Why Plant Churches.
In my sermon this past Sunday I mentioned something that strikes fear into the hearts of some, while filling others with great excitement – church planting. This idea has circulated in, through, and around our church for years, since our own inception as a church plant, in fact. Many people, both inside and outside of All Saints, have long imagined that we would be a church-planting church, not just in theory, but in practice. So, will we? Now, I think, is a good time to have that conversation.
Tim Keller wrote a seminal article over a decade ago which has influenced many in our denomination and beyond, titled simply: Why Plant Churches. In it, Keller argues that new churches best reach three types of people with the gospel of Christ: (1) new residents, (2) new generations, and (3) new people groups. Consider Austin in light of these three things… (1) 175 people move to the city per day. (2) One third of the population is between 20 and 34 years old. And, to close out Keller’s triad, (3) due to an ever-increasing number of people from a wide array of ethnicities, Austin is now a city where there is no ethnic majority.
What does this mean for All Saints and the Church at large in Austin? Well, if Keller’s argument about new churches better reaching new residents, new generations, and new people groups is right, then Austin needs church plants as much, if not more, than any other city in our country. And we, All Saints, need to pray about and discuss what our role will be in meeting this need.
One way All Saints’ role could take shape is to plant a new PCA church in north-central Austin out of our Sunday evening service as we move into our new church campus on Southwest Parkway in fall 2015. Really? Yes. We have to decide what we will do with our evening service, recognizing that many who worship with us at Park Hills have never done so at St. Gabriel’s. And many live further north and farther east than Park Hills is located. Also, it will be a stretch for our church financially and our staff ministerially to continue to rent Park Hills and replicate our worship in the evening there, especially if we have to have multiple morning services at our new building (which is likely).
Have other churches done this before – plant a church while moving into a new building? I don’t know. Can we do this? By God’s grace, yes. Should we do this? I, and others, believe so.
At the end of May, All Saints’ Session voted to approve a proposal to the PCA’s Southwest Church Planting Network, seeking to secure necessary funding for an Austin church plant in 2015. At the Network’s meeting in June, its Executive Committee accepted our proposal and voted to allocate funds for three years, beginning in 2015, for a potential Austin plant. Since then I have had numerous conversations with several pastors who might lead this plant and over the next month two of them will travel to Austin as candidates.
To some of you, it might sound too soon and too new to interview candidates at this point. I understand, but please know that we’re talking about the possibility of launching a new church as we move into our new church facility. The target move-in date to our Southwest Parkway home is next fall, more than 12 months away; this is also the targeted time for the launch of this potential plant. So, we are interviewing men now because they have to make decisions about leaving their current pastoral posts and transitioning their families to a new city, both of which take much time and prayer to decide upon and to execute well.
I know this raises many questions and I could write more here in an attempt to answer those I imagine you’re asking. But we would rather hear directly from you. So please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org; I’ll attempt to answer them in subsequent posts as well as in worship and in congregational meetings this fall, where we can discuss both our building project and this proposed planting endeavor. Before then, please listen to my sermon if you missed it this past Sunday. Also, read Tim Keller’s article, Why Plant Churches. Finally, and most importantly, pray for this truly exciting time in the life and history of our church – that the Lord would draw near to us and lead us as we seek to take our part in his work of redemption in Austin and the world.
Thy kingdom come…