Why Plant Churches?
I don’t have much time for all the books and conferences on church planting these days.
Our church planting came out of a congregational prayer meeting. People were playing individually and in small groups, but I believe in an Acts 2 prayer meeting [with all the people together]. About 40 young people were converted when they were just underm university age. We appointed a person to work at the uni and 70 people were coming along to he meetings. Om Sundays at St John’s, the building was full in the morning 300, with about 200 in the evening.
It was an new wine in old wineskins situation. This is one incident which illustrates the situation: st John’s is a historic church. There were locks on the pew doors which you had to unlock before you could go in and sit down. The young guys wanted to remove a barrier for their friends who were noted to an evangelistic event, somthey went around unlockng and opening the doors, but a elder came along after them and shut the doors again. If we were in independent church, there would have been a split. The elders didn’t agree and I didn’t agree with my associate pastor, but the Presbytery got involved and gave me permission to plant a church.
Eventually, we formed our own Presbytery. The Pressies have planted 4 churches and the Reformed have planted 4. Theyre all viable. That means they have financial viability, indigenous leaders and a church planting focus. I go to the new plant, then a young guy or a few young guys come along behind me. The average age of ministers in Hobart is really young. They’re all young (except Steve’s father who is also there at Rokeby).
We talk about church planting at Presbytery, and we also meet together to pray every Tuesday morning. But Presbyteries don’t plant churches, denominations don’t plant churches and committees don’t plant churches. Churches plant churches.
4 Reasons Not to Plant Churches
1. We have enough already.
The Titanic never had enough lifeboats, but even those that they had were not properly manned. Some churches aren’t safe to go in to.
The Anglican Archdiocese of Sydney aims to reach 10% of the people of Sydney. When you have 10%, you have a significant proportion of e population. (The gay lobby says they are 10% of the population, but they aren’t. They’re far less than that.) What would it look like for 10% of Hobart to be in Bible-believing churches? Taking into account the existing faithful churches, we need 100 new churches for the 200,000 people in the city. That’s why we call ourselves Vision100.
When you look outside the church, you see how many people need the Gospel. There are suburbs where there are no churches and segments of the community with no Gospel witness.
24 people have been raised up to minister from within this movement and most of them have been trained and returned to us for the work.
2. Strengthening existing churches
Should a young couple look after this elderly parents or have children of their own? Both.
The skills are different for revitalising an old church compared to building a new church. New work can provoke a Godly jealousy in the old church. Both works need prayer and the ministry of the word.
A plant needs people with entrepreneurial gifts. We had people who were prepared to take risks. In the end, you get supported by the people you are ministering to. They have to be evangelistic and read the culture.
I’ve tried the church revitalisation thing. I think it’s very difficult. You have to be able to cast vision and preach and be patient. You have to carry the people with you and manage change well. St John’s (Hobart) had a conservative evangelical witness. That’s what I’ve always worked in. What wasn’t there was we didn’t have a prayer meeting. We started one. It became the hub of the congregation. If you want to know what is going on at St John’s, go to the hub.
Don’t just fit prayer in; make it a priority. When there was a prayer meeting on, there was nothing else on. If the appointed time doesn’t suit, you should have to change your plans. Ironically, some of the people who were praying those kingdom-centred prayers had the most difficulty with the converts who were the answers to their prayers.
3. We’re not big enough to plant churches
It doesn’t matter how good our meetings are or how comfortable the pews are, 70% of people are never, ever going to come in.
In Hobart, we had no funds, but we had people. This bunch of 70, then 150 university students were supporting me. For the second plant at Cornerstone, some of those uni students went with us and the Reformed church at Kingston gave us some of their families to plant a Presbyterian church. That’s Gospel generosity. At Mount Stuart, we took 45 people out of Cornerstone. It was painful for the congregation, but they were replaced almost immediately and Cornerstone has grown faster than Mount Stuart.
You don’t need 45 people to plant a church. That’s the easiest way to do it. Really, that’s a transplant.
You need the right guy. You can try to parachute someone in. We tried that in Warrane and it was hard. We had to pull the plug. Now we’ve got a guy in the northern suburbs who has adopted a block. He knocks on the same doors every week. At first, doors were slammed in his face and he was called all sorts of things. Now, people are asking him when he is going to start his church.
How do you choose the 45 people? It’s been part of the culture from the start. I went through studies from The Gospel-Centred Church, which came before Total Church, to show what we were planning to do. After Mount Stuart started, some went back to Cornerstone and some joined us from there later.
4. Someone Else Will Do It.
If we think this, either no one else will do it or the wrong people will do it. You’ll find Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses in all sorts of out-of-the-way places.
4 Reasons to a build Churches
1. Heaven commands it.
The Great Commission is in all four Gospels and again in Acts. We don’t plant because we choose to or we would like to, but because we are commanded to. As William Carey told his opponents, you can’t have the promise of Matthew 28:20 without obeying the command of Matthew 28:19. As Dick Lucas says, “It’s ‘Go’, then ‘Lo’, not ‘Lo’, then ‘Go’.” We can’t wait until revival comes.
Every Monday morning our people are going; they just have to go with a Gospel intentionality. It is our job as pastor-teachers to teach them how to do this.
Conversion isn’t finished until they join a church. “The Lord added to their number those who were being saved” Acts 2:47. I tell people, “If you’re not being saved, you can’t join this church. If you are being saved, you need to be in a church.” If you’re discipling people, you’re beginning to gather a church.
2. Hell demands it.
People are very much alone in hell. Some say they’ll have a great time because all their friends will be there too, there won’t be any friendship in hell. C.S. Lewis brings it out in The Great Divorce, how it is an unsubstantial existence.
In Luke 16:19-30, the rich man is alone in torment and Lazarus is in Abraham’s bosom. The rich man wants his brothers to be saved from this. Yet, he is told that even if someone is raised from the dead, they would not believe it. They have Moses and the Prophets.
People are being swept into hell every day by the decisions they make. As Lewis says, the grumbler becomes a grumble.
“It begins with a grumbling mood, and yourself still distinct from it: perhaps criticising it. And yourself, in a dark hour, may will that mood, embrace it. Ye can repent and come out of it again. But there may come a day when you can do that no longer. Then there will be no you left to criticise the mood, nor even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself going on forever like a machine…”
- C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, p74-75
The man who uses pornography starts separate from the filth, but in the end he becomes filth.
People are on their way to a lost eternity.
3. Love constrains us.
Paul says that Jesus’ love hems him in, pins him down, 2 Corinthians 5:14. We should no longer live for ourselves. On the Mount of Olives, Jesus cried out that he longed to gather Jerusalem as a hen gathers her chicks under his wing. Isn’t that what the love of God does? He went to the cross for us.
A.W. Tozer said, “I resolve that I will love everybody, even if it kills me.”
4. The World is Crying Out For It.
In Acts 16:6-10, Luke records what happened when Paul and his team decided to take the Gospel into Europe. A man from Macedonia cried out for help. He was from the land which was the product of the greatest civilisations, Greece and Rome. Luke says the group concluded that these people needed to hear the Gospel. The best help that can be given to any people, anywhere is the Gospel.
John Stott says that at the start of the day, the head of the Jewish household prayed, “I thank God that I am not a woman, a slave or a Gentile.” Look into Lydia’s house and what do you find? A woman, a slave and a Gentile. It was a house of refuge, and as John Wilson said yesterday, we should be houses of refuge too. That’s a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)!
Peter Hastie: It’s not worldly success which is important. Faithfulness means taking initiative, but we must trust God. As David has spoken to us, he has set us an example in his life, speech and purity. You have held up for us the pastoral ideal and rightly divided the word of truth. David, you will always be welcome here.
We thank Ben Pfahlert for speaking to us about copying the private ministry of Jesus.
John Wilson spoke about the black-and-white realities as well as some helpful thoughts about proceeding forward by prayer.
Nello Barbieri talked about the nuts and bolts of one-on-one and small group ministry contexts and encouraging individuals in their pursuit of spiritual maturity.
David, we realise the great demands on you in all you work, especially in Hobart. We will pray for you, your wife and your family.
I sincerely thank the music team for enriching our time together in real ways.
We thank Alicia Nobel for making sure this all came together. Good administration makes fellowship sweet.