3 Reasons To Plant New Churches
“It seems like there are already so many churches in America.
Why do we need to plant new ones?”
Good question! Attendance at most existing churches is on the decline. Why wouldn’t we just encourage them to be more active in reaching out to the unchurched?
Fortunately, it’s not an either/or answer. It’s both/and.
Established churches absolutely should continue to make every effort to make disciples of Jesus among all peoples. We at Kairos are dedicated to equipping churches to do this more effectively (more on that soon in an upcoming email).
But making every effort also means that established churches should plant new churches for new people.
1. New churches are most effective at reaching younger generations.
Typically, the older a congregation is, the more ingrained their traditions are in critical areas like worship styles, preaching, leadership, emotional responsiveness, and receptivity to outsiders. This can present a daunting barrier to those who aren’t used to the way things are done.
Planting new churches allows for the possibility of developing new church cultures that are just as Biblical as the older ones, but feel more accessible to younger unchurched people.
2. New residents are almost always drawn more to new congregations.
About 13% of Americans move annually. That means that all of these people are “new” to their location. Research consistently indicates that the most effective way to reach these people for Christ is by planting new churches.
Older churches gain 80–90% of their new members in the form of transfers from other congregations. New churches, on the other hand, gain 60–80% of their new members among people with no church affiliation.
3. New ethnic and cultural groups in a community are much more likely to seek out newer churches.
The United States has the largest immigrant population in the world. Over a million people come into the US through this process each year.
If we wait for these new people groups to become assimilated into the local culture and then try to bring them in through the door of established churches, it will take several years to begin to reach them.
New congregations can be initiated with the view of being intentionally multiethnic from the very start.
First century believers recognized that we should never put barriers in the way of people coming to Christ. Their approach was that “we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God” (Acts 15:19).
If our passion is truly for the kingdom of God and not just our part of it, we must develop a culture of continually planting new churches for new people.
Will you join us?
Giving Thanks and Other Gifts
by Patty Slack
You can feel the change in the air–not just the crisp autumn wind, but the smell of burning leaves and cinnamon pinecones, the sight of neighbors on tall ladders stringing lights in bold outlines around windows and across roofs.
It is a season of giving. This week, we give thanks, honoring our creator for the blessings of the year. We recognize that no matter our circumstances, we have reason to be grateful.
It’s also a season of giving gifts. Despite my best efforts to push Christmas off until after Thanksgiving, the stores have already been decked with evergreen sprays and Christmas music for weeks. The next few weeks, I’ll enjoy considering the important people in my life and how I can express my love for each of them through a gift or a note or a personal visit.
Thirdly, for all the people who work with ministries and nonprofits, including all of us on the Kairos staff and many of our church planters, it is fundraising season. With the end of the tax year and our fiscal years coming soon, we are all aware of the fact that we really cannot do this work on our own.
When I moved overseas as a missionary (more years ago than I can believe), I carried with me a healthy dose of shame to be asking for the money to help me go do the thing I wanted to do. As if to be worthy of support, I needed to be miserable. Or desperate. People and churches were generous and, though funds were often tight, God always provided one way or another for all we needed.
After returning to the States, I had several years of working traditional jobs that paid an hourly wage. But last year I found myself in a position where obedience to God’s call and excitement about how we at Kairos are witnessing the movement of his Spirit meant asking people to support me. Let me tell you, it’s a terrifying place to be.
Time and time again in Scripture and in experience, I see that if God calls, he also provides. There are more scriptures than I can list that point to the importance of those who work for God’s purposes to be supported in their work.
And here’s what else I’ve learned. God calls certain people to go. It might be missionaries or church planters or medical workers or apprentices or whatever. But these are not the only people God calls. He also asks people to send. Like the women who supported Jesus as he traveled or the churches that supported Paul on his missionary journeys, those who send are in partnership with Jesus just as much as those who are sent.
So, if one of us approaches you this season to talk about the amazing things we see God doing through Kairos, know these three things:
There’s no pressure. Just invitation. And then we’ll leave it between you and God to discuss if this is the work he’s calling you to support or he has something else in mind for you. Either way, we’re giving thanks for you.
By Caleb Borchers
Here at The Feast Church we recently celebrated our 7th anniversary as a church. That number surprises me a little. The nebulous nature of time around the pandemic certainly has not helped things. Getting ready for the big day I sifted through old photos trying to find some that tell the story of our church well. I was surprised by the number of people who I immediately recognized with fondness, but also somehow allowed to drift far from my consciousness. “I haven’t thought about that person in forever!”
The reality of church planting is that the very best part of it, and the very worst part of it, is the coming and the going of people. I do not think that many outside observers, or even naive young planters, realize the emotional toll that comes simply from the revolving door of members that happens in a young church. It is easy to think of starting a church a bit like building a house. You lay a foundation, then frame the walls, then finish it out. While that metaphor may work in some ways, it has a very wrong assumption at its core. Once the concrete of a home’s foundation is laid, it doesn’t go anywhere. But planting a church means building a house in which, from time to time, the foundational blocks at the core of the home suddenly disappear. The builder must find a way to re-purpose another part of the house or bring in new materials all together, at the same time they try to work on a much later stage of the project. Each time this happens the house gets terribly unstable for a while.
Church plants somewhat naturally churn through people. Sometimes this is due to the nature of a plant. There are always members of a core team who are simply excited by new things. They joined because you were starting a new church and they will leave once it starts to no longer feel like a new church. It would be easy to be hurt by their departure, but you shouldn’t be. That entrepreneurial spirit is a God-given gift. You have to be thankful it will be used to help others like it helped you. Others leave for more painful reasons. They do not like something you do. They start behaving in ways that you have to engage and challenge, so they choose to leave rather than address the problem. Sometimes people just slowly drift from faith. Then there are the happier partings. Maybe some older parents want to be nearer to their grandchildren. Many church plants start with young families, and young families today make several major shifts in their career that often includes moving. Sometimes a family even feels called to do ministry elsewhere. If someone had a heart for ministry enough to join your plant, they are going to be more likely to have another call in their life.
Necessarily church planters are people who see potential. In order to build a community that does not exist, one has to have an ability to intuit things that have not happened. So the people who are part of our churches we see both as they are and who they might be. If a church planter doesn’t look at a new member and dream about how they might be a leader down the road, they likely aren’t doing enough to develop leadership. As such, when someone leaves, it is always a heartbreak. Not only is that relationship changed and lessened, at least in terms of time together and shared life, but there is also a death. The things you imagined happening in the future die. That young mom will never be able to mentor other moms a decade from now, at least not here. That young man that was ready to lead a ministry a year down the road will not do so in this church. Those people aren’t lost to the Kingdom, but there is still a pain in not seeing how their story would have joined your own.
Church planters have a somewhat unusual relationship with their church. When I talk to minister friends at established churches they share (lament?) that they are to some degree always outsiders. I hear a sentiment like, “I can not push too hard for this change, because this church has a history before me and will have a future after me.” In those settings, the preacher is often the one with the least history and future in the church, with frequent pulpit changes being relatively normal. Plants aren’t quite like that. At the very least, the planter has been around longer than anyone else! They also did not come to a church with a salary and benefits. Often they worked like crazy to fundraise enough to scrape by to pursue a dream. So in a plant there is often a feeling, accurate or not, that the planter is more invested in the church than anyone else. This also makes people leaving hard. You are so prone to take it personally. “They left because they didn’t believe in me or my vision as much as I do.” And that thought hurts because on some level it is true! It wouldn’t be fair or sensible to expect every person in the pew to have the same level of commitment as a planter who uprooted their family, moved to a strange place, and gave their lives to starting a church. But that reality still can feel lonely.
Obviously new people coming are the flip side of the equation. They are the drug that planters get hooked on. The thrill of someone showing interest in your church is amazing. It is affirming to feel like your work to create a community with a certain set of values is actually meeting the needs of real people. You can see all the ways that these new people’s skills and passions can benefit other people. Seeing two people who do not know each other create a friendship, and then seeing that friendship blossom into caring for each other in hardship, creates a sort of pride that makes the journey feel worth it. Church planters in a way are obsessed with connecting those who are disconnected. Of course they love seeing that actually happen. More personally, many people by their thirties complain about how hard it is to form new friendships. In ministry there are so many opportunities to connect with someone new through your work.
I have a bad habit I am trying to break. There are times when I daydream about what our church would look like if everyone stayed. If every family that had journeyed with us over seven years were still here today, what would this place be like? The attendance numbers alone makes me so happy! In those moments I can become a bit overcome with sadness. The work done to help people in their faith feels wasted. That’s obviously foolish. That image should actually reinforce just how many souls have been strengthened. How many hours of teaching and worship have built up the body of Christ? Who is in a much better place in their faith today because of the trajectory that started in the church we planted? How many communities of faith around the country and world are benefiting from the work we put in? That should inspire us.
“Caleb, I cannot remember many of the names of people I worked intensely with in Africa,” a missionary once told me when talking about these things. It was not that he didn’t love those people. It was more like a defense mechanism. “It is like my heart clears space out so that I have capacity for the people I’m serving now.” To some degree forgetfulness is necessary. It would be too much to bear otherwise. I still remember one of our daughters crying when a family said they were moving away. “Dad, why do my friends always leave?” The work of church planting is essentially giving your all to form relationships that are liable to end far earlier than you would like. There is a necessary revolving door of people. Our kids have also benefited from having so many people play some role in their childhood. The most thrilling and heartbreaking part of church planting is learning how to give your all to those folks when they are here and then say goodbye in as beautiful a way as possible.
Discipleship, Part 5
by Jared & Laura King
In the previous blog we mentioned how listening is the starting place of discipleship. Listening is critical in having a successful discipling relationship in a post-Christian world. However, listening is only half of discipleship. The other half of discipleship is sharing.
While I am a huge advocate for better listening in our world, and particularly in our churches and discipleship relationships, without sharing the truth of Jesus we will only ever have a group of people who feel very well heard but still have no framework for a life of faith. Sharing is discipleship when it builds off the listening you have already done and begins to answer the “Why, What, and How” questions of being a disciple of Jesus.
When I was in college I read a lot of books, listened to a lot of lectures, went to a lot of conferences and classes that taught the idea of evangelism or sharing our faith. In nearly all of them, I felt inspired to share my faith, yet I walked away still asking the question, “So what am I supposed to do again?”
There are times within theological education where we get deeply specific about the theory and wildly generic about the practice. I don’t think this is necessarily a fault of higher education, but rather, more a window into the reality that theory can be easier to describe than practicing that theory in real life. Church growth books will detail out a broad understanding of why churches are not growing and how our churches can begin to reverse the trends of decline. And they do all this in maybe 200 pages or less. Reading the book takes a few days, but implementing the theories of growth in churches that exist within ever changing cultures, peoples, seasons of excitement or pain, can take years. This in no way implies we shouldn’t read or educate ourselves on new principles or methods. It simply means that a healthy understanding of timeline and pace concerning things like people’s faith journeys is deeply important as we begin a conversation about sharing our faith with others.
Sharing our faith can feel oddly generic. What do we do to share our faith? What do we say? To answer these, and the myriad of other questions you may have regarding sharing faith, I am going to give a framework for shaping your life so that everything about you begins to share the truth of Jesus in you. Which is a big task. And while what I want to share will feel like “theory,” my hope is that you will be able to take the theory and slowly make it a natural part of the way you live your life.
Aristotle believed that the key to a persuasive argument stemmed from 3 arenas at play with each other. These three arenas are “Ethos,” or the character, credibility, and ethics of the speaker, “Pathos,” or the emotions and passions of the audience, and “Logos,” or the logic, creative language, and evidence used in the message itself. These three arenas are constantly working either together because of the intentionality of the person trying to persuade, or they are working against each other because of the lack of understanding on the part of the speaker.
I don’t want you to get tripped up by my use of words like “persuade” or “argumentation.” These words carry a lot of negative connotations in our world today. However, everything you do in life has some elements of persuasion or argumentation. When I am training people in fitness, part of my role is to convince them that they are out of shape and that what I am doing is going to help them get into shape. It’s the same with discipleship and sharing our faith. Part of sharing faith demands that we believe that following Jesus is the best life for all people and then we must step out into the world to convince people of that truth. Aristotle believed that the three arenas, Ethos, Pathos, and Logos, are constantly at work to either persuade for or against the thing being argued, or discussed.
Let’s start with Ethos. Aristotle believed this was the most important part of persuasion because it lays before people the power of your life. You’ve probably heard the cliché, “Preach the gospel and, if necessary, use words.” They are talking about allowing our Ethos to speak the truth of our faith to those around us. Ethos involves things like your character, your ethics, integrity, and credibility. Aristotle said that there are three principals at work in a person’s Ethos: Intelligence, character, and good will. His argument was that to be a persuasive person, your life needed to reflect that you know what you are talking about. Which seems important in discipleship. If we expect other people to live the Way of Jesus then we'd better know what that way actually is. But it’s not enough to simply know about Jesus. Our lives need to reflect that we are living the way of Jesus. Our character and integrity need to match what we say is true of Jesus. And finally “Good will” is perceived when people actually know that we are for them. Most of the time we will never convince people of the beauty of a life with Jesus if they get the sense that we are not actually for them as human beings. These three principles--intelligence, character, and good will-- determine our Ethos. And our Ethos speaks volumes to the people we are sharing our faith with.
The second arena, Pathos, generally refers to the emotions and passions of the people you are discipling. This arena takes into consideration how a person hears, responds to, and feels about you, the speaker or leader or discipler, and the message you are sharing. We sometimes view this arena as pandering to people’s emotive responses. However, understanding the pathos of the person you are discipling means deeply understanding how the message of hope and love, joy, and peace will connect to their story.
Pathos assumes that the simple transfer of information is not enough to help people hear, accept, and respond to your sharing of faith with them. We have to do the hard work of understanding how our faith story will inspire them to see the hope of a better, more perfect, future. We have to become aware of the things that will spark their imagination to see and believe that life with Jesus not only can change things but will change them.
Understanding the Pathos of the person you are discipling will help inform the final arena, the Logos. Logos simply means “word” and has traditionally been the thing we have focused on most--perfecting the sermon, teaching, elevator pitch of faith--and rightfully so. The words we use to communicate our story of faith have the power to engage the imagination of the people around you. The saying I learned as a kid, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” has been debunked on numerous levels. Words carry immense transformative power, for better or worse. Sticks and stones will break your bones. Words will too. At least your metaphorical bones. Words have the ability to start fights, even wars, but also to inspire movements, and to heal unseen wounds deep within people’s hearts. And if this is true of the power of words, maybe it is something we should pay more attention to in church and with sharing our faith. Logos, then, can’t simply be about apologetics.
Apologetics, which is the systematic argumentation of a perspective or belief, certainly engages the left side of the brain, the part that is analytical, likes logic and concepts, and is rational. But it ignores the right side which is where our emotions, imagination, art, music, poetry, and more come from. This is where your understanding of a person or group of people will aid in your ability to craft the Logos in such a way that will connect to who they are and how they perceive information. Understanding who people are and what will break through the rough exteriors of their doubt or fear will help us then as we think about sharing our faith.
Sometimes we assume that as long as I share my faith in the way I am most comfortable doing, then I have done my job. Speak it, let it land on people, and if they accept it then great. But if they deny what I say, it's on them, not me. This posture ignores the understanding that it’s not just what you say, but how you say it, and whether or not your life actually lines up with what you are saying, that people tend to hear best. We have too often assumed that our words are enough in sharing our faith. But the truth is that your words are only a portion of what people hear when you are near them. The way you live your life will oftentimes affirm or negate the words you say to a person regarding your faith.
Sharing faith is much more than a formula of words that speak to a certain point or two. Sharing faith IS words, but it is ALSO your life, your character, your good will toward the people around you. Sharing faith is understanding what the people around you will hear. When you speak about your faith, you do so in a manner and with the LOGOS that will land in the hearts of people. Sharing faith is about inspiring people to imagine the potential of their life with Jesus. We do this by speaking, but also by living the goodness of our faith in front of people.
Listening is the starting place of discipleship. But sharing is the other half that helps create an image of Jesus’ transformation in people’s lives. The Ethos, Pathos, and Logos of sharing can help create a framework for how to shape our lives around sharing our faith with people around us.