After a quick break for the ERLC Summit, we present part two of Matt Chewning’s three-part post on church planting. If you missed part one, “Don’t Plant a Church,” be sure to check it out here.
In these posts Matt Chewning, Lead Pastor of Netcast Church in Beverly, MA–a suburb of Boston, walks through the first three years of planting a church, offering practical insight and wisdom from his experience as to how we all should rethink mission and strategy in church planting.
Year 2: Generosity is the New Evangelism.
As Netcast approached our 2nd year as a plant, God began to remind me that church plants don’t exist because of church planters; church plants exist because of the Kingdom of God exists. In my experience, a church plant is established because a group of individuals and churches graciously pooled resources, thought outside of themselves and took a risk on seeing the Kingdom advance in a specific region. Every church plant exists and thrives because faithful believers, strategically and generously, sacrificed their comfort, money and time so that the name of Jesus might be spread throughout a city.
Today, many church planters struggle to model the same generosity that was modeled towards them. We spend all of our time, money, energy and resources on our comfort, our dreams and our churches mission. We give the bear minimum towards anything outside of ourselves or the church we’ve planted. When we do invest outside of ourselves it is often out of contractional obligations because of an affiliation and seems like more of a burden than a blessing.
In Acts 20, the apostle Paul talks to the leaders of his church plant and describes seeing God move mightily in his ministry. He says….24 I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. In this verse Paul is saying that the only thing that matters is that he never stops spreading the gospel. In Acts 20:33 Paul then shares why he believes the Lord has blessed his ministry. He says…I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
As church planters, I want to challenge us to model the same generosity that was modeled towards us before our churches existed. Luke 12:48 tells us that… “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required.” As those who have been given so much in order to see plant a local church, I wonder if we also carry the weight of what is now required of us?
If you were to dig deeper into the story of any thriving church plant, you’ll almost always find two things. (1) A group of generous and kingdom minded worshippers who are behind the scenes and (2) a leader who is leading his church plant to be generous by modeling personal generosity. A generous church planter is hard to come across because so much of our training is tied to raising money for our church plants. The problem is that when we are overly focused on raising money rather than giving money away, it begins to drive the culture that we create. Whether we like it or not, generosity is the new evangelism because generosity gets peoples attention. However, if we are so focused on receiving generosity from others, we overlook the call to be generous towards others. In a world full of stingy and self-seeking organizations, a generous church plant that thinks outwardly creates interest. And when an interest is created, it serves as a means of bridging the the gospel to those who we are called to make disciples of.
We cannot call people to things we are not willing to do ourselves, therefore model generosity by fighting to be the most generous person in your church plant. Lead your church to think outwardly by invest in the things that your community sees as valuable. Find joy in supporting other church plants and give money away without asking for anything in return. Stop spending money trying to re-invent the wheel and start partnering with the organizations in your community that are already established. Be intentional and remember that where you go the Kingdom goes, and where you walk, the Holy Spirit walks. As planters, we have the unique opportunity to create a culture of healthy generosity from the beginning. So, why not put our money where our mouth is and rather than begging like faithless salesman, we start giving like faithful Christians?