Brick Church Plant (Q#1): Why plant churches in our own back yard?1
As we are beginning to see Redeemer grow and thrive here in Toms River, it kind of begs the question, "Why start a church one town over when we are already attracting more than a quarter of our people from Brick and they don't seem to mind the drive?"
It's a good question and one worth digging into. Since this is the first installment in this series, we might end up uncovering more questions than answering question, if for no other reason than we might end up asking questions that you may not previously have.
Also, some of the lessons are learned from negative things that I have observed. I much prefer the lessons that come as a result of positive lessons learned. I mean, who doesn't? But some of the ones that stick with you the most are the ones that leave the worst taste in your mouth. As a boy, your parents can tell you not to play around the stove a million times, but its not until you burn your hand that the lesson really sticks in. Does learning the lesson from a negative perspective teach you any less? To the contrary, it reinforces what you refused to learn from positive affirmation.
When this transition began to happen in my mind:
Some things just stick with you. I remember visiting a church- a good, solid, bible teaching church, who also happened to be quite large, so I am not trying to set them up as a FOIL, but they said something that kind of blew my mind. The pastor said, with a good deal of enthusiasm:
"I remember when we numbered in the double digits and here we are now. We have members driving from an hour in each direction to come here on Sundays because of the scarcity of bible teaching in this area, so we need to build an extension to accommodate the growth".
I knew very little about church planting. Not that I am an expert now. But, I have assisted in planting a couple of churches, became a part of 2 different church planting networks, planted a church and we're now seeing that plant have another baby. More importantly perhaps is that it came out of developing a reproducible and (hopefully) biblical missiology and ecclesiology- along with reading a book that forever changed my life, "The Reformed Pastor" by Richard Baxter, which though it is 400 years old has taught me (and many others, by the way) more about planting than any book other than God's Holy Scriptures.
Simply put, what I saw was that the church's mission was not in their ability to draw from far away areas, but in her ability to send the people coming from those areas out as missionaries in their own zip codes.
That is as simply as I can put our desire to plant churches right next door. Someone who has been a Christian for a long time will likely be willing to drive a little extra to go to a church who faithfully preaches God's Word, teaches strong doctrine, has a solid mission, deep biblical community and integrity filled and biblically qualified church leadership.
But, the not-yet-Christian does not have these categories. They are not likely to just stumble upon this solid church that is an hour outside of where they live, work and play.
Putting the thoughts together, as you, a hopefully biblically minded Christian who holds the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) in high regard, we are hoping that you are both living out and inviting in. What I mean by that is that you are living out your faith in a way that is observable in your community- in the area where you live, work and play. And in doing so, that you are "inviting in", that you are inviting others to come along on this mission with you that they might know the one and only true hope of the Gospel.
For them to believe that we care about their community, and more accurately, the people who make up that community- we must be amongst that community.
So, we believe that God has called us to a mission that is greater than ourselves. We believe that God has called us to plant churches in every zipcode up and down the Jersey Shore. That each community should have a church that serves as a missionary community to love the people of that zipcode and see them as eternal beings and live as those who are called, equipped and sent to go and reach them.
In the upcoming blogs, we will describe why we are seeking to plant multiple Redeemer Fellowships rather than independent, autonomous churches. The short explanation is- we want people to know that there is a solid, Christ loving, Gospel preaching church who values training the already disciples and reaching the not-yet-reached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, right in your own community and that you will be hearing the same message, the same standard of holiness and the same level of integrity at each campus while also participating in something bigger than yourself.
And that is a calling worth investing into!