Last Sunday was an exciting one at The Crossings Church. Senior minister Robert Cox made the big announcement that between now and the end of the year our congregation will be researching locations for our next church plant.
Regular readers are already aware that Airiel and I aspire to be part of the plant team, and we are very excited this process is now formally underway – it’s going to be fun!
The Crossings has a unique approach to church planting that others can learn from, and I’ve been soaking up everything I can.
Here are a few items to highlight with regard to the preparatory process we’re currently in the middle of:
1) A plant location will be selected according to three important criteria.
A. There must be a university nearby ripe for a campus ministry plant.
In addition to high school ministry, evangelistic campus ministry will drive much of the plant’s growth. When done right, campus ministry is the hottest ministry within a congregation, and The Crossings does campus ministry extremely well. We plan to plant another quality one, and will not start a new church without planting a new campus ministry with it.
B. The socio-economic status of those living in the plant area should be similar to that of those making up the plant team.
We do not plan to do a cross-cultural mission at this point – that would take a different approach. People are naturally best equipped to reach others like themselves, therefore we will not be learning a new dance – we will simply be switching dance floors. The church plant will utilize the same ministerial/evangelistic/developmental system and approach as used with The Crossings, and everyone on the plant team will already be very familiar with it.
C. The location must be within a 100 mile radius of the mother church.
The mother and daughter churches will be located within convenient driving distance of one another. That will make it easier for those leading the new church to be mentored by the more experienced ministers leading The Crossings, and for familial unity to be maintained between congregations through inter-congregational meetings and retreats.
Having these criteria in place will guide the rest of the research process, and how that process is handled is another strength of The Crossings.
2) The entire church is involved in the research process to determine where to plant.
The Crossings Church is a relationally-driven congregation shepherded by men and women leading small groups called “cells” that meet weekly. Your cell is like your immediate family within the church, and everyone who becomes a member of The Crossings is required to be part of one. Researching possible plant locations is done at the cell-level.
Individual cell groups get together and scour the web for data looking at a given area’s demographic information, growth statistics, mean income levels, university enrollment numbers – anything that would help in making a decision. When a group narrows their search down to what they believe to be the best area, they take time to travel to the location often staying a day or two driving through neighborhoods, interviewing people, taking pictures, shooting video, scouting possible meeting sites, job opportunities, and whatever else might be beneficial.
In the final stage, the group puts together a presentation in which they make their case as to why the location they picked is the best one. This material will be presented to the entire congregation at an end of the year banquet, and church leadership will take the next couple of months to narrow down the results from all the options presented until they determine the best one.
By the end of the process, everyone in the church is excited about the plant and feels a sense of ownership in it. A small group of leaders is not allowed to arbitrarily pick where the next congregation will be planted – the entire church has a say, and that is not only a unique approach, but a healthy one.
While choosing a locale is important, it is not the most important thing – that brings me to item #3:
3) The location of the plant is less important than the people making up the plant team.
Location is always secondary in importance to the people making up the plant team. If you do not have the right people, your church plant will fail as the vast majority do.
Toward the beginning of next year, each member of The Crossings will be asked to indicate whether they feel called to be part of the new church planting team, called to remain with the existing Crossings congregation, or called to help with either work as needed.
Those who indicated they feel led to go or are available either way are interviewed, and, from what I understand, church leadership will prayerfully decide who would be best out of that pool and put together a team of 25 to 40 for the plant.
From there the people making up the team will form their own cell and begin doing together the same things they would be doing within the church plant – loving God, loving others, and making disciples. In short, they will do ministry together. It is during this time that roles will be established for team members, and, by the time everyone is ready to move to the plant location, they should know one another, be aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, and aware of that of the others on the team.
This team and the chosen leadership are the most important component in the plant. If the plant location is the body, then the people on the team are the vital organs – they determine the health of the team and will make or break the planting effort.
It is imperative all be united around a common purpose and vision. From what I gather that vision is simple:
4) Be disciples, make disciples.
There is nothing more important in this world than relationship with Jesus. For those that someday inhabit heaven, the only things that will have eternal significance from the temporal world are the things done in this life to honor His name.
Someone once said a good church is in the people development business, and I agree. I believe the greatest way one can honor Christ in this life is to be a good follower of Jesus who develops good followers of Jesus.
What is a good follower of Jesus?
A good follower of Jesus loves God, loves others, and takes sin, repentance, and spiritual maturity seriously.
A good follower of Jesus loves God’s people making up the church, is humble enough to confess their struggles and shortcomings, and is willing to allow the community to sharpen them even when it’s uncomfortable.
A good follower of Jesus values grace, mercy, holiness, and justice, and is willing to boldly proclaim the truth in love.
A good follower of Jesus dreams big, sets high standards, and centers their greatest life ambitions and wants around Christ’s ambitions and wants.
A good follower of Jesus ultimately makes Him their greatest desire, radically loves the lost, and understands that the greatest gift they can give another human being is that of life in Christ.
A good follower of Jesus sharpens other followers of Jesus. They are disciples growing with other disciples in the context of Christ-centered community.
A good follower of Jesus strives to be the person God created them to be thereby allowing Christ to use them to make a positive impact on the world.
I pray the Lord help me desire nothing more than to be a good follower of Jesus and to help others be the same.
Someone reading the first half of this post may think that a successful church plant is dependent on the right methods and systems. While methods and systems are important, a successful ministry of any kind is not ultimately dependent on that – ultimately it is dependent upon the Holy Spirit’s work and God’s blessing.
I just happen to believe that God values relationship with humanity over nearly everything else in the universe, and when a group of people makes connecting other people with Him their main goal and they’re willing to remove anything that may be a barrier to that, that is something He will bless simply because His love for humanity is so great we can’t comprehend it … and that’s great news.
To supporters reading this: thank you so much for assisting Airiel and I in being here. We have learned a ton in a short time! We love our church and look forward to learning more as we spend time with people working and ministering.
Thanks for reading.
[To any Crossings Church members unfamiliar with who I am or why I am writing a lengthy post about my activities: my wife and I have been serving as missionaries in the United States for the past several years and are financially supported by a number of different individuals and churches. In addition to writing articles about other things related to Bible study or Christian ministry here, this blog is one way I keep supporters up-to-date regarding mine and Airiel's work. I will make the occasional post about what we're learning from our friends at The Crossings to keep supporters informed. If that sounds interesting to you, I welcome you to subscribe, and look forward to being your friend. - Wes]