Ten Church Planting Proverbs

A proverb is a short, pithy saying that communicates truth. It doesn't say everything about a topic, but it communicates something important.

The following are some of my my favorite church planting proverbs, along with a short explanation of why I like each one.

"Biblical church planting is evangelism that results in new churches" (J.D. Payne). This corrects my tendency to see church planting as starting a new service that will result in evangelism.

"The vigorous, continual planting of new congregations is the single most crucial strategy for the numerical growth of the Body of Christ in any city, and the continual corporate renewal and revival of the existing churches in a city" (Tim Keller). It's not church planting or revitalization. It's both.

“Church planting is a long hard slog, but it’s worth it all for the glory of God" (Ed Stetzer). This statement captures both the cost and the value of planting.

"It is time to enlarge the church planting table" (J.D. Payne). We need to make room for missionaries who are biblically qualified and called, but don't fit into the traditional pattern of church planting in North America.

"Open more lanes" (Ed Stetzer). We need fully funded church plants, but we also need bivocational models, house church models, and more.

"Don't plant or pastor a church in your head. Plant or pastor a church in your community" (Ed Stetzer). Bring the gospel to your community, not a church planting model.

"Gardens don't launch" (Andy Stager). Planting is much more of a process than it is an event.

"Stop counting and have fun" (advice given to David Cooke). It's easy to get so serious and so focused on numbers that you miss what God is doing right in front of you.

"We are not the cool thing. We're dead. Jesus is the cool thing" (Gordon Fleming). The minute we think it's about being hip or cool, we're done.

"Church planting is the overflow of your relationship with Jesus" (Adam Sinnett). So is life. So important. So easily forgotten.

This is just a start. I'd love to hear your church planting proverbs as well. Leaven them in the comments if you have them.

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Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

Advance Church Planting

Six years ago, the Toronto executive of our denomination invited our region's church planting director to lunch. We wanted to talk about church planting in Toronto, a city that is growing by over 100,000 people a year. We hadn't done any church planting in recent years, and had no idea where to start, but we wondered what God might do.

The view from Liberty Village, the community in which I'm planting a church

The view from Liberty Village, the community in which I'm planting a church

Some two years later, I became a church planter in downtown Toronto. We began to talk about ways to encourage more church planting in our city. Although we have many churches, entire neighborhoods lack any gospel-proclaiming church. The percentage of evangelicals is very low. We need dozens of new churches across the city.

This past January, I began working part-time with our denomination to start a new training center for church planters in Toronto. It's called Advance Church Planting Institute. The goal is to train and coach church planters over two years as they prepare to plant churches in an urban context. We began our first cohort in October, and I'm excited about the future.

I've never seen such an interest in church planting before. I've met so many great church planters over the past couple of years. God is bringing resources like C2C Network to mobilize and encourage planters. I have the sense that God is up to something in Toronto, which is good. The need is great.

Whether you're from Toronto or not, please pray for our city. Please pray for the church planters who are investing their lives in bringing the gospel to communities where it hasn't been heard in some time. Pray for more planters (Luke 10:2), and for networks like C2C. Please pray for the church we're planting, and for Advance as well. I can't wait to see what God is going to do.

You can find out more about Advance at our website.

Twenty Lessons in Church Planting

We celebrated our second anniversary as a church plant this past weekend. I've spent two decades as pastor of established churches, and only a few years (including pre-launch work) as a church planter. Here are twenty lessons I've learned about church planting so far.

  1. Church planting is much harder than you'd expect, even if you thought it would be hard. Expect disappointments and spiritual warfare.
  2. Church planting is much more rewarding than you'd expect. It's not the point of church planting, but it's a side benefit. You will probably experience more joy in church planting than in any other ministry you've experienced.
  3. Church planting is a team sport. Don't ever try it alone. Don't ever try it without your spouse's full support.
  4. Having a set of core convictions is essential in planting a church. Everyone will tell you what to do. It's important to listen and learn, but it's also important to know what God has called you to do.
  5. Having a plan is important when planting a church, but don't expect the plan to survive its first contact with reality.
  6. People you think will support you often won't. People you think will support you often will.
  7. However long you think it will take you, double it. Just to be safe, triple it. Don't get into church planting if you don't know how to be patient.
  8. You will see a steady stream of people who wander from church to church. Don't expect them to stay long. Don't build your ministry around them.
  9. You will be tempted to settle for transfer growth. Keep your eyes on the harvest.
  10. Planting a church is different than pastoring a church. Know the difference, and make sure you're actually planting.
  11. If you can't fundraise, you probably can't plant.
  12. Deal with your baggage. Don't plant a church in protest. Plant a church for positive reasons, not negative ones.
  13. Never discount the importance of year zero. Set the foundation well rather than rushing to a premature launch.
  14. Attend conferences sparingly. They're helpful, but always weigh the benefits.
  15. Get to know other planters. Pray for them, learn from them, rejoice when they succeed, and share their burdens when they struggle.
  16. Expect to be busy. Church planting will demand more of your time than other forms of ministry.
  17. Build structure. Unless you structure your time, you'll be pulled in a million directions. Don't say yes to every invitation you receive.
  18. Stop counting. Minister to the people who are there rather than obsessing over the people who aren't.
  19. Don't expect glory. Church planting is hard, tough work. But you're privileged to be able to do it.
  20. Keep coming back to the gospel. Don't get your identity from how well the church plant is doing. Get your identity from the gospel. Build a gospel culture, beginning with you.
1 Comment

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

Christianity in Canada

If you want a picture of the state of Christianity in Canada, consider the following:

  • Weekly religious service attendance in Canada is in a free fall from 67% in 1946 to 11% in 2013.*
  • The categories “never attend a religious service” or “have no religion” are the fastest growing categories between 1996 and 2013. In fact, they are the only categories that are growing.
  • 24% in Canada claim no religion, compared to 10% who identify as evangelical — the latter number being one that would be unimaginably high in my community.
  • 3% read the Bible daily. An additional 5% read the Bible once a week or more.
  • 66% generally support the legalization of euthanasia.
  • According to sociologist Reginald Bibby, immigration accounts for most of the growth in our churches.
  • You’re more likely to meet a Buddhist than a Baptist in Toronto.

Toronto used to be called Toronto the good, the city of churches. Now many of those churches are being converted into condos and lofts. Nobody would say that the church is much of an influence on society anymore.

But that’s not the whole picture.

I’ve never met so many church planters in Canada before. I’ve never seen so many denominations working together to advance the gospel. I’ve never seen networks like C2C start with a burden for revival, and a lack of concern for who gets the credit. Then there are the pastors who are doing the hard work of revitalizing churches that were started in a very different context.

I attended a small meeting yesterday at Exponential, an annual church planting conference in Florida. The meeting was organized by Church Planting Canada. Exponential usually has a very American flavor to it — not a bad thing, but very different from Canada. But yesterday it took on a Canadian feel as church planters and network leaders met to talk about what God is doing in Canada. Though the spiritual climate is challenging, and our numbers are small, I sensed optimism in the room, and a hunger for God to do something new.

Canadian Church Planters bonus session at Exponential

Canadian Church Planters bonus session at Exponential

Pray for Canada. God is doing something. Someone yesterday compared it to the small raincloud that Elijah saw when he prayed for rain (1 Kings 18:44). It’s small, but maybe there’s more coming.

I hope to see it in my lifetime.


*The stat about 1946 church attendance came from George Gallup, as reported by Reginald Bibby in this article (PDF). However, it seems unbelievably high.

 

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Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

Four Adjustments in Church Planting

I’m a big believer in church planting, but I have some concerns about some of our current approaches. I wrote about them on Tuesday:

  1. The greatest needs are outside of North America.
  2. Our methods are too expensive.
  3. Our casualty rate is high.
  4. Our models aren’t always healthy.

I’m familiar with some of these realities, because I’m neck deep in them myself. I believe we need to do better. I’m no expert in how to do this, but I’m thinking through a few ways that we may be able to take a more effective approach.

1. Prioritize areas of greatest need.

We need to reach people everywhere, but we should prioritize places with the greatest need. This means a continued emphasis on church planting overseas, as well as in the most unreached areas in North America. For instance, J.D. Payne has listed the most unreached counties and metro areas in the United States. In Canada, I’m pretty sure you can add downtown Toronto, Québec, Newfoundland, and many other communities to the list. We should pay careful attention to the areas of greatest need and plant churches there if we are to follow Paul’s example (Romans 15:20).

2. Develop lean models of church planting.

Ed Stetzer talks about opening more lanes in church planting:

We've adopted a mentality of "clergification," believing that the only people who can plant churches are full-time, paid pastors. As a result, we have a long line of prospective planters (because church planting is definitely the hot thing right now) all waiting for someone to say, “You're clergy. You're full-time. Here's your money.” And there's not enough money for all of them. We've bought all the church planting that we can buy, and that's not enough to start a church multiplication movement. So there they are . . . thousands of planters, stuck in line waiting for their turn and their funding. Unfortunately, many times, we let one's funding determine one's calling.

The solution is the same as Wal-Mart's. We need to open more lanes. I'm not saying to get rid of the fully-funded lane. We need to keep that lane open while we redirect some other people towards other lanes. For example, we need to create a strategy that helps some pastors become bi-vocational. We need to help them find other jobs and teach them how to lead a church while doing it. Another lane would provide permission to ethnic leaders to go ahead and plant churches rather than having to walk through several layers of Anglo hierarchy to do so.

As Payne says, "Jesus said to go and make disciples, not wait for pastors to plant churches."

There’s going to be a continued role for full time vocational church planters, but this alone won’t get the job done. We need cheaper, more reproducible models too.

3. Reduce the risk.

Church planting will always be risky, but there are ways to reduce the risk. We can lower the dollar threshold needed to plant a church, making it less likely that the new church will go broke. We can incubate church planters within existing churches, growing their leadership until they are ready to plant. As we enlarge the church planting table, we can also open more models that have a lower failure rate. We can prioritize coaching for church planters. We also need to actively learn from other planters and organizations on how they mitigate the risk. This is especially important if we are going to focus on the most unreached areas. The risk is already high; we need to do everything we can to reduce it.

4. Focus on the harvest.

J.D. Payne’s definition of church planting is right: it is evangelism that results in new churches. What if church planting focused only on reaching the unreached in a people group or a community? This would take longer, but it would truly be closer to the biblical pattern of church planting. It would be less about branding and worship services, and more about evangelism leading to the birth of a new church community.

We talk about multiplication, but our current approaches to church planting in North America make it hard for this to happen. I long to see church planting that prioritizes the areas of greatest need, uses lean models, mitigates the risk, and focuses on the harvest rather than the already-reached

5 Comments

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.