Rev. Junius Dotson has successfully planted 2 congregations and now serves as the General Secretary for Discipleship Ministries. He remains a strong advocate for starting new churches.
In the start-up culture of new businesses, successful companies often reach a point when their mission becomes a distant memory for most of their employees. The trend in recent years is to reorganize, creating smaller or “new” companies within the larger one in order to recapture the essence of the mission that allowed the company to become successful in the first place. These new businesses then teach the larger company how to compete in a new and changing environment.
Similarly, new churches give the established church a unique opportunity to recapture the spirit of its mission “to make disciples of Jesus Christ.” The church is called to continually reach out to others. However, we are currently facing a challenge unparalleled in our history. We are in a crisis in our efforts to grow and/or revitalize existing churches. Many of our churches don’t have memory of why they exist. Revitalization and church transformation often takes years to achieve. The largest denomination in our country is the denomination of the unchurched. What is the answer? If we follow the example of many American businesses, we must start new churches!
I believe starting new churches is one of the most effective and efficient ways to fulfill our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ. We should also apply the ethos of new church starts to revitalization efforts. In order to reach a new generation of people we need spiritual start-ups designed to make the Gospel of Jesus Christ relevant for our unique time. There are three factors that support this claim:
1) New churches remind us of our mission. They inspire a new passion for reaching those who are lost. This is the heart of effective evangelism. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” Luke 19:10. People who claim no religious preference and may consider the church irrelevant are often attracted to the enthusiasm and unique missional focus generated by a new ministry. There is an incredible amount of energy and spirit generated in beginning new churches. Because of the nature of this start-up, the focus is not on traditions, processes, and procedures, but rather on what it takes to creatively reach people and help persons grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ. New churches bring a great deal of focus and clarity about their mission. The vision and core values are fresh and not ritualized. There is no history that diverts leaders from the core process discipeship in a newly formed group of people. There is an intense focus on providing opportunities for persons to discover the joy of knowing Christ. New churches pursue an intentional outreach strategy that is highly contextualized for the community in which they are planting. When they are ready to launch, they offer a vibrant worship experience that attracts persons who have a desire to hear how the Gospel story applies to their unique situations and circumstances. They are market sensitive yet bent on spiritual transformation. New churches offer numerous small group opportunities for people to study the Word, pray with one another and provide another entry point for new persons into the spiritual life of the congregation.
2) New churches offer creativity and innovation in evangelism. They bring a fresh set of eyes to adequately address the felt needs of people who claim no religious preference and may consider the church irrelevant to their lives. They are not afraid to try new things and take risks. Innovative evangelism is the driver to ministry effectiveness. New churches often utilize a variety of media to reach its community. This intentionally focuses on inviting persons to receive a new beginning in Christ. It is specific and includes invitations to community events that deal with relationships and ways to address issues in that particular community. They do things with excellence and are relentlessly focused on extending the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
3) New Churches motivate existing churches to expand their outreach. Evangelism is contagious. Studies show that the enthusiasm generated by a new church benefits the existing churches in a given community. Existing churches are encouraged to re-examine who they are trying to reach and what gifts they have been given by God. This results in established churches recapturing their sense of mission as they expand their outreach into the community. New churches can teach what they have learned about unchurched people and why many choose not to attend church. This sharing of information is invaluable to all churches as we seek to reach people for Jesus Christ. There is nothing more appealing to unchurched persons than a whole community of churches not competing with one another but working together to offer help and hope for people’s lives.
We live in one of the richest mission fields in the world. If we were thinking about how to reach people in China, Africa, or Russia, the answer would be clear. Start new churches! We must use the same rationale in our communities across the United States. New churches should not be feared but embraced. Existing churches should encourage their members to support them as a way of extending their own witness. Send them short-term missionaries to help them get started. Support them financially. Preach about the significance of the new church movement in the Book of Acts. We must help persons see the immeasurable value of new spiritual start-ups in igniting a spark that can evangelize millions, alter destinies and literally change the world!
New churches pursue an intentional outreach strategy that is highly contextualized for the community in which they are planting.