A Theological Response
If theology is the study of God, then church planting should be a reflection of who God is in His essence. Since God is, by nature, pervasive, we would anticipate that His church would be as well—continually stretching into new arenas and bearing new fruit (Col. 1:6).
But more to the point, God Himself is a God of pursuit—He is missional. He pursues His people—He saves, redeems, restores and renews them. He is at the center of that salvific activity. From Abraham to the new covenant God has always revealed Himself and pursued His own (Lk. 15:1-10, Matt. 11:27). And so, when His people go they bear the heart of their Father (Mt. 28:19, Acts 1:8, 2 Cor. 5:20, Gen. 12:3).
More to the point, God has always had design to fill His earth with His image bearers (Gen. 1:28). When His image was tainted in His people by sin, He made them righteous again (2 Cor. 5:21) and appointed them ambassadors to engage His world (2 Cor. 5:20). From the beginning God has had a design to fill His world with His image-bearers.
New churches reflect this design of God as yet another square inch of God’s world is reflecting His glory back to Him. Not only are these new churches typically more effective at making converts who bear God’s restorative work, but the churches themselves, faithfully proclaiming God’s truth, image the progress of the gospel in new areas and to new generations.
A Pastoral Response
“Engaging” has always been the hardest of the five core values that we hold to. As a church, our history of growth has been marked by waves of transfer growth from other churches—first from Faith Baptist, then Bible Fellowship, then from the various German Baptist fellowships. This was God’s design for Greenville Grace, and we’re thankful for what He has wrought in our midst.
There have also been a steady stream of conversions, but these have not been the majority of our growth throughout the years. Partially, this is a reflection of our area—everyone goes to church in Darke County, so they had to transfer from somewhere, right? But we are trending more toward the “established church” model mentioned above.
Consider also that our building doesn’t suit us as comfortably as it once did. While Sunday morning service attendance remains manageable, consider that the perception may be that our services are “too full” and keep new comers from attending. Furthermore, our children’s wing is consistently filled to near capacity or slightly above capacity. Remember, if a visitor doesn’t see space to attend and participate, the likelihood of their staying is slim. All of these show us that we either need to build or plant—inaction is a missional problem, a fundamental rejection of our own stated values.
While we might tend to think that church planting is really about another group of people in another community it is truthfully about us too. We will be stretched and developed as a sending community. In sending out those whom we love, we bear the cost of mission–financially, emotionally, and numerically. Make no mistake: Planting a church will require sacrifice for both the sender and the sent.
Jesus tells us that where our treasure is, there our heart will be also (Mt. 6:21). In sending out a church plant, we anticipate that God changes our desire as we sacrifice to that end. As we sacrifice, we might also treasure something new, and thereby gain in our giving. This is how Jesus tells us its better to give than receive (Acts 20:35).
On a very practical level, imagine a good friend at Grace leaving with the church plant—every mention of their name, every picture you have of them will become a reminder of God’s heart for the lost. It’s been said that you don’t step into the same stream twice. I pray that this church plant will change Greenville Grace and inject a revived sense of mission into our veins.
When all of these reasons accumulate in our mind, they should drip down into our chests as well, producing in us a desire to see many churches—imaging His glory, proclaiming good news to those who need to hear it. When our thoughts reflect the heart of God, our hands should go to work. This is what we want to see in Troy, Ohio: not just another functioning body with a budget, and leadership, and a band. Rather, we want to see Jesus clearly proclaimed from another pulpit and imaged in its people because, in so doing, we will see God honored and glorified.