WHY CHURCH PLANTING?
As many of you know, Westside is a church plant that is committed to planting churches. In fact, our greatest commitment to local missions is found in our desire to plant Jesus-loving, gospel-preaching churches in the city of Vancouver. People occasionally ask, “What are you doing to reach Vancouver?” My answer is always the same: We planted a church that is committed to planting churches that in turn will plant others. It’s kind of like that old shampoo commercial, “I told two friends and they told two friends and so on and so on…”
But why? We get this question a lot and I understand where it comes from. Many well-intentioned people have pointed out that there are no guarantees in church planting—“Just because Westside is doing OK doesn’t mean that another plant will be OK too.” I couldn’t agree more. In fact, most church plants fail. Depending on the statistics you look at, upwards of 80% of all church plants shut down over a number of years. We also hear on occasion, “Aren’t there enough churches in the city already?” That really depends on how you define church. If you define it as a building that gathers people, then yes, there are a lot of churches in the city. However, if you define it as a body of Jesus followers who are committed to reaching the city for Jesus, who preach the necessity of personal repentance, who believe the Bible is God’s inerrant Word, who believe Jesus is the only way, the only truth and the only life, then no, there aren’t that many churches in the city.
In addition, although it’s difficult to pin down hard facts, upwards of 90% of all people in Vancouver don’t attend an evangelical Christian church of any sort or at any time. Some, I know, respond to this and say, “But you don’t need to attend a church to be a Christian.” I agree. However, if you want to be one that is enjoying fellowship, is accountable and is holding others accountable, is using your spiritual gifts in the context of a body, is hearing consistent teaching and application of it in the context of local outreach, then one must be a part of a local church body. (This isn’t even touching on the fact that almost every letter Paul writes is written to, and is to be lived out in, the context of a local church body.) The fact of the matter is, most of the teaching in the New Testament as it pertains to our salvation is written in the context of community. To put it another way, although each of us is to experience personal salvation, our salvation isn’t to be lived out personally; it’s to be lived out in the context of “oneness” in community. (Ephesians 4)
But again, why church planting? Aren’t there other ways to reach the city? Absolutely. However, study of the model of church growth and multiplication as seen in the New Testament, in addition to many personal experiences lived out at Westside, lead us to the belief that church planting is the most effective way, especially in the long term.
Successful church planting dictates the need for body involvement, it demands local missional activity, it necessitates leadership from those who have never led before, it deconstructs the idea that missions happens “out there” and I just kind of live my life here, and one other thing: it forces you to pray like you’ve never prayed before. There are so many stories the people of Westside could tell about how before being a part of a church plant they didn’t know Jesus, or they were never involved—never served, never lead, never taught and so on—but because there was such a need, they did and doggone if they weren’t used by God in a way that they never were before. I also point out to many that Westside has never made a hire that didn’t come from in house—I praise God and stand in awe of that.
In the early spring of 2009, Westside planted Reality Vancouver, a ministry led by Pastor Kris Martens. Currently, Reality meets on Sunday mornings at Charles Dickens Elementary School, located on the east side of Vancouver. Kris, his wife Susie and their six kids are passionate about reaching out to the city of Vancouver and are committed to planting additional churches as God leads.
Ministry within the city of Vancouver requires many things but certainly flexibility, creativity and contextualization are among them. By God’s grace and favour, we will continue to participate in Kingdom building as we venture forward.
God’s grace and peace to you,