How are older churches strengthened by pioneering new ones?
This is certainly a live issue for any church planting organisation or movement. Why on earth do we need more churches when the existing older churches are declining. Would it not be better to fill those first? However, I think it can be seen that the pioneering of new churches has benefits for the whole body of Christ in a particular region or city. For example:
Planting new churches is a remedy for an insipid type of Christianity.
Churches can become stale and stuck in their ways. Although they once may have been dynamic and engaged with their culture, over time, they can lose their edge. Churches can also, perhaps imperceptibly, absorb the culture they inhabit and so blend in and almost disappear. They may still have a building and a presence in a particular street or community, but they have lost all inclination to practice repentance themselves, never mind calling anyone else to turn away from serving the surrounding idols.
A new church, simply because it is new, will be able to look at the surrounding culture, usually with fresh eyes, and so begin to engage it with the gospel. This will lead some of the older Christians and more established churches in an area to wake up too.
Planting new churches provides reasons to transcend all barriers of culture, class and creed.
New churches are normally better positioned to look at certain areas of a town or city and see where the unreached areas or people groups are. Older established churches, must rightly take care of the many demands that already exist in their community. This means, in some cases, they simply have little or no resources left to consider how to integrate new people groups.
Planting new churches requires breaking new ground. This allows a new church to be more intentional, for example, when welcoming in into leadership people from a different culture or class, depending on the context.
Of course, it also demands that the new church examine the depth of its convictions in regards to the Lordship of Jesus over all peoples, regardless of their ethnicity and religious backgrounds. It is incredibly challenging to consider that Jesus is indeed Lord of all and provides the only means by which all people can have peace with God.
Such a penetrating re-examination of what Christians have always believed can indeed reinvigorate older churches too, as they see younger, newer churches crossing every barrier of culture, class and creed for the sake of Christ.
Church planting requires that we all have the courage of our convictions.
When you stop and think about it, church planting is in fact a very old practice of the church. Especially in Ireland, the evidence of church plants of a previous era litter our cities and countrysides. The simple fact of a multiplicity of church buildings, regardless of the denomination, is proof that previous generations took their faith seriously.
Now many of those buildings either are disused or have been refurbished to different ends.
How should we respond? Church planting is a call to the whole church to risk reaching out for the sake of the gospel. It is simply one way - according to Peter Wagner it is the ‘most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven’ - but still just one way to systematically proclaim the good news of Jesus to a lost and hurting world.
The challenge still remains however: in 00 years from now, will that generation look at ours and marvel that we did indeed have the courage of our convictions?