A new church is being planted in your neighborhood.
While for many this is an exciting new venture for gospel opportunity it can also cause great anxiety in the heart of a pastor who already leads a church in the area. Why? Because new church plants often siphon away current members, attenders, volunteers, and potential guests. A new church plant usually means an immediate reduction in the old churches’ ministries.
Church plants can come with newness, youth, a committed core of energized volunteers, and a pastor with gifting and charisma. They don’t have to combat a long-established culture that is often fraught with unhealthy practices. They offer vibrancy, excitement, and flexibility that is often very appealing; a new church plant is a place people want to be. To the hard-working pastor struggling in his own ministry, news of a church plant and its potential to attract people can cause great anxiety. The heart wants to scream, “Don’t steal our people! Don’t attract our guests! I need them!”
Rather than give in to fear, however, we should see reasons to rejoice in the birth of new churches – even if it means in the short term our individual ministries may be reduced. Here are two practical reasons why.
We should rejoice that more people will follow Jesus
The statistics are clear. New church plants reach more unchurched people than established churches – and the margin isn’t close. Will our hearts begrudge conversions because God isn’t using us to bring them about? Does not jealousy over another church’s evangelistic success reveal that our true desire is not for the lost to come to Christ but that we may fulfill an idolatrous desire for success?
The more people we have engaging lostness in our area, the more we should be encouraged. The need is so great! In my own context in the suburbs of Chicago, there are 250,000 people within five miles of our church and roughly 240,000 of them do not know Christ. We could have five churches that all had 5,000 people at them and we would still barely make a dent in the lostness of our area. We are not in a competition with other churches. We are in a battle against the kingdom of darkness, fighting for the souls of those who do not know Christ. And the more hands we have to the plow, the more we should rejoice.
Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers” (Matthew 9:37-38). Jesus says we should pray earnestly for more laborers and that means we should rejoice when they come.
We should rejoice in the benefit that church planters are to our lives
Most planters have gone through an assessment process, been trained, educated, and informed by planting agencies on the best ways to reach people in their target area. What a valuable resource! What a blessing from God to send a partner like this right into my backyard! Church planters are co-laborers that can help stimulate and challenge existing churches to be more intentional and focused on reaching those around us.
Some of my best friends in Chicago are church planters. We have formed friendships that sustain, challenge, and encourage me. Am I tempted to jealousy by their gifting, youthful congregations, and stories of growth and conversions? Admittedly, sometimes. I am always at battle against my selfish heart. But these brothers have helped me more than I can measure. They challenge my complacency and tendency to be inward focused. They inspire me with their vigor and drive. They equip me with ideas and strategies that I never would have figured out on my own.
New church plants often mean that more people will be rescued from the kingdom of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son. New church plants bring pastors who can become friends, resources, catalysts, and encouragements to our own ministries. In these things we should rejoice!