What is a church plant? Good question. Twenty years ago I would have said it is a fake tree in the corner of a church. The word church plant is fairly new, but the concept goes back to the early church when Christians gathered together in people’s homes. Many of Paul’s letters, such as the Book of Philemon, were to people with churches in their house.
“[Philemon] this letter is to you and the church that meets in your home.” (Phil. 1:2).
“Greet Nympha and the church that is in her house.“ (Col 4:15)
A church plant is just as it sounds. Planting or starting new churches to grow in the truth of the gospel. The goal is disciples who are willing to make more disciples.
What is the point of a church plant?
There are hundreds of thousands of churches in the United States. Why are we wanting to plant more? One of the concepts we have learned in our Equip training this year is planting churches to see a forest grow. I know the agricultural metaphors are out of control, but go out on a limb with me. If you look at an apple seed what do you see? A new apple tree? Future apples? Both are correct but are short-sighted. Each individual apple seed has the DNA to birth a whole forest of apple trees. We plant churches for this reason. Each church has Christ followers (seeds) in them with the DNA to plant a whole forest of churches. We want forests over the whole world.
There is a different side to this fruit analogy. The other day I tried a seedless Concord grape. It was wonderful. There was no need to fish seeds out of my mouth before fully enjoying my tasty treat. They are great snacks but are by definition not reproducible. How many churchgoers are seedless disciples? Sadly there are many Christians who are unable or unwilling to make disciples. This is true even in light of the command we have from Christ to make disciples.
Getting seeds to reproduce
Fruit that will not reproduce occurs when the focus is on the wrong thing. When the focus is on the person, rather than the glory of Christ, you won’t see a church-planting movement. Paul tells his young pastor protege Timothy how to avoid such people.
“The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men.” – 2 Timothy 2:2
Basically, the things Paul told Timothy, should be taught to faithful men who will tell others. A church plant must be filled with seeds that reproduce. Seeds with the DNA to produce forests that will cover the earth. We plant in order to grow. We grow in order to reproduce. We plant churches to glorify God.