A. Established churches have many advantages
1. A building. Church plants have to rent space, with all the obvious inconveniences.
2. Elders and deacons
4. Children’s and teen programs
B. But they have disadvantages
1. A real, Biblical need to serve their own members. Established churches have members with marital problems, sickness, and many other needs. The church cannot ignore these. It’s not possible to be as other-centered while tending to internal needs. This is the inevitable result of growth.
2. Politics, silos, and turf wars. Members who want to be served rather than to serve, members who get upset when they aren’t consulted before a decision is made, members who don’t want the church to change
3. Racial segregation. Most established churches don’t look like many of the potential converts and therefore struggle to appeal to them
4. Legalism. Even when we know it’s okay, we often don’t feel like it’s okay. It’s hard to give up decades of a belief system. It’s hard to change. Elders are often scared to teach the truth for fear of provoking a split. And those churches that have brought in the instrument have often lost significant numbers of members.
5. Generation gap. Older members often have very different expectations from younger members. It’s hard to learn to accept those with very casual dress, tatoos, etc. Musical tastes can be radically different.
6. Low expectations. An established church often counts attendance and taking turns at passing communion as sufficient “service.” A church plant expects its members to participate in outreach events, in community service, etc. You can’t form relationships if you don’t show up. Members are expected to engage in personal evangelism.
7. Ministries that aren’t part of the vision. A church plant will have all ministries pointed toward the overall vision. An established church has countless ministries and programs, some of which don’t meaningfully contribute to the vision. Some we rationalize as being “outreach” despite having been ineffective at outreach for decades.
8. Members with no time. In a church plant, members have moved far from home as a team, all committed to work on the church’s vision. All have made serious, life-altering sacrifices to be part of the effort. All are deeply committed. In an established church, many members joined to be served by great programs. Many have no sense of vision and less sense of obligation to serve others. Indeed, the balance of life often shifts from church first to church if there’s enough time.
9. A different attitude toward children. The plant team has already moved their children away from family and grandparents to make the plant a reality. They love and dote on their children, but they understand that sometimes a family has to make sacrifices to honor God’s calling. In a church plant, even the children often see themselves as missionaries for Jesus. Hence, play dates, ball teams, and other activities are opportunities for both the parents and the children to form relationships and bring people to Jesus.In an established church, children often compete with Jesus for our time and attention rather than providing opportunities to be about our Father’s business.
XII. These are substantial barriers. But the gospel is designed to overcome barriers. Is there a way our church can learn to act like a church plant? Which would be better —
A. To do nothing, while others plant churches all around us? Is there some other way to grow (excluding growth by transfer or birth)?
B. To train a team of members to plant a new church in a new place in Tuscaloosa?
C. To train a team of members to plant a new church in our building, meeting on Saturday or Sunday night?
D. To ask all our members to become church planters as part of our existing congregation?