I sincerely believe that one of the great hopes that our nation has is the starting of new churches, and I rejoice in every new work that will make the preaching of Christ its primary focus. Fellowship Baptist Church has always been involved in new church plants; both here in America and around the globe. Nothing is more exciting than a new baby, even if that baby happens to be a church.
In recent weeks, my heart has rejoiced to hear of the birth of many new churches. Fellowship Baptist has been financially involved in some of those plants. I have been prayerfully involved in each one that I knew about. I sincerely hope that this post will not be misinterpreted as a lack of enthusiasm, on my part, for starting churches.
Last Sunday was not our launch day. As a matter of fact, last Sunday was day 3,205 for Fellowship Baptist Church. That’s right, more than sixty-one years ago; FBC held its first service on the other side of the tracks in the Catsburg community of Durham, North Carolina. While I rejoice with those involved with every new church plant that is springing up across our country, I also want to rejoice with those churches that remain faithful to the mission after decades of ministry. We need established churches.
I have been to many conferences where church planting has been a point of emphasis, and to that emphasis, I give a hearty Amen. Churches are closing their doors each and every week. Pastors are quitting the ministry regularly. If we do not continue to invest in church planting, the attrition rate will ultimately catch up with us and we will cease to exist.
On the other hand, we need strong, established churches to remain strong. To be honest, I doubt that things were quite as exciting for us on day 3,205 as they were for some of my friends on their launch day. However, I rejoice that Fellowship Baptist just experienced day 3,205!
Established churches should provide financial support for new church plants.
Fellowship Baptist is not a wealthy church, but the Lord has blessed us. He has enabled us to care for our needs, and He has also provided for us to help others. There are currently 125 missionaries that receive monthly support from our ministry. Many of those works are new church plants. The ability to faithfully support that many missionaries would not have been a possibility in the early years of our church’s existence. An established church can and should invest financially in new church plants.
Established churches should produce workers for new church plants.
All things being equal, it will take some time for new church plants years to produce workers for ministry. When I mention workers, I’m talking about pastors and others who serve in leadership positions. The Word of God is clear that those who are novices should not occupy such offices.
Churches that have been in existence for decades can and should produce pastors and assistant pastors for new church plants. God doesn’t intend for everyone to serve in full time ministry, but it should definitely be a consideration for everyone.
Established churches should be models for new church plants.
No two churches are alike, and no church should attempt to mimic another ministry. However, it is healthy for a new church plant to have older churches to look to for examples.
Here at Fellowship Baptist, I love the fact that our teenagers can look to our young adults and young couples for examples. I’m glad that our young couples, which are just starting their families, can look to our middle aged couples for examples in child rearing. I am very grateful that all of our people can look to a healthy group of senior citizens to learn how to finish their course with joy.
In much the same way, new church plants can look to older, established churches in order to learn. What a privilege it is to be able to help new church plants in this way.
Established churches should not be threatened by new church plants.
Having worked with young people for more than thirty years, I have watched the scenario play out again and again. A new girl enrolls in the school or joins the youth group. Usually, the guys are really excited about that, especially if she happens to be attractive. Sometimes, the girls are not so excited, especially if she’s pretty. There is a timeless problem that arises and that problem is called jealousy.
I have also seen pastors display that same jealousy toward new church plants. One thing I had to settle a long time ago is that I cannot determine the will of God for someone else. Where a man plants a new church is between him and the Lord. If that church planter fails to properly discern God’s will, that’s his problem, not mine. Neither can I impose my personal ethics on another man of God. I may not understand a man’s thought process in planting a church down the street from where I pastor, but it’s not my thought process and I will not answer for it. I will, however, answer for ill feelings that I harbor toward someone who does not do things just like I think they ought to be done.
We need established churches and new church plants.
Reality states that we need both established churches and new church plants. Most churches don’t live to be sixty years old. Many that do, are no longer effective. Those who are a part of established churches shouldn’t feel as if they are missing something because of the enthusiasm of a new church plant. Those involved in church plants should not be intimidated by established churches.
I have been married for 34 years. I’ve only enjoyed one wedding day, and it was something! Folks came from all over and filled that church auditorium in South Bend, Indiana. What a time we had! Last July when Renae and I celebrated our 34th Anniversary there was no party. There were no guests and there were no gifts. It was just she and I, enjoying a nice dinner together. However, to us, it was more than that. What we have now we could only dream of having 34 years ago. I loved our wedding day, but I wouldn’t trade our wedding day for our 34th Anniversary.
In much the same way, established churches and established pastors should celebrate new church plants. Well wishes and gifts are certainly acceptable and much appreciated. However, those who are a part of established churches don’t need to be envious of new church plants. As a pastor of almost 30 years in a church that is 61 years old, I don’t want to start over. I love this stage of my ministry. I’m enjoying this era in our church’s history.
This fall I have officiated four weddings involving young couples in our church. Each time I’ve done so, I’ve rejoiced with the newlyweds. I’ve been happy for them. Yet, when my wife I and get in the car to drive home, my hope for that young couple is that one day they will have what my wife and I have now.
In much the same way, I’m happy for the new church plants that are springing up around the world. I appreciate your excitement. I admire your vision. I have great hopes for your future. In much the same way, I hope you appreciate and admire what the established churches around you have become. I’m happy for your Launch Day and I thoroughly enjoyed our Day 3,205.