When it comes to being part of the Body of Christ, there is no experience quite like being around a church plant. It is a thrilling, stretching, challenging, and faith-filled experience. Much of church planting is about seeing the firstfruits of evangelism, discipleship, and church growth. Growth in new churches often happens in clumps, and each prospect, new believer, and family is an important part of the process. The new church slowly becomes a community experiencing all of the ups and downs of growing together as a body of believers, including following God’s leading in organization, leadership, personality, facilities, finances, and the like.
Never in the history of the church has there been a time when stronger churches and more churches were unneeded. Endeavoring to grow as an association of Bible-believing, Christ-honoring Baptist churches and to promote the spirit of evangelism and the spread of the gospel, the GARBC is committed to being a resource for “churches planting churches.” Toward that end, the association is developing a dedicated initiative to facilitate the planting of Regular Baptist churches.
What Is the Church-planting Initiative?
This past year, the Church Planting Committee of the Council of Eighteen began laying the groundwork for a plan that would emphasize church planting within the association. This initiative will not be just a renewed commitment to church planting, but will include structural and functional changes to organize and align our capabilities for facilitating church planting among our churches.
Why Have a Church-planting Initiative?
Why the renewed emphasis on and concerted investment in church planting? Church plants are stronger when there is connected, concerted, structured support. Our association can assist in providing that support through our network of people and resources. The GARBC has historically been committed to promoting evangelism and the spread of the gospel. Church planting has always been one of the most effective tools for evangelism and penetrating into new cultures with the gospel.
Every church is a planted church. God used His people to start churches in the places to which He called them, whether He used a missionary church planter (like Paul), a missionary-minded church, or a layperson who felt the need to start a church in a certain area. Each church has had that point at which God started to do something—a stirring in hearts, an evangelistic Bible study growing into a new group of believers, a team laying the groundwork and moving through the first services.
GARBC churches have through the years been committed to church planting by planting daughter churches (one of the most foundational and rapid ways of planting a church) and sending out missionary church planters to other parts of the nation and the world. We have seen the gospel spread by churches both individually and collectively.
New churches have potential growth that established churches often lack. Currently in North America, church growth is meeting only a quarter of the need to keep up with the population growth. As attendance declines, the church is losing ground. Some have pointed out that the U.S. is the largest mission field in the Western hemisphere. We need stronger churches and more churches. There is a great opportunity for GARBC churches to focus more intently on fulfilling the Great Commission by raising up leaders and planting new churches focused on reaching the lost and making disciples. Churches planting churches has been a powerful avenue God has used to reach the nations, because church planting is a key for effective evangelistic growth.
Having a church-planting mentality is healthy for all churches. The concepts and strategies necessary for a successful church plant are also extremely valuable to existing churches. Many struggling churches have experienced the revitalization that comes with a renewed emphasis on reaching their communities. Many churches on the verge of closing their doors have seen themselves rescued, which in a sense is a re-plant. The best method of growth for any church is found wrapped up in the clear, bold proclamation of the gospel. Any church, whether newly planted or planted over 100 years in the past, will eventually die without growth. The next generation of every church is found outside its walls, and healthy churches must look to reach into their communities with the message of Christ to a world lost in sin. We are healthier when we are growing. This is true for an association, as well as for a church.
How Will the Church-planting Initiative Work?
While there is still much work to be done, some areas of emphasis in this renewed commitment to church planting have come into focus as a result of the committee’s progress and interaction with church-planting leaders in our association. The GARBC will be seeking to connect, resource, and mobilize churches to plant new churches.
Church planting requires connecting. Planting churches always works better when teams are formed and work with other churches. The GARBC is in a unique position, because it has the potential to be a powerful tool, and even a movement, used by God to facilitate church planting among Regular Baptist churches. A resurgence of church planting in our association requires organization; that is, putting in place and implementing a sustainable church-planting plan. This initiative will be designed to provide the networking, resources, and mobilization tools to allow God to work in our association churches for up to (perhaps even beyond) 100 church plants in the next decade. This plan includes working with churches and church planters that are doctrinally committed to the GARBC. Bringing together all the wisdom, expertise, creativity, and resources found within the association is going to take a committed effort.
In many ways, the GARBC has always been a connecting point. It has always sought to be in a position of facilitating fellowship, not authority. This position provides the opportunity to introduce like-minded churches, church leaders, agencies, and missionary planters to one another. Most of our connections take place throughout the association through annual conferences, state and local fellowships, and other connection points. For there to be a commitment to churches planting churches, a structure must be in place with the clear focus on these and other connection points. This would include knowing and promoting what our friends are doing and seeking to connect all those groups as church planting takes place. A structure would also be needed to make introductions.
This is an opportunity to be “no strings” visionaries with some significant resources. Together we really can accomplish more, and church planting always works best when a support system is in place.
Church planting requires resources. While church-planting efforts have been around since the beginning of the church, church-planting methods and tools, much like those of any church ministry, continue to change and develop. Each generation of church planters and church-planting churches has brought us new sets of tools and resources. This generation is no different. It has placed a major emphasis on church planting, and with this renewed emphasis has come a new generation of tools and resources as well. These resources are valuable as each church and church plant is called to its own unique setting and cultural context. There is no one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter approach to church planting that works in every place. Each plant requires vision, wisdom, and creativity. Much wisdom is needed to discern which tools will work best in each context. The GARBC will look to not only make these tools and resources available, but to offer church plants and planters the right tools for their unique contexts.
The GARBC has within its network a significant number of resources for church planting. Part of the challenge before us is to promote and make available these resources. An amazing number of these are in the mission agencies that already work closely with many of our churches. With so many resources currently available, it is not necessary to reinvent the wheel. So, instead of trying to start a new agency or entity, the role of the GARBC will be to connect and assist. Church planters involved in this initiative will not be “GARBC church planters,” nor would the churches be “GARBC church plants.” Instead, they would be the daughter plants of Regular Baptist churches. The GARBC aims to be a resource option available to association churches that are eager to plant churches.
Resourcing can be done in a number of ways. Anyone who has been involved in church planting or church growth knows that many costs are involved. The GARBC already has in place a wonderful resource for church plants with Baptist Builders Club. To assist in each stage of the church-planting process, Baptist Builders Club has consistently provided valuable resources, including funds and a variety of services such as website design, brochure design and printing, “boot camp” training, Regular Baptist Press materials, and strategic and financial planning. A shining example of the value and necessity of resourcing, Baptist Builders Club has already borne much fruit.
Church planting requires mobilization. We want to be a part of making “churches planting churches” happen. This association has so much to offer. We want to take every opportunity to provide for and put into the hands of Regular Baptist church plants the tools necessary for each stage of church planting. We will connect with and provide access to the people and programs that can administer the assessment, coaching, training, and support that are so vital to church planting. As the Lord continues to use our churches to plant churches, the longevity and stability of these church plants can be strengthened through this growth process.
Our prayer is that God might allow us to be used by Him to birth a new generation of Regular Baptist churches. We hope to see them reaching the lost in places where the light of the gospel is desperately needed. We want to see churches looking to invest in planting daughter churches. We want to see a new generation of church planters called and sent out into the world. We want to help these church plants start, grow, and thrive in every way we can. We want to have the structure and plan in place to allow God to work. We ask you to pray that the Lord of the harvest would send forth laborers. The harvest is truly plenteous, and the laborers are few.
David Burman Jr. is pastor of First Baptist Church, Niles, Ohio, and serves on the GARBC Council of Eighteen.
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