Church Planting

Slow and Steady Love and Generosity

Recently we talked together about our Core Value of diversity. To us diversity means more than being multicultural, it also means crossing social boundaries and being multi-generational. This allows us to see how God is at work in different people. It deliberately seeks out people who can see into our blind spots.

This value is more than just a dream but a pressing need for us every day. This week I especially felt the need for wiser older men in our church as the pressure of planting and the passion for our vision overwhelmed me with the feeling that we aren’t growing fast enough, we aren’t engaging enough people. Yet we were reminded that we have only been doing this for a few weeks. No church achieves their goals in three weeks. Younger people have passion and energy to go after a vision, but older people have the wisdom and insight to guide youthful passion into a positive direction. We must have a long-term focus while we do the daily and weekly plodding along in the basics.

But what are the basics? How do we get to where we need to be? God’s plan is quite counterintuitive, but its results are far more dramatic and longer lasting.

A new friend this week challenged us to focus on two things: taking good care of our families and being generous. We wondered at first if he even heard us clearly when we asked how we will grow toward our vision. Yet he reasserted that a strong family bond flowing out in hospitable generosity toward other families must be the foundational steps to get this massive vision rolling.

It is interesting that the qualifications for a church leader (1 Timothy 3:1–7) include things like: “husband of one wife,” “manage his own household well,” and “hospitable,” exactly what our friend was saying. Yet we like to focus on “able to teach” (the part we went to seminary for) and think that quality (which is rather distinct from the other character qualities) is the one thing that will grow our church.

We had a huge blind spot and our new friend was able to show us what we couldn’t see. Did I mention he was West African?

The need for diversity shows itself again. The majority evangelical culture has a huge blind spot that so many other cultures take for granted. Other cultures think we are strange for being so individualistic. Sure, our churches say we are about families, but we split up into our own age groups for discipleship, we retreat into isolation throughout the week, we abandon responsibility for one another when things get difficult.

Rembrandt_Good Samaritan.jpg

We are missing something vitally important if we think we are going to build a church on awesome children’s ministries, persuasive preaching, and good coffee. Marriage is one of the most visible and powerful pictures of the gospel in the world (Ephesians 5:22–33). The family displays the committed love that the more permanent church family should have in Christ (Matthew 19:29; John 13:35). Opening our homes is how we model to the world what God did for us bringing wandering, suffering strangers in as his own family (Leviticus 19:33–34; Ephesians 2:11–19).

The way we are going to build a church isn’t with fancy programs and pretty people. We do it by displaying God’s generous love toward us in generous love toward one another in our own homes (in our marriages, parenting, and hospitality toward our neighbors). It is a long and often painful process, but the resulting joy is far greater and much longer lasting. It often takes a resolve to push through the discomfort and fear of learning something new, of hearing someone else’s perspective. But this push is what stretches us to receive fuller joy from our shared heavenly Father.

John Piper, preaching on Romans 12:9–13, commented: “Strategic hospitality is not content to just have the old clan over for dinner again and again. It strategizes how to make the hospitality of God known and felt all over the world, from the lonely church member right here, to the Gola farmers in Tahn, Liberia. Don't ever underestimate the power of your living room as a launching pad for new life and hope and ministry and mission!”

Why another church in Rochester?

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.

Reach

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.

 

Theology

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.

 

Relationships

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: 

  1. Planting is the pattern we see in the Bible.
  2. Planting is effective evangelism.
    1. Plants reach different groups of people.
    2. Plants are more effective at reaching non-Christians.
  3. Planting is good for the corporate church.
    1. Plants bring new ideas and perspectives.
    2. Plants empower new leaders.
    3. Plants challenge existing churches to self-examination.
    4. Plants help fill other churches.
  4. Planting promotes an outreach mindset in existing churches