One of the greatest needs today, is for churches to be healthy and multiplying. The Great Commission was given to the church to go and make disciples of all nations beginning where we are and expanding to the ends of the earth. Planting churches is a way to multiply disciple making throughout the whole earth. Only 4% of U.S. churches plant churches, and unfortunately many churches have been planted by disagreements and splits instead of by a passion for the gospel to be preached in needy and hopeless communities. There are several things that hold us back in church planting. One is the perception of barriers. We often think that we do not have the funding, the people, nor the experience to successfully send out workers to make new disciples and to start new churches.
I wonder how the Acts 13 church at Antioch felt as they prayed and set aside Paul and Barnabas. They had no precedent and no mission board. The church did what the church was made to do… they made disciples and in prayer the Spirit sent out laborers for the harvest. Today in Alabama God is calling out church planters from every walk of life and from every region to make their lives count for the gospel. Yet, how does the church get this done? What are some healthy models?
There are several healthy models that God is using and many more that are being newly formed by the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
- Terrence, the church planter and pastor at Strong Tower in Montgomery has seen 2 new churches come out of his church of 100 over the last 10 years since Strong Tower began. He is involved in doing a residency ministry for new planters. As they serve with him for a year, God calls out those who are to go with the new planter. There is a loss to the sending church, but with it, God continues to bring in new members and raise up more leaders in the church. Strong Tower has become a sending church.
- Perry is a bi-vocational pastor in rural Alabama. He and his family have moved to plant a church from within a sending church. For the first year they were a venue of their sending church some 30 miles away. Perry and his leadership team then moved to be their own congregation. This has allowed Perry to focus on the community and look at long term witness for a greater impact in an isolated rural town.
- Will, has moved from being the youth pastor for more than 10 years at Gilliam Springs, to becoming a church planter in the Huntsville area. As a church they commissioned him and his called-out team to go and plant the gospel in a new growing community. The church is fully vested in his new work, and along with other partners, is moving to plant.
These are 3 active models that God is using in Alabama today, but more models are being developed by the work of the Spirit in the body of Christ. The limitation is not money, personnel, nor experience. The need of the hour is for churches to awaken to their God-given call to see the gospel planted many times throughout Alabama and beyond. If the Lord is raising up disciple makers in a church, will they be ready to send out laborers? Sending out the called is the missional imperative for Christ’s church today.