5 Growth Lessons from Planting Two Churches

question1One question that has come to me is

What can a new church plant do to increase it’s membership?

For the last 12 years, I’ve been involved in planting two churches.

Both churches were aimed immigrants and one of our core values was to “gather the nations to worship Christ.”

We felt that our call was to reach out to different nationalities and grow a multi-cultural congregation of new believers.

I’ve served in the Associate Pastor role because that suits me and my gifting.  I had taken a church planter’s assessment and discovered that I wasn’t gifted as the pioneer church planter who carried the vision, but rather gifted in a support role to come alongside that planter.

I learned a few things along the way that you may find helpful.

Every new church development wants to grow.  Each lead pastor has a burden to reach people for Christ.  Every leader in the church plant wants to see the fruit of their efforts and labor in the number of people coming to Christ.

They don’t want transfer growth from other churches (though that will happen).

They want new believers.

1).  Prioritize evangelism to reach people for Christ.

Find ways to share the gospel as you serve and build relationships with the community.  Do not allow your outreaches to simply be good deeds than any non-profit can do.  As you serve, share the gospel (read more.)

Find ways to encourage your members to be involved in personal evangelism where they live.  You’ll need to equip them regularly.

Any leader in the church plant must prioritize personal evangelism, as they will be the models that others will follow.

Hold your leaders accountable to having faith sharing conversations with at least 1 person a week, if not more.  Debrief and review those conversations regularly.

Read: 5 Evangelism Tips for Pastors.

2).  Develop your leaders to carry out the vision.

Don’t let immature leaders derail your vision.  Be sure to teach potential leaders how to deal with conflict and reconciliation.

In our context we started growing new Christians into leaders.  That intentional discipleship was planned to create leaders worthy of becoming elders.  Along the way, immaturity created conflict and immature reactions derailed us for a while.  We had to work through that conflict and it took us a year.  The end result – several people left, nearly decimating our young congregation.  We’ve learned from that mistake.

You may already have your team of leaders who helped you form your church.  Continue to invest in them.   Empower them to carry out the plan that God has laid upon your heart as the lead planter.  Once you empower them, encourage them.

3).  Saturate yourself in the Word.

Keep your communications and sermons centered on the Scripture.

There will be temptations to focus on felt needs. I’ve seen felt needs preaching go to the extreme of simple self-help that is devoid of Scripture.  Make sure you keep yourself anchored in Scripture when you teach.

Use Scripture in your decision making.  The Bible is full of wisdom that can be discovered through regular reflection and meditation, as the Holy Spirit reveals truth that is applicable to your context and time.

Hold your leaders accountable to a personal devotional life where they are reading and sharing Scripture with people.

4).  Cast the church vision.

This needs to become the DNA and it comes only through repeated explanation, application, and re-statement.  Every person getting involved needs to know what your church exists for.

People will gather around a vision. That vision will motivate and inspire volunteers to give of their time, talent, and treasure.  That vision will inspire people to live up to it and carry it out.

Help your leaders and people to know: “This is who we are” and “This is what we will do.”

In my first church plant, we boiled it down to this phrase: “Gather the nations to worship Christ.”  That captured the ethos of reaching out to immigrants and inviting them to church.

In my second church plant, we boiled it down to “Help families follow Christ and experience His grace.”  That captured the ethos of seeking families that needed healing and helped define our programming.

Provide your leaders with consistent clear direction and vision.  There is nothing more frustrating to your leaders than a changing vision that shifts from month to month.  If you are the primary leader – make sure your vision is clear, and that it’s consistent.

Be sure to clearly communicate that vision regularly.

5).  Don’t overstart.

In a new church plant, the temptation will come to start all sorts of ministries:

  • Food pantry
  • Worship team
  • Men’s ministry
  • Women’s ministry
  • Community service ministries
  • Retreats
  • Celebrations
  • Social service projects
  • Park Outreaches
  • Visitations to Hospitals, Elder care homes, or orphanages.

Too many initiatives at one time will dilute the efforts of your church.  When your church is small, focus on one thing.  You cannot become all things to all people.  As a leader, you cannot do it all.

You’ll have to navigate what are the core ministries.

We empowered too many people to do too many things and that led to vision confusion.

Let me ask you this?

Grow in Personal EvangelismIf you want to prioritize evangelism among the leaders of your church plant, you’ll need to give them some simple steps of where they can grow.

Get the download copy of my teaching “Simple Steps to Personal Evangelism” ($10).  With your one copy, you’ll have the right to share this valuable teaching with your entire team.

In this 70 minute MP3 AUDIO recording on personal evangelism you will learn:

  • How church invitations are part of evangelism
  • How to discover and share your own journey to faith
  • What you can say about the gospel message.
  • How to personally lead someone to faith in Christ.

It’s a 70 minute audio file that takes just a few minutes to download, but it may help you answer the question:

What can you do in the next 90 days to grow in your evangelism skills?

You need to hold your leaders accountable to personal evangelism when you are planting a church, and this is one way to help provide some practical training for them.

Tim Keller on How churches reach cities – Lausanne Capetown 2010

Here’s a 17+ minute video of Tim Keller talking at Lausanne about how you reach cities by

  1. Planting & renewing churches that are contextual to the city,
  2. Establishing citywide gospel movements

By contextual churches, he speaks of planting a church that fits in your context.   As part of that talk he gave these marks to becoming contextual

  1. A multicultural church has to be extremely culturally sensitive.  Your church must expect cultural and racial tensions and accusations of insensitivity.  It will always be present.
  2. Help people integrate work and faith.  People go to cities to work.
  3. Must have urban sensibility: comfortable with change, disorder,
  4. Evangelism in cities needs to reach different cultures and people.  One script does not fit all.
  5. City Churches need to be famous in its care for the poor.
  6. Artists must be taken seriously.
  7. Relationships are extremely important for ministry in a urban context.
  8. A city can’t be reached by one church, or even one network.  You need a city reaching movement.
Keller mentions 10 in his remarks, but I heard 8.

What is a city reaching movement?

When the Body of Christ is growing more rapidly than the general population.  What creates a movement?

  1. Five or six church planting movements in different denominations and networks.  Don’t work to increase your tribe, but to help others get going.  Collaborate.
  2. You need a
  • network of prayer,
  • evangelistic specialists to focus on universities and youth,
  • work on justice and mercy issues,
  • gatherings based on vocation (business people, artists, etc), and
  • have leaders regularly meeting to discern together what the city needs (not turf wars).

Four questions (from Luasanne’s guide):

  1. How can the church develop a clearer awareness of the needs of the cities?
  2. What has been the response of the church in your context to the increased movement of people to the cities?
  3. What are adjustments that the church should make in order to respond to the needs of the city in a relevant way?
  4. How can the global church be mobilized to the missiological challenge of the city?


Reaching a Community Via a Coffeehouse

The Evangelism Office in the Presbyterian Church USA (which is my tribe) is putting out some videos on churches doing innovative things to reach into their community.

Check this one out:

I’m impressed with their strategy of Business as Mission, but using their coffeehouse to not only provide job, but a gathering space in the community that includes worship.

One question that some will ask: “Is this church?”

I believe it is accomplishing the mission of the church – to make disciples.

33 Influential Evangelism Books for 2012

Outreach Magazine compiled a list of 33 influential books in the March 2012 edition.

“Whether you are aspiring to evangelize more effectively, exploring the nuances of ‘missional’ in your life and your church, looking for a great small group curriculum, or just wanting to expand your ministry knowledge in general, we want to help you find the best resources out there.”

I see that I need to catch up on my own reading.

Evangelism Books

Apologetics Books

Leadership and Church Planting


Missional Church

Small Group Curricula


Compassion and Justice


Children’s Outreach

Youth Outreach

Evangelism Strategies Podcast and Webinar Replay

In this complimentary Evangelismcoach webinar, I’ll share with you 3 major areas of evangelism training for your congregation to help you develop your evangelism strategy for 2012.

Among other things you’ll lean:

  • 3 areas of focus for congregational evangelism to start your planning
  • 6 different evangelism styles to match the right program for your congregation for personal evangelism
  • how one church implemented a personal evangelism strategy and baptized 3 new believers in 6 months.
  • Possible action steps in each of 3 areas to get started right away.
  • Find dedicated champions of evangelism to develop your team
  • how hospitality ministry can lead to new baptisms.



Slides as a PDF (Right Click to Download)

MP3 for Podcast

Slides as Powerpoint

Go to Slideshare to download them if you want them.

http://store.evangelismcoach.org/shop/fear-free-evangelism-audio-cds-or-mp3/ – 5 cd set
http://www.EvangelismCoach.org/deal for the 4 month training program.

Tip Jar

If you wish, make a cash gift via a Kindle Book to Evangelismcoach.org to cover some of the technology costs. This is for those who want to share in the ministry this way.

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Book Reference:

These are some of the books I referred to in the webinar.