I have been in many churches over the years. I have visited established churches – churches that have been around for many decades. And I have also been in several young church plants.
Over the years, I have found myself saying that a church plant can learn a lot from an established church. But, an established church can learn a lot from a church plant, which is primarily where the thoughts from this post focus.
There are seasons for every church and the idea of a life cycle is also very real, which is why it’s so important to keep planting. But no matter stage of life your church is in, without a desire to seek Jesus and unashamedly invite others into a life of following him as a disciple, you’re not really a church.
Here are eight things long established church can learn from newly planted churches:
1) Do something or cease to exist. If a church plant doesn’t advertise, spread the word, serve in the community, walk in parades and create a buzz, no one will even know they exist. And in the lean and mean mode of most church plants, if they don’t do something, they simply will cease to exist. There just isn’t enough history, resources, or reputation to carry it along, which is one unfortunate place some established churches find themselves in – relying on those things for too long.. Desperate prayer is a must. Marketing and creative programming, centered around reaching the community is a must. Outward focus is everything. And there isn’t time to coast.
2) Offer realational belonging and a vision. With a skeletal structure and minimal programs, the only thing that helps pull people in is the promise and the delivery of forming deep and meaningful relationships and vision for what can be accomplished together.
3) New converts reach new people more effectively (statistically speaking). Sheep beget sheep. And when a new person gets on fire in faith, they can’t help but bring in others. The church plant nurtures this in a way that is inspiring. It’s obvious, as you meet around the room with a few others, there is not only room for more people, but an expectation that it’s each person’s job to invite others.
4) Walk by faith not by sight. Church planters face a different set of challenges. Dreams of building take longer than expected. People don’t always come around as quickly as you would like. There isn’t always something to fall back on. I recently heard, “Sometimes leaders plant trees under whose shade they will never sit.” There are no past years to compare to, the budgets are lean and mean and faith is basically the only thing they have going for them. They also live in the world of being overwhelmed with a God-sized vision that could never be done without divine intervention.
5) Entreprenurial leadership. Church planting pastors, are typical by nature, more aggressively entrepreneurial. This is a generalization, I know, but for the most part, you just don’t find many maintenance mode pastors leading energetic church starts. It takes someone with vision and passion. It takes someone who loves and connects with people. It takes someone who sees great potential in people and helps them develop it. And it’s a person who will wholeheartedly build and trust their team around them.
6) Seek to reach the community around them. The key for any church is to be in mission around the community in which they exist. Focusing on the community and regions around you, focusing on the people, and focusing on how they can be served has a great impact.
7) Minimal programs, maximized energy. Planting a church is hard, exhausting work. But, much of the time is spent on working with people, not with programs. With minimal programs and administrative structures, there is more time for the body to love and serve people.
8 ) Focus on the new. The fact that a church is new and just beginning is one motivator for lots of people. They are excited about being involved in a fledgling start. People also like being part of something underground, so to speak. Something that the general public hasn’t exactly heard of yet. Church plants focus on the new! New services, new ways of doing things, new ways of reaching the community. By their nature, they are new!
Every church is equipped to do extraordinary things in the world. A church and it’s leaders can’t grasp for power or prestige, nor can a church be confident in numbers or worldly definition of success. A church must take risks, emptying herself. This may come more naturally to a church plant because there isn’t much to begin with – they have to live in total trust and surrender. But remember, at some point, every church had to form. Every church was fledgling at some point. It had to be filled with vision and a wildfire faith. It’s the heritage of any Christ centered church. Live it out your heritage today.