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              When people are looking for a new church, they rarely ever consider a church plant as an option and that really is sad. Established churches have a lot going for them. They have full ministries and programs along with regular worship services. Church plants on the other hand are works in progress. They usually don’t have regular worship services at the outset and they don’t have the wide array of programs that established churches have. Yet, every church plant eventually turns into an established church (Lord willing) and so the start up phase is only temporary. I believe that every Christian should consider being part of the start up phase of a new church.

                Every church you’ve ever attended began as a church plant. And while the story of every church is unique what they have in common is a group of people who boldly say, “We believe in the Great Commission, we believe in Jesus and his Church, and we want to get our hands dirty for his Kingdom!” You might take a church like Christ Church Plano for example. Today Christ Church Plano is one of the largest Anglican churches in America. But when it was planted in 1985 Plano was not the bustling suburban city it is today. In those days Plano was still mostly farmland with few housing developments and many people thought it was crazy to start anything out there. But vision led the way empowered by the Holy Spirit to start something new. Christ Church, which now has a massive sanctuary that seats hundreds of people, started in a garage in a home. Few of us would pick a garage as our first choice for our church home but that’s where it began. There was no other way to do it, in order for Christ Church to be what it is today it had to start in a home and then move to a school and then move to its current location which was built in phases over many years.

                There will always be many reasons why someone would not choose a church plant but I wanted to highlight what you would miss out on by waiting until a church plant becomes a big established church. There are three reasons I want to highlight.

#1- You miss out on deep friendships.

                People might choose a church because of the preaching or music but they ultimately stay for the relationships. Regardless of the quality of the worship service, most people won’t stick around unless they make some connections with the other people in the pews. Established churches do this through small groups and volunteer teams but a church plant has a greater advantage for relationship over established churches. Naturally, church plants are small and so you get to know all the other people on the team. Not just that, you become friends with the other people on the team. And you don’t just become friends but you go through some pretty incredible experiences together which bolsters that friendship even more. Even as the church grows you share memories and experiences with those people that never fade. And as new people join the fellowship you become an ambassador for the culture of your new church. You get to turn around and tell the stories of the early days and welcome others the same way you were welcomed to the church. In fact, church plants are engineered to reach new people so they are more thoughtful about how to reach out to new people and integrate them into the life of the church. Those folks who boldly say they want to be part of the start gain new friends that enrich their everyday lives.

#2- You miss out on drawing closer to God.

                James 1:22 says, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only.” Programs, retreats, Bible studies, conferences, and sermon series are all fantastic tools for discipleship. But if we think that it stops with us hearing the Word then we are mistaken. When you feel yourself slowing down in your faith or losing the spark of your relationship with God you might be inclined to seek out a spiritual retreat or buy a ticket to a conference. You might even be tempted to blame your pastor for not “bringing the heat” on Sunday morning from the pulpit. But until the words you hear are put into practice you won’t feel a deepening relationship with God. In order to walk with Jesus, you must go to where he is and Jesus is out in the fields. When I was a kid, my father was always asking me to help with projects around the farm and, as a teen, I was naturally resistant to manual labor. But one day my mother informed me that my dad wants to do these projects with me to get closer to me and bond. I realized that if I wanted a closer walk with my dad, I needed to join him in his work. And while this is possible at an established church it is far too easy to become a spectator and not do the work. At a church plant that’s pretty much impossible. Church plants are all-hands-on-deck and so everyone shares in the labor.

#3- You miss out on seeing lives changed.

                Growing up I would hear testimonies of people who met Jesus in their darkest hour. Maybe they were involved in crime or their marriage was sinking or they were racked with depression. They were at the end of their rope and then in walks Jesus to save the day! Those stories captivated me and I longed to experience it for myself. Until you see someone come to know Jesus for the first time for yourself you don’t truly appreciate the power of the Gospel to change lives. Established churches are able to make one new convert a year for every 89 members they have but church plants that are less than 10 years old are able to make one new convert a year for every 3 members they have. And on average 42% of church plants are made up of people who were not churched less than a year ago. Church plants are powerhouses for life change and the great part is that this work is spread out through the entire church. Instead of your pastor doing all the heavy lifting of changing lives you get trained to do it for yourself and so you are intimately involved in discipleship and life change by being part of a church plant.

                So yes, church plants are not glamourous. You might be meeting on a weird night of the week. You might hold services in a garage or a living room or a bar. You put in more hours and you rarely get the recognition you feel like you deserve. But church plants don’t happen as often as they should. Each year 8000 churches close down in the U.S. and not enough are being started to take their place. Anyone can join an established church but only a few can say they helped start one. It’s the difference between watching the moon landing on TV and actually being on the shuttle. If you happen upon a church plant in your community and you discern that they are healthy and wise then you should strongly consider joining their work. They will greatly appreciate you for your service and you will get to experience a once in a lifetime opportunity to make new friends, draw closer to God, and see lives get changed. This not meant to disparage established churches, they are awesome too! But you should weigh what you might miss out on by not taking the chance while you have it.

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