When I came to the Lord as a teen in my hometown in Puerto Rico, my youth leader invited me to be part of the church-planting team in a town almost an hour away. I asked him, “Why do we need to go there when we can evangelize here?” Hisanswer was revealing: “They are lost, and we need to finish the task.”
Called to Join
Our job in the United States is unfinished. Although it is a relatively religious country, especially among Western nations, it is far less religious than it used to be. The Pew Research Center reported that more than 68 million adults in the United States are religiously unaffiliated, describing their religious identity as atheist,
agnostic, or “nothing in particular.” This number has risen by almost 30 million over the past decade. Even those who profess Christianity in America often allow for—or even embrace—beliefs that are inconsistent with the teaching of Scripture. The trends are clear: the citizens of the United States are steadily becoming less Christian and less observant of religion in general.
How would Alliance founder A. B. Simpson respond to this reality? In A Larger Christian Life, he wrote “We need to finish our unfinished work. We need to do the things that we have thought of doing, intended to do, talked about doing, and are abundantly able to do.” God is calling you and me to join Him in finishing the most
urgent task in human history—the task of reconciling all people—including those in our own U.S. communities—to Himself through forgiveness and liberation from sin. It will take all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people, and all kinds of church planters to plant these churches and finish the task.
Church Multiplication and Evangelism
The relationship between church multiplication and evangelism has long been recognized as a driving force for reaching the lost. The Great Commission implicitly includes church planting—teaching, baptizing, discipling all nations (see Matthew 28:18–20)—and the task of evangelism is complete only when people are brought into the Church’s fold (see Luke 14:23, 15:1–10).
New churches are the normal and necessary result of evangelism and disciplemaking. Through his experience planting churches, Saddleback Church Founding Pastor Rick Warren concluded that “starting new congregations is the fastest way to fulfill the Great Commission.” In 1990, C. Peter Wagner made this bold and often quoted statement: “The single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planting new churches.” Church planting is truly foundational to evangelism and the expansion of Christ’s Kingdom.
Leading a Movement
Sometimes a congregation is planted and never replicates itself. The Alliance’s vision is for our churches to plant churches that plant churches—until the gospel has lasting influence over the entire community, city, and society as a whole. What would happen if more churches planted churches? A movement would start! This will take courageous leaders who are committed to addressing and overcoming the obstacles to planting in their context.
We need to recognize that congregations will never have more ownership than their leaders. If leadership is not committed to multiplication—or to praying for daughter churches—church members will likely remain equally uncommitted. Every established church will face resistance to planting. Fears over the loss of members and ministry leaders—as well as budget and other vital ministry resources—often derail any thoughts of starting a church in a neighboring community. In addition, churches with a “growth-only” mindset often seem more concerned about expanding their own membership than multiplying into new communities.
Unfortunately, church planting is often viewed as a betrayal of the mother church.
However, when the first-century disciples left each other to spread the gospel, souls were rescued, friendships were made, communities were redeemed, leaders were trained and sent, and the Lord never failed to provide financially (see Acts 2:42–47). There was much to lose, but they remembered the words of Jesus to be witnesses to all people (see Acts 1:8). Because of the tremendous resistance in many local congregations today, church leaders must be intentional and passionate about planting so that church members will take greater ownership of the need to multiply and grow outside their doors.
What are the important, unfinished tasks in your life? Finishing a project at home? Completing a degree? Restoring a relationship? Getting out of debt? Each of our lives is filled with unfinished tasks that require our attention. Yet not all unfinished tasks are equal. Some demand far greater effort. Jesus Christ commanded all His disciples to take part in the ultimate unfinished task—the Great Commission!
Loren Tripplet, the former Assembly of God executive director for missions, once said, “You don’t measure yourself by your success; you measure yourself against the unfinished task.” Some of us may evaluate our success by checking off the finished tasks on our to-do lists. How–ever, we must be intentional about shifting our focus from our self-determined priorities to our God-determined call to evangelism and disciplemaking, and our God-formed vision for more Jesus-centered communities.
What can you do? You can pray for the least evangelized groups in the United States and for church planters and pastors facing enormous challenges in their efforts to extend the Kingdom of God in hard places. You can also join a church-planting team in your area or support them financially and in prayer. Matthew 28:19 commands us to “go and make disciples of all nations” inside and outside our borders.
The Church shouldn’t stop participating in multiplication efforts until Christ the Coming King says the task is finished.
I am thankful that my youth leader gave me an opportunity to partner with our community to plant a church at such an early age. I often remember what he said: “They are lost, and we need to finish the task.” More than 40 years later, it is clear to me that the task of reaching the lost in the United States is still unfinished, and church multiplication is God’s plan to finish it.
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