Constructing Culture: Healthy Churches Multiply

Constructing Culture: Healthy Churches Multiply

God works through prayer. Period. When was the last time you prayed for the salvation of your neighbor or co-worker or family member? In some crazy way, God uses our prayers to stir his heart. Our prayers stir the fires in our own hearts as well. When I pray for someone, I empathize with them and my capacity to share the good news with them grows. Let’s pray for the salvation of those around us. And let’s pray for revival.

In the sixty-five-year history of New Life we’ve planted five churches intentionally and at least three unintentionally. I’ve heard the unintentional church plant called a “splant”—a conflation of “split” and “plant.” If you’ve been a Christian for a while, you’ve probably lived through one. Maybe an associate pastor at your church started a church a few miles down the road without the elders’ blessing. Perhaps a senior pastor was fired and planted a church nearby, or left and returned to start a church. Sometimes church leadership retroactively calls these splits plants, and often not with poor intent: they’re trying to be gracious.

I wonder if that five plants for every three splants is reflective of the average church. My hunch is that splants outpace plants. That is heartbreaking.

Those who choose to splant are culpable for their sin, but the existing churches also bear responsibility. Far too few churches are committed to God’s intention for them to multiply.

First, let’s admit: it’s hard to multiply. Planting churches is taxing on the mother church. It takes time, energy, finances, and (most significantly) people. It’s painful. But it’s biblical.

Churches, like people, are intended to be streams not ponds, highways, not cul-de-sacs. The book of Acts shows us a healthy church multiplying itself across the Roman Empire and beyond. Paul is a church planter. Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus are coaching documents for these elder-pastors. If you pick up any of Paul’s other epistles, Paul is training the city-churches at Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, etc. Many forget that these letters weren’t letters to a single church. Paul wrote to one city church, a network of churches in the city. These churches were so connected that Paul could write one letter that would be read by all of them. These were multiplying churches.

Researchers estimate that only 7% of churches in the United States are reproducing, and less than .1% are involved in a multiplying movement (see this study by Exponential and Lifeway). Isn’t that disheartening? It saddens me. It’s not that this type of church doesn’t exist any longer. I need to look no further than our partnership with God’s church multiplying work in southern India through Mission Voice Network than to know God is still in the work of multiplying his church.

I’m convinced that if we are going to see God do a fresh work of revival in Tucson, Arizona, and the United States, we have to become a healthy multiplying church. There are at least two reasons for this: first, church plants are much more successful at reaching the lost than established churches. Second, if many come to faith, it will require more local congregations to provide places to disciple and care for these new members of Christ’s family.

Here are six ways that we can participate in God’s multiplying work:

1)     Develop Partnerships

Every one of Paul’s letters ends (and sometimes begins) with a list of men and women Paul is in partnership with.

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