One of the most common questions we are asked is: "Why does Rochester need another church?"
That is a really good question that every church planter (and existing church pastor) needs to ask himself. There are over 200 congregations in Rochester, MN, why can't we just help one of them become stronger and grow?
The answer to this question has many good answers. For us it comes down to reach, theology, and relationships.
First, Rochester, MN is a quickly growing city. Currently it is the third largest city in the state but investors are pouring billions of dollars into the city to grow its medical facilities, business and education opportunities, and improve its infrastructure. Rochester is just over 100,000 people (not counting the additional 50,000 in the outlying towns), but could easily become a city of 200,000 people in our lifetime if it continues to have such a worldwide reach.
200 churches in a city of 100,000 people means that if every citizen were to attend a church each congregation would need to contain 500 members. That is a lot of big churches and very unlikely. If Rochester grows to 200,000 people each church would need to have 1,000 members! The average church in America is less than 100 people. To reach even half of a population of 200,000 people we would need 1,000 churches. A more modest goal of reaching 25% of that population means 500 churches. We, the corporate church, have a long way to go to reach this city with the gospel of Christ.
Additionally, every church has a different flavor mixed from ingredients of different kinds of people. Some churches are going to reach different kinds of people than other churches. It is a team effort to serve and teach children, parents, retirees, doctors, teachers, chefs, artists, laborers, homemakers, rich, poor, black, brown, and white. Some might be really good at reaching college students while others are really good at connecting with suburbanites.
Statistically, new churches have shown to be better at reaching non-Christians. They offer a fresh perspective not yet controlled by history and tradition ("the way we've always done it"). They attract people through a vision of what Christ will do instead of hanging onto what he has done in recent history. They are excited and motivated people willing and able to take more risks and try new things than an established church may be willing or able to. We believe that the corporate church in Rochester should always be planting new churches to keep our eyes forward and challenge others to take risks so that God can show off his fierce love for his people.
The second reason we are planting a new church in Rochester is because of theology. Currently, of the approximately 200 Christian congregations in Rochester, MN maybe 50 are conservative evangelical churches that have some true gospel witness (50 may be generous). Sadly, a country that was founded on many Christian principles has gotten comfortable with some of the principles, forgotten others, and completely abandoned the Person those principles point to. Those 50 churches represent about 20,000 people in Rochester giving a true Christian testimony (assuming that their membership reporting accurately represents 400 people per congregation who are all faithful followers of Jesus).
In addition, there are now no churches in Rochester that are explicitly Baptistic in polity and Reformed in soteriology. We know many good pastors in the city with Reformed theological leanings, but would not teach such doctrines publicly (for various reasons). We know many people in Rochester who feel out of place at a baptistic church that is uncomfortable with Reformed theology or at a Presbyterian church that differs on baptism and church government. Some have expressed to us that there is no place for a Reformed Baptist to be free to express their views and know that every week they will grow more in love for Christ through the teaching and preaching of his Doctrines of Grace.
We desire to plant a church that is unashamedly Reformed and Baptist. We joyfully proclaim God's sovereign work in this world to save his people from every nation, people, and language. And we diligently work to build a church that reflects the pure bride of Christ through meaningful membership, independent congregational authority, a plurality of elder leadership, and entrance into the covenant community through believer's baptism.
This culture is growing more isolated. People huddle into groups that affirm their own perspectives. They interact with the world mediated through the sterilized world of their devices yet are left unfulfilled relationally. Part of being made in the "image of God" is reflecting the relational nature of God's very nature in Father, Son, and Spirit. We were made to be with others. Redemption City Church wants to be a people that expresses its identity in the world, not in a building on Sunday mornings. We show hospitality in our homes by sharing meals with neighbors and providing lodging for the traveler. We encourage each other through life not just with an inspirational message on Sunday morning, but by living, working, and playing together throughout the week. We encourage interaction with people who are different, people who believe other things, and people who look different.
We don't want to plant a church that is in competition with other churches but is a partner to other churches. We need each other and our unity over essentials is a testimony to God's work in us. Yes, secondary issues will require us to work on the details in different ways, but we want to come together regularly with other congregations to serve the needs of the community and display the mighty love of God for all kinds of people.
Tim Keller explains further why we need to be busy planting more churches. In summary:
- Planting is the pattern we see in the Bible.
- Planting is effective evangelism.
- Plants reach different groups of people.
- Plants are more effective at reaching non-Christians.
- Planting is good for the corporate church.
- Plants bring new ideas and perspectives.
- Plants empower new leaders.
- Plants challenge existing churches to self-examination.
- Plants help fill other churches.
- Planting promotes an outreach mindset in existing churches