Although we have little doubt that there is a need for new church plants, we are not Naïve concerning the potential advantages and disadvantages of launching a new work. As such, we are trying to walk into this endeavor with our eyes wide open. We are also working hard to minimize the disadvantages maximize the advantages. Nevertheless, there are risks involved.
Potential Disadvantages of Planting a New Church
One disadvantage of planting a new church is loss of momentum and continuity we may experience. We have seen God’s life-transforming work among us. People are being converted, marriages are being restored, sin is being exposed, men are learning to love and cherish their wives; to lead, teach, and disciple their families. Women are embracing biblical femininity, establishing healthy, vibrant Titus 2 relationships, and enjoying the freedom that comes from knowing that their husbands are simultaneously being asked to lead their homes, and being held accountable by a church that is committed to practicing loving discipline. Children are being catechized and discipled in their homes, and immersed in the full fellowship of the church. Teens are rejecting the myth of adolescence, stepping up to serve their families and the church, and single adults are coming from all over the city to be a part of a church family as opposed to a singles group. Families are engaging in hospitality/evangelism, and God is raising up leaders in our midst. Yes, like any church, we have our problems (it wouldn’t be church without those), but there is indeed much to be thankful for.
There is also much that could potentially be lost, or at least changed unfavorably. This is, of course the tension that underlies all change. What if things don’t go as well after we do this? This is the fear of the bride and bridegroom, the new business owner, the new home buyer, and the Nation on post-election day. There is always the potential for messing things up by changing them. However, that cannot drive our decisions. If it did, we’d never get married, start a business, buy a home, or elect new leaders.
Another disadvantage of planting a new church is the personal cost of altered, and potentially lost relationships. While the aforementioned disadvantage is only potential, this one is guaranteed. There will be altered relationships. People will have to say goodbye to friends who have become more like family. And while those relationships don’t have to be lost, our model (with our all-day services, fellowship meals, hospitality, etc.) makes it more costly not to spend the Lord’s Day together. Members of GFBC often talk about this after coming back from visiting family and going to another church. There is something rather dissatisfying about going to an hour and a half service and walking away after you’ve become accustomed to spending the day with the body. As a result, there is a great sense of loss that will accompany this transition.
Still another disadvantage of planting a new church is weakening the leadership team. Right now we have four elders (we just added two at our last annual meeting). Having gone from three down to two, then up to four, we know the difference a strong leadership team can make. It is a great benefit to have three other men by your side in a work like this. And just when we’ve begun to hit our stride, we are dividing up to plant a new church.
While the four of us will still work together during the transition (and beyond as cooperating sister churches), the fact remains that we will have divided attention and efforts, and thus, less synergy than we would were we to stay together. I assure you, the four of us would love nothing more than to stay together. Nothing, that is, except separate for a greater cause.
Potential Advantages of Planting a New Church
Although there are potential disadvantages, we believe they are insignificant when compared to the potential advantages of planting a church. And those potential advantages are many.
- First, planting a new church will establish another healthy gospel outpost in the fourth largest metropolitan area in the United States. As mentioned earlier, Houston is in desperate need of healthy churches. Planting this new work will give us an opportunity to push back the darkness in another part of town.
Most of our new growth is coming from the area around our new location. Moreover, there is a great need in the area for healthy, biblical, gospel-centered ministry. Currently, the most prominent ministries in the area are a few slick satellite-based, entertainment-driven, doctrine-avoiding mega churches, and a number of dying liberal mainline churches.
- Second, planting a new church will alleviate our growth problem, thus making room for more healthy growth. We can never be certain how many people will accept the challenge and join the plant team. However, based on a demographic analysis of our current membership, our new plant will be a more convenient location for nearly half of our members, and more than half of our regular attenders. This could mean a significant reduction in the congestion at our current location, and make room for new, healthy growth.
- Third, planting a new church will create opportunities for more people to share in the work. There is always a tendency for people to come into a larger congregation with a sit, soak, and be served attitude. As a result, more and more work begins to pile up on fewer and fewer people. In a smaller context, this is simply not an option. We believe reducing our numbers will help produce more of a all-hands-on-deck atmosphere allowing people who have not served to stretch their legs and get involved.
- Fourth, planting a new church will increase our level of intimacy and accountability. As mentioned in part one, GFBC is committed to a personal, intimate, life-on-life model of ministry that is challenged significantly beyond a certain size. While we recognize that there is no magic number, and God ultimately brings both increase, and shepherds/leaders to share the load (and plant new works), it is our desire to keep our congregation at a manageable size as much and as long as we can. In the meantime, we strive to minister to all those whom the Lord sends our way.