The devil loves church planting. Mormon churches, Kingdom Halls, mosques, and doctrinally-weak Christian churches are all fruit of Satan’s plan to twist the true, biblical church-planting model. He inspires false teachers to spread a false gospel and a false church.
Consider the story of the Flipside Christian Church of Madera Ranchos. The church’s style is described by the pastor as a “rock concert party at church.” The church invites people to church by giving out shot glasses in local bars and liquor stores with a slogan that says “Give Us a Shot.” The church has the ambitious goal of planting a church near every town along the 99 corridor between Madera and Bakersfield—thirty churches in thirty years.
This is just part of Satan’s two-pronged deception. He desires both to promote false church growth and stifle biblical church growth. Because of Satan’s tactics of fear and confusion, many pastor’s have unwittingly shrugged their responsibility to plant churches.
Consider the three main options for planting churches.
1. Colleges taking responsibility for starting new churches.
2. Church planters taking responsibility for starting new churches.
3. Local churches taking responsibility for starting new churches.
Of these three options, only option #3 has the potential for exponential growth. Unfortunately, it’s the option that has been least taught in good Baptist Bible colleges for the past several decades.
I purchased a book in 1972 titled Planting the Independent Fundamental Church. This book is a collection of very helpful church planting articles written by fourteen different fundamental Baptist church planters, including great men such as Dr. Monroe Parker, Dr. Bill Rice, Sr., Dr. Tom Malone, and Dr. Otis Holmes. These were great men who planted great churches.
But the forward of the book reveals why my generation of preachers don’t often get excited about planting churches out of their own church:
This is a textbook for young preachers who are learning how to build independent, Bible-believing churches…. With the 1971 academic year, Bob Jones University embarked on a program of church planting. God has given us the burden of establishing at least twenty-five new churches each year, for if America is yet to be spared the judgment of God and to be given an opportunity for spiritual revival, there must be Scriptural churches through which God can work. (Planting the Independent Fundamental Church, page 7)
The underlying philosophy assumes that individual church planters and colleges start churches. Please understand, I’m not trying to be critical of this book’s contents or the great men who contributed them. The intent of the book was to help see churches planted—a great thing. But because of the unintended consequences of this philosophy, hundreds—if not thousands—of pastors were released from their God-given responsibility to start churches. After all, there were good colleges and church planters willing to assume this responsibility, and the average pastor has enough to do without adding “start church” to his project list.
I praise the Lord for every independent Baptist church that is started, no matter who starts it. Paul said in Philippians 1:18, “What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.” I was saved, baptized, and married in a church that was started by a church planter, Dave Barba, supported by Bob Jones University. I am eternally thankful for the impact a church planter had on my life, but there is a better way.
The very first time the word churches (plural) is mentioned in the Bible we find the word multiplied. “Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied” (Acts 9:31). It’s interesting that in Acts 2:41, 2:47, and 5:14, the Bible says that believers were added. But when you reach Acts 9:31, it says that the churches were multiplied. Churches were drastically increasing the reach of the Gospel by multiplying themselves.
What would happen if every independent Baptist pastor would assume their responsibility to start multiple churches out of his local church? Let’s look what would happen if ten-thousand independent Baptist churches reproduce themselves every five years and teach the new churches to do the same:
An additional 2,550,000 churches in forty years! Only one word describes this increase—revival. This would be approximately twenty-five times more independent Baptist churches than we have today. This would represent twenty-five times more converts, baptisms, missionaries, financial resources, and spiritual influence over our nation.
This would be an incredible increase, but this is our actual track record—in the last forty years we have seen an increase of approximately ten-thousand new independent Baptist churches.
If we will ever see a revival in America, we must have a revival in church planting. The solution to America’s problems is in the local church—the pillar and ground of the truth. “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).
If I were the devil, I would promote a philosophy that places the burden of church-planting on just a few colleges or “church planters” and removed it from the agenda of local churches. In fact, if I were the devil, I would keep things just as they are.
Author: Dr. Earl Jessup
Recently, I was talking with a pastor who was telling me about a family who had moved near their church from a community forty-five minutes away. The family attended a good church in their community but after moving, found themselves not being as faithful to their church as they should because of the distance. They visited the nearby church and found it to be very similar to the church they were currently attending. They talked with the pastor of their church, and he told them that they should continue to drive the forty-five minutes to their church rather than attend the near-by church. The family decided to continue the drive because the pastor didn’t want them to move to the new church.
We just helped start a new church in a community which at one time had a gospel-preaching church. On the first Sunday, four families attended the new church who had attended the previous church in the community. Now, they were driving over thirty minutes to attend a church of like faith and practice. The new pastor called the pastor of the church thirty minutes away to let him know these families had visited, and his response was very striking. He berated the pastor for planting a church in the community indicating that they were reaching the community. He also stated that these were tithing families and helping in the church. He said they might have to cut staff or ministries if they came to the new church in the community in which they were living.
I wonder if perhaps the following question should be asked of these pastors: “Are you responding in the best interest of these families or are you responding in your best interest?” Shouldn’t pastors be interested in what is best for the families in the church? If we are really interested in our people, wouldn’t it be in their best interest to attend a church where they can be faithful every service, go soul-winning in their community and invite people to a local church they can easily attend?
When preaching on church planting and encouraging churches to reproduce churches around their church, I make the statement, “When you live too far away from the church, you cannot be as faithful and involved as you should be.” I often have someone come to me and say, “Brother Jessup, I live forty minutes from the church, and I never miss a service. I am involved in the ministries of the church.” I always ask this question, “How many of your neighbors have you won to Christ and have had them come to church with you?” No one has ever given me one example of someone they have won to Christ and had them go with them to church, so they can be discipled.
Most churches have members who live quite a distance from their church. Many of them are in communities where there isn’t a church of like faith, so they must drive to other communities to attend a good church. Pastors are sometimes reluctant to plant a church in those communities because some of their good members may attend the new church. Again, the question must be asked, “In whose best interest is this decision; in the best interest of the church or the best interest of the members and the community without a good church?”
We all know the answer to this question, don’t we?! As pastors, we often make decisions in our best interest and not the well-being of our members. We want our people to live by faith, but sometimes it is difficult for us to live by faith. We find it difficult to trust our members to the Lord, to believe that He will lead them to make decisions that are correct. We may berate them or make them feel sorry for us if they leave. It gives them the feeling that we are trying to dictate the decisions they are to make.
Since we believe in the priesthood of the believer, we should allow them to seek what God wants them to do and believe they will make the right choice. Only when we are certain they are making a decision which is not in their best interest should we intervene.
Thankfully, there are some wonderful pastors who do have the best interests of their members at heart. May we all follow their example in helping our families follow the leading of the Lord in their lives.