siege of late, but I’m convinced that Jesus’ plan for global evangelization and transformation was and is the local church. Jesus didn’t say, “I will build my church – but if that doesn’t work, I’ll try something else.”
When people tell me they love Jesus, but don’t love the local church, I wonder about their love for Jesus. If you love Jesus, you’ll love what he loves. And Jesus loves the local church. His heart is for his people.
The New Testament, in large part, is the story of church development and planting. I accepted the role of CCMBC executive director because I believe we have a biblical mandate to plant churches and see congregations grow into healthy, reproducing expressions of God’s kingdom. I long to see churches who’ve lost their missionary heart be renewed for the glory of God, able to fulfill the mission given to them by Jesus. I absolutely love the local church!
As a national body, we’re focusing our energies on developing healthy churches through leadership development, which includes coaching, professional development, personal and church refocusing, and church planting.
Tim Keller, in his article “Why Plant Churches?” reminds us that virtually all of the great evangelistic challenges in the New Testament were calls to plant churches, not simply to share the faith. The great commission is a call, not just to “make disciples,” but also to baptize. In Acts and other New Testament books, it’s clear that baptism means incorporation into a local worshipping community, complete with accountability and boundaries (Acts 2:42–47). The only way to ensure an increasing number of Christ-followers in a city is to increase the number of churches.
Why? Much of traditional evangelism is aimed at getting people to make a “decision” for Christ. Experience has shown that many who make these one-time decisions never become disciples – their lives never change. Many of those decisions are simply the beginning of a journey seeking God.
Only someone who is being discipled in the context of an ongoing, worshipping, and shepherding community can mature into a vital, saving faith. That’s why missiologist C. Peter Wagner can say, “Planting new churches is the most effective evangelistic methodology known under heaven.”
A heart check for everyone
While we know that church plants are effective in reaching large numbers of people with the good news of Jesus Christ, there are certain people whom only established
churches will reach. In order to be a missionary people, we need a both/and philosophy. We need existing churches to be filled with healthy, reproducing, passionate Christ-followers, who take responsibility for the spiritual well-being of their community. And we need to plant new churches.
It’s always exciting to hear stories of God’s transforming work, regardless of the age of the congregation. We’re all called to be kingdom-minded people who love Jesus and serve him through the leading of the Holy Spirit, for his honour and glory – whether our church is one month old, or celebrating its 75th anniversary.
The question is not: Will we plant churches, or will we resource existing churches? The real question is: What’s the state of our hearts?
Here are the questions I regularly ask myself: Does my heart break for those who don’t know Jesus? Am I so overwhelmed by God’s grace and love for me that I respond as one who has been redeemed? Do I serve God out of love and gratitude? Do I cultivate a personal relationship with Jesus so I know who I am in Christ, recognize the spiritual gifts he’s given me, and use those gifts for his glory? Am I praying for God’s heart for
my community? Am I willing to move beyond my comfort zone and engage with people who are different than me?
How are our hearts?
Willy Reimer is CCMBC executive director and lives in Calgary with his family. He and his wife Gwen planted SunWest Church, Calgary.