"...therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:38 ESV)
Jesus’ mission was to seek and save the lost. He, the promised Messiah-King, is bringing people from all over the world under his rule. And when he brings them under his rule, he brings them into the community he has formed: the Church.
Jesus said he would build his church. The church is at the center of God’s redemptive work, and through the Church God is bringing glory to himself.
The New Testament is all about this Church and life within it. There is the history of the early activity of the Church (Acts). There are letters articulating the gospel upon which the Church rests (such as Galatians). There are letters to guide the Church to understand God’s plan for the Church and its mission in striving together for the progress of the gospel (such as Ephesians and Colossians). And there are letters about the leadership of the local church and how the local church is to function a bit like a large household—a family of families (such as in 1 Timothy). And all this is based upon the biographies of Jesus—the Gospel according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—which center our attention on the person and work of Jesus.
The local church is a gathering and scattering of individual people who claim Christ as their Lord. Christians in a church “scatter” to be salt and light and announce the gospel to their world. The church also “gathers” in local expression to be established in the ways of Jesus. It is through the highly relational context of a committed group of believers in a local church that Christ forms himself in us. This is his commandment: that we love one another (1 John 3:23). As we devote ourselves to prayerfully bring the Word of God to bear upon each other, we learn to live out the “one-anothers” of Scripture such as forgiving one another, encouraging one another, and praying for one another. The Local Church is at the heart of God’s work.
So Why Would We Want to Start Another Church?
Let’s tackle the big question first: Why plant another church in the first place?
The simple answer is this: we need more churches. But let’s consider some normal questions about starting a new church. Someone may say, “But we already have churches with empty seats. Those churches used to be fuller, you know. If you start a new church, all you will do is take people away from the churches already struggling.” And someone else might add, “There are plenty of good churches within driving distance of Louisville. Why don’t you just help them become even better and not try to reinvent the wheel?” These questions might seem like common sense, but consider these points:
First, we need new churches because there are many people to reach. The mission of the church is to make disciples – to help other people follow Jesus. There are many, many people who do not follow Jesus. Existing churches often do reach people…but many more have not been reached. The population has increased, some churches have closed, and not enough new churches formed. Please consider how different churches reach different people – not everybody is attracted to the same church type. Not everybody thinks the same about doctrine, not everybody values the same type of worship, and not everybody agrees on the best way to minister to people. Of course there are wrong ways to believe and minister…but there are also many ways that are quite fine that reach and help people. The answer is not just to make churches bigger – the answer is to multiply a variety of churches so that more people are reached by a variety of church bodies. It’s not bad to have a variety of churches with different ministry methods – it can be very healthy.
Second, we need new churches because the church is meant to be local. It is true that people will often drive quite far to go to a church they resonate with. Besides being inconvenient, there’s nothing wrong with that. But what about reaching people in the community where you live? Will the people not attending a church drive to another community to be part of a church? Not usually. Their Christian friends and neighbors need to go to them. And being a local church in Louisville allows us to focus on this community.
Third, we need new churches because it can revitalize the whole body of Christ. This might sound counter-intuitive. But older churches often become less inclined to reach new people or try new things. But new churches allow new leaders and new ideas to surface without the need to protect tradition and established leaders. When these new leaders in a new church try new things, it can encourage older churches to try something new. Furthermore, it challenges existing churches to self-examination and increased effectiveness. And sadly, there are some churches that do not walk in the truth of the gospel. New churches have the opportunity to start out and continue being centered on the truth of the gospel.
Fourth, we need new churches because it challenges us all to be Kingdom-minded. New churches reach new people. And yes, they inevitably draw some people from existing churches. Yet the reverse is also true: new churches reach new people, who then sometimes leave to be part of a more established church that have more programs. Will we rejoice that new people are reached, or will we bemoan and resent that our particular church lost some people? This is not to say we endorse a “consumer” mentality among Christians—it is merely saying we rejoice when people are reached. Moreover, if there is a common vision for ministering in the community, a new church can encourage networking and fellowship amongst the churches.
We need new churches. We believe our unique ministry will be a benefit to the Louisville Community. We do not think we can do it all – that’s why we want to join with the existing churches and Christian community to minister in Louisville. All churches were once new, and more churches are yet needed. May the Lord draw many people to himself in Louisville and beyond. May many become laborers in Christ’s Kingdom so that all might know the surpassing worth of Jesus Christ.