(The following article was published in The Pentecostal Testimony (now testimony) in August 1985. As we continue to look to the future and the 2020 vision, we can find truth and value by listening to those who have impacted past direction and vision in our Fellowship.)
C. Peter Wagner, at a seminar presented by Fuller Theological Seminary on “How to Plant a Church”, made this rather startling statement: “New church planting is the only method by which we can evangelize our world.”
Dr. Wagner supported the above comment by producing statistics which demonstrated that denominations which are planting new churches are growing; those without a vision for church planting are actually losing ground.
Across our world, Bible-believing, Christ-loving denominations have awakened to the call of the Holy Spirit and have moved into the active work of establishing new churches.
If we are to be on the cutting edge as a Pentecostal movement in the planting of new churches everywhere across this land, we need to be on guard against enemies of church planting.
One of These Enemies is Intimidation
At times, churches are suspicious of a new church moving onto “their turf.” This often results in the building up of walls of resistance. We can feel threatened and may openly or subtly oppose this new endeavour. We gladly give our money and our people to foreign fields, and so we must. But Canada is no longer a Christian country; it is as pagan as the foreign lands of the world. Let us remember the place of Jerusalem and Judea in our Lord’s call to evangelize (Acts 1:8). The Scriptures teach us, “For we are labourers together with God …” (1 Corinthians 3:9, KJV).
I contacted a minister of a non-evangelical persuasion the other day about the possibility of using their church facilities. I was blessed by this response: “If we can help you get established in this area of the city, we would be delighted to. We need you, and you are welcome.”
During the early days of church development, in my former church-planting challenge, one of the Edmonton churches gave us a Sunday school bus. It was a bus they had recently spent many hundreds of dollars on in order to get it in good running condition. The pastor of that church, rather than feeling threatened about a new church starting, gained a reputation for publicly announcing that a new PAOC church was beginning in an area of Greater Edmonton. He would then give his blessing to all who might feel the Lord leading them to become involved in that new work.
The Laws of Prosperity
It was interesting to note that during his ministry in that pulpit, the church doubled in size. No person can be coerced into being uprooted and replanted in a new church. That has been tried and, on the whole, has failed. But people in our churches must be encouraged to at least pray about their possible involvement in a new church-planting project in the area where they live. I am convinced that the laws of prosperity, as revealed in Scripture, apply as well to those who possess a right and generous spirit toward the planting of new churches.
There is a legend about a man who was lost in the desert dying of thirst. Outside a dilapidated, windowless, weather-beaten, deserted shack was a pump. He stumbled forward and began pumping furiously, but no water came from the well. Then he noticed a small jug with a cork at the top and a note written on one side: “You have to prime the pump with water, my friend. P.S. And fill the jug again before you leave.” He pulled out the cork and saw that the jug was full of water.
Should he pour it down the pump? If it didn’t work, all of the water would be gone. If he drank the water from the jug, he would be sure not to die of thirst. But was it wise to pour it down the rusty pump based on the flimsy instruction written on the outside of the jug?
Something told him to follow the advice and choose the risky decision. He proceeded to pour the whole jug of water down the rusty old pump and furiously pumped up and down. Sure enough, water gushed out! He had all he needed to drink. He filled the jug again, corked it, and added his own word beneath the instructions on the jug: “Believe me, it really works. You have to give it all away before you can get anything back.”
Another enemy that will strangle church planting is the enemy of personal “kingdom building.” It is easy to fall into this trap, especially for the sincere and the visionary. If Satan cannot halt the dynamic growth of a congregation, he is going to attempt to trip us up by way of improper motivation. Jesus set the record straight when He declared, “I will build mychurch …” (Matthew 16:18, emphasis added). The keys of the kingdom have been given to us, but it is Christ’s church, and only He can be possessive of it. A possessive and carnal attitude must be avoided at all times (1 Corinthians 3:1-13).
One evangelical church in this city placed an advertisement in the paper announcing the fact that they were about to “give birth to twins.” Their plan was to “mother” two new congregations, and with great joy they offered families and financial assistance to enable the project to get underway. Today the “mother church” is full, with some 1,000 people gathering weekly, and the “twin churches” are both growing and solid, with people being reached for the Lord Jesus Christ.
When Paul established churches, he instructed the people on the doctrine of Christian stewardship. They became actively involved, not only in their own local churches, but also in meeting the needs of Paul and others as they went from town to town with the gospel. And we know it was not because of their wealthy status that they gave. On the contrary, they gave out of their deep poverty. Using these churches as an example in his address to the Corinthians, Paul suggested they do likewise. They were to become tangibly involved with the needy church in Jerusalem.
The Joy of Church Planting
Whether an established church plants to “mother” a church or becomes involved with a project that is sponsored by a section or district, the people of our churches need to be educated and challenged concerning the joys and responsibilities of church planting.
District-sectional strategy sessions can be planned to prayerfully consider a target area for a new church. Let each church plan to demonstrate tangibly their burden and support. Things like worship and sound equipment, a communion set, office equipment, offering plates, and advertising and printing costs are often taken for granted in an established church but are essential needs in a new work.
It is very impractical and wrong to think that our district offices can underwrite all of these expenses. Established churches could put the infant church in their budget for one year or more. In those early months, ongoing church support is so welcome and appreciated.
Prayer opens many doors and breaks the enemy’s hold. Prayerfully “adopting” the new church and keeping it before a congregation, sharing together in both the needs and the victories that are won, bring much benefit to all involved.
Responding to the Challenge
How thrilling is it to hear of the creative ways districts are setting this challenge before their constituents. Many churches are rising to the challenge and asking, “Lord, what would You have us do?” Some are mothering churches; others are participating through the district office.
Recently, the leadership of our great Fellowship challenged us with a bold vision of planting hundreds of new Pentecostal churches across this nation of Canada. The success of this faith-inspiring challenge will be realized only if all catch the vision and become prayerfully and actively involved. Let us be very sensitive to what the Holy Spirit would say to us all.
Rev. G. Douglas Stiller pioneered Spruce Grove Community Church in Alberta. He was involved in church planting at Christian Life Assembly in southwest Calgary and served as the Church Planting Co-ordinator of the PAOC from 1993-2002.