Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My Most Important Sermon To Date

This Sunday I announced in my sermon that our elder board is following God in taking the first steps in moving toward planting our first church in 2009. We have decided (after much prayer and deliberation) that God is calling us to plant in Round Rock, and that we will be working with one of the residents coming to be trained at HCBC NW. His name is Josh Cagle, and he has been a youth pastor in southern California for the last ten years. He and his wife, Amber, will be moving to the Austin area in August and starting the residency program in September.

I preached Sunday on our vision - our desire to see every man, woman, and child in Greater Austin have the chance to experience the life-changing reality of Jesus Christ because they hear the gospel from the lips of someone at a Hill Country Bible Church. I was giving the context of why we made the decision to plant our first church by the time of our 2nd anniversary as a church. Of all the messages I have preached over the last year of our church, this is most likely the most important. You can listen to it on our website or by downloading it from our podcast on iTunes.

I handed out one-page insert Sunday morning that attempted to answer many of the questions that I know people have in response to our decision. I want to post those thoughts here for anyone who wants to see what we're doing in more detail and see my current thinking on church-planting in the life of the church. Feel to free to comment below - I appreciate the feedback in clarifying my thoughts on this very important topic. Until All Treasure Him...

Q1: Where is the biblical mandate to start new churches?

A: The biblical mandate from Jesus is to be “sent” into the world (John 20:21) in order to be “His witnesses” (Acts 1:8) that we could “makes disciples” of all peoples (Matthew 28:19-20). This call to “make disciples” requires that we baptize follows of Christ and organize believers into local communities (see Acts 2:41-47). Starting new churches is the best way to make sure that we are following Jesus’ commands to evangelize the nations and turning new Christ-followers into committed disciples.

Beyond that, we have the example of the apostle Paul in the NT who went from city to city establishing new churches (see Acts 14:21-28, 16:9-12, and Titus 1:5) and raising up elders to oversee these local congregations. Paul demonstrates through his own life and ministry how personal evangelism and church-planting are directly connected.

Q2: How does church planting fit into our vision to reach every man, woman, and child in Greater Austin with the life-changing reality of Jesus Christ?

A: Our hope and prayer is that every person in our city has the opportunity to experience the life-changing reality of Jesus Christ because they hear the gospel from the lips of a real person. In order for every man, woman, and child from every socio-economic and every racial group to hear the gospel, we need to have strong, healthy, dynamic churches in every part of the city reaching into every demographic group. Church-planting is the most effective way to reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and since we are passionate about people experiencing Jesus Christ, we are committed to planting churches. If we discovered a better strategy for reaching the city tomorrow, we would stop planting churches and adopt that strategy. But that scenario is unlikely as history has consistently demonstrated the effectiveness of starting new churches in spreading the gospel.

Q3: Why should we plant new churches in Round Rock when so many churches in Round Rock already exist?

A: A quick survey of the research compiled on church-growth in Greater Austin and around the nation reveals that this question has two faulty underlying assumptions: first, that new churches compete with existing churches for members, and second, that Round Rock is a “churched” city. Let’s look at these assumptions one at a time.

(1) New churches find most of their members from those who are previously unchurched, not those who are transferring from other churches. Nation-wide surveys show that 60-80% of the new members in new churches are previously unchurched, while 80-90% of new members in congregations older than 15 years come from other churches. Because new congregations are forced to focus on the needs of non-members in the community rather than their own attenders, they are 6 to 8 times more effective in evangelism than established churches. Additionally, new churches are more effective in reaching different demographic groups than established churches. For all of these reasons, new churches do not compete with existing churches, but effectively reach those that existing churches are not reaching.

(2) Greater Round Rock has a current estimated population (summer 2008) of 133,000 people. A recent survey of the 63 current Protestant churches in RR shows that they have 16,150 in attendance on a typical Sunday, for a total of 12.1% of the population. With Greater Round Rock expected to grow to 250,000 people over the next thirty years, every church in Round Rock will need to grow and new churches will need to be planted in order to increase the percentage of our city’s population that regularly attends a church. Round Rock is not a “churched” city and is falling further behind every year that new churches are not started. One thing, however, is certain: without starting new congregations, the percentage of Round Rock residents that attend church will continue to decline.

Q4: Why are we planting a church before we build our own facility to meet in?

A: Starting a capital-campaign for a facility early in the life of our church would have three unintended consequences that could negatively impact our church. First, the energy and resources of our leadership would be focused on raising funds for the new building for several years. This would immediately become our church’s highest priority for the foreseeable future. Second, building before we plant would create the mindset that planting was secondary in importance to building, when in reality building is secondary to planting. Rather than asking how church-planting will impact our building-campaign, our elders hope to establish a pattern where we ask how a building-campaign will impact church planting. Simply put, order matters. Third, building early in the life a church always leads it to build too small. Because God has miraculously provided us an awesome home for the next several years at the YMCA at a good rental rate, we feel confident that we can continue to grow in our current space without taking on the financial burden of a new building.

Q5: Why is the model changing to a “missional-core” plant instead of the hive-off model that we used?

A: The “missional-core” planting model seeks to send a maximum of ten missional families with the planter instead of the large group of 30-40 families that are sent with a hive-off. The model has changed for two primary reasons. First, large hive-off churches tend to be less effective in their evangelism because they start with a large core of Christians from the mother-church rather than starting with a mix of missional Christians and new converts from the community. “Missional-core” plants spend more time and energy reaching the lost in their community rather than ministering to their own families. Second, in order to plant a large hive-off church, the “sending” church must be large and able to send off a large contingency. If planting is limited to the hive-off model, then only large churches will be involved in church planting in the city.

Q6: How will church-planting impact the ministry of Hill Country Bible Church Round Rock?

A: Church-planting is good for the “sending” church in several ways. First, planting a missional, evangelistic church renews the “sending” church’s commitment to evangelism and mission. As the church-planting team engages in strategic evangelism in the city, the families of the “sending” church are challenged to do their part to own the vision in their sphere of influence. Second, planting a new church provides opportunities for new people to step up into significant leadership roles. Church-planting opens opportunities in the “sending” church and obviously creates opportunities for service in the new church. Finally, church-planting matures the “sending” church by teaching us how to walk by faith and how to be Kingdom-minded. Each of us will learn to trust God more and be reminded that God’s work is bigger than our own congregation.

Q7: How much does it cost to plant a church, and how can we afford it?

A: The latest estimate on funding a church-plant in our association is about $135,000, which includes funding a resident in the training center for one year and providing some of the initial funding for the church plant. Of course, the final cost of the church-plant will vary depending on the actual costs incurred by the planting team. The funds for the cost of the plant can come from several sources: the sending church’s general budget, a special offering from the sending church, and the fundraising resources of the planter himself.

As of now, the elders of HCBC-RR have adjusted the remainder of the 2008 budget (starting in June) to reallocate future-facility funds into our church-planting fund now that the YMCA lease has been finalized for the next two years. Beyond that, we are trusting God to lead us over the next year in how to fund the plant, and we are also trusting Him to provide the necessary funds. Like all budgeting decisions, our money follows our priorities. We feel confident that God will honor our sacrifice for His Kingdom as He has done with other Hill Country churches as they have been open-handed with the resources God has provided.


Peter Horn said...


Anonymous said...

Sounds like you will all be busier than ever...I'll keep you all in prayer as you start this new endeavor.
Best Wishes to all involved!
Love, Mom

Tom said...

The God of All Grace and Glory will certainly bless this work of Faith!