Why are we planting?

“Why are you planting a new church?” This seems to be the most common question that we get. It’s a question that’s asked with very different intentions depending on who I’m talking to. Some ask out of curiosity and deep interest and others ask out of skepticism and assumptions. Our answer to the interested and the critic is basically the same, “Because church planting is so essentially important.”

Why is it essentially important? Here are three reasons:

1) It’s biblical.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28: 19-20

The Bible never explicitly states that we are called to plant churches. However, Jesus gives a clear imperative that we are called to make disciples. When we look at how the first disciples responded to this commandment, we see that every time they came to a new city they planted churches (cf. Acts 2:41-42, 11:19-26, 16:13-40). Church planting was in their DNA. Everywhere they went they made disciples and formed new communities of faith.

“Planting new churches is the most effective evangelistic methodology known under heaven.” -Peter Wagner, Missiologist, Fuller Theological Seminary.

The most well-known church planter we find in the New Testament was the apostle Paul. Paul’s mission, like all the other disciples, was to make new disciples. His primary strategy for this was to plant churches. Paul literally went all over the place to start new churches. He did this because he knew that the best way to reach people was to bring them into a community of fellow believers.

So, the biblical pattern sets a standard for us today. Our mission is to make disciples and according to the New Testament, one of the best ways to do that is to plant churches.

2) New churches are better at reaching unchurched people.

“The only way to be truly sure you are increasing the number of Christians in a town is to increase the number of churches.” Timothy Keller, theologian & founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church

On a per-capita basis, new churches win more people to Christ than established churches. Bruce Nichol explained the findings of his research in Interest Magazine:

  • Churches under three years of age win an average of ten people to Christ per year for every hundred church members.
  • Churches three to fifteen years of age win an average of five people per year for every hundred church members.
  • Churches over fifteen years of age win an average of three people per year for every hundred church members.

According to this research, we can conclude that new churches are more effective in reaching unchurched people for Christ. Two reasons for this are:

Firstly, an older church spends a lot of resources on just catering to its members and making the organization work. A new church doesn’t have that problem, it is forced to focus on its non-members to get it off the ground.

Secondly, in more established churches, it is easier for people to become complacent and get into a “business-as-usual” mentality, whereas in a new church the evangelistic seal is often at the front and center.

It’s also important to remember that the reason there are people attending churches all over the world is because someone at one time planted these churches.

3) Church planting is renewing the whole body of Christ.

Church planting does more than just reach unchurched people for the Kingdom, it also renews the body of Christ and strengthens other churches.

New churches have the freedom to be innovative and to try out new things that perhaps a more established church is not comfortable doing. This creates new strategies and new ideas that can bring the Kingdom forward.

New churches can also release new giftings and new leaders in a way that established churches usually cannot. When a new church comes along, it has to fill a lot of positions to make the organizational part of the church work and in doing that, new leaders step forward and new gifts are developed. Suddenly, you have a lot of new leaders that wouldn’t have had that opportunity in an established church, because a lot of those positions are already filled.

New churches will also sometimes reach unchurched people with the gospel and occasionally that new Christian finds another local church where they feel more at home. In that way, the new church can bless the more established churches in the local area.

Not long ago we heard about a church plant that started in a big city in Europe and some of the other churches in the city became nervous because of it. However, a couple of years later, not only had the new church plant grown tremendously, but a lot of the other churches had grown as well. They felt because of the new church coming that they were pressured to develop a lot of their own strategy and programs and that led to an even bigger increase in church attendance.

So why plant a church?
1) It’s biblical.
2) New churches are better at reaching unchurched people.
3) Church planting is renewing the whole body of Christ.

Why Toronto, of all places?

The easy and true answer is of course to say because we feel God is calling us there. You can read our story here.
However, if we look at it from a more practical perspective, there are multiple reasons for planting in Toronto.

Firstly, according to the North American mission board, the evangelical presence in Toronto is a little better than 3%.  That means approximately 97% of Toronto doesn’t believe in the gospel. We can’t accept that and we together with the other churches in Toronto want to do something about that. Not only that, but Toronto needs a lot more church plants if we are going to turn this city upside down for Jesus.

Secondly, according to an article from Forbes magazine, Toronto is among the top 10 most influential cities in the world. We see Toronto as a strategic place to plant a church because we believe that from Toronto, we can make a bigger difference in Canada. And from Canada, we can make a difference in the world from using our strategic position and influence.

Thirdly, you don’t have to spend a lot of time in the city of Toronto to notice that it has a strong ethnic diversity, which we love! BBC Radio actually named Toronto the most diverse city in the world. Therefore, Toronto is a strong key to the rest of the world when it comes to evangelism.

Fourthly, the world is becoming much more urbanized. In 2018, 55% of the global population lives in urban areas and it’s expected to increase to 68% by 2050. So, if the world is becoming more urban, it is crucial that we as Christian move toward the cities and live in cities. Toronto is the biggest city in Canada and as it’s growing, we need to do our best to serve the city.

Our hope and dream are that we are just one of many churches that are going to be planted in Toronto in the years to come because we believe that God has a plan for this city and he loves the people there.

Jesper Stawski Jeppesen is the lead pastor of Haven Toronto and founder of Haven Network. He is married to Kira.