Building the Bridge from Jerusalem to Judea
by Steve Fulks
In Acts 1:8 we find the biblical mandate for sharing the Gospel with others. It was to begin at home and move out in ever widening circles. We should note that the first circle moving outward was Judea – the very province in which Jerusalem was located – the area nearest to them. From Acts chapter 2 we know that Judea was populated with a number of individuals of differing ethnicities, much like the United States today.
The first thing we should note then is that church planting within one’s own country is scriptural. Second, we should note that it is natural. We as believers should desire that others hear the same good news in which we believed. Third, we should note there was a plan. We often fail for lack of thinking clearly and setting in motion a way to reach our goal. The Lord gave his disciples the plan for reaching their goal of reaching their world. Fourth, we should realize there is still a need for more church planting in our own country. In 1900, there were 27 churches for every 10,000 people. Today that number has diminished to 11 churches per 10,000 individuals.
There are several steps that a church needs to consider as it begins to look to plant a daughter work. First and foremost, it must be the leadership and then the church body that sees the need and catches the vision to plant another church. For that to happen, the pastor must use great wisdom to move them along in that process. While it should be natural, it is not always obvious to everyone. In my experience, churches planted by missionaries more readily see this need to start another work.
A next step would be for the mother church to begin to set aside funds on a monthly basis for the purpose of beginning a new work. This is usually done within the missions budget. This preparation will take about 4 to 5 years to make certain that there are sufficient funds to support the new work.
Once the focus has been set and the finances are in place, it is now time to prayerfully ask the Lord to lead in regards to the place where the new church should be planted. Some factors that need to be considered in choosing the place are: is there a need for a new church in that area and is there a good location that will provide visibility for the new work to have a greater impact in the community?
Another key is requesting God to provide just the right individual to lead the new church plant. As a mentor of mine once said, ”everything rises and falls on leadership.” That is especially true in the planting of a church. In many cases it is wise to make that individual a part of your church staff. This helps to keep the mission and vision before your church in a personal way. People more readily relate to people than concepts or programs.
If possible, consider sending a core group from the mother church to help get the new plant underway. One advantage to doing this would be that there is a group that already shares a similar philosophy of doctrine and ministry. Also, this group has been involved in ministry before and makes it possible to have developed programs early on in the life of the new church. Caution must be taken to assure that the core group does not become a clique, and that new converts find it difficult to “break in” and become part of the new church.
Another key component to consider in beginning a new church is to determine the time period for which funding and assistance will be provided to the new plant. The period should be sufficiently long to permit the new church to become grounded and self-sufficient, but not too long that it becomes dependent and a drain on the mother church. Many churches have been successful in this area by beginning to reduce the assistance given by 25% starting in the fourth year. In each succeeding year another 25% is withdrawn until the daughter work now stands alone. Knowing there is a specific period of time during which assistance will be given motivates the church planter to be doing everything possible to help replace the reduction in finances that will be forthcoming. It also lets the mother church begin to recoup finances to start another work almost as soon as the first plant is completed.
Finally, the mother church must be willing to let the new church fly on its own when the appropriate time comes. While the new church should hold the same doctrine and belief as the mother church, it should never be a clone. Rather, it should be relevant in the community where it resides. Thus, the two churches may carry out ministry in different and distinct ways.
What are the results of planting new churches? First, dying churches are replaced. Sadly, churches are closing at an alarming rate. Second, evangelism is increased both in the new plant and the mother church as it seeks to replace the core group it sent out. Third, ethnic groups that might never enter an all-white congregation are more easily reached. Finally, churches that are establishing new churches find themselves renewed as they see Christ work in their midst.
Let us pray that God would help us to see anew the command given in Acts 1:8. While that command includes the reaching of the lost around the world, we must not forget the Judea located in our backyard. In our own country, the Lord has brought the world to our doorstep. May we be found faithful in reaching them. May we say with Nehemiah, ”Let us rise up and build!”
Author: Rev. Steve Fulks is the Administrator for Church Relations and Enlistment of Baptist Mid-Missions. His responsibilities include helping churches advance their missions programs, screening new missionary applicants, overseeing all missionaries on deputation, and arranging short-term missions opportunities. In addition, he administrates BMM’s Enlistment Directors as well as oversees BMM’s Annual Conference and Candidate Seminar. Rev. Fulks and his wife, Judy, served as BMM missionaries in Peru from 1985 until 1997, when he assumed his current position.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally presented as a workshop at Appalachian Bible College in Beckley, West Virginia. The purpose of that workshop was to discuss the preparation of one church as it considers starting another. In other words, what are the steps of beginning a daughter work?