Planting churches is not an option for the adventurous – it is a mandate for all of God’s church.
In this mandate we see mirrored, or, more properly, fulfilled, the creative and obligatory decree of Genesis 1:28 – that of being fruitful and multiplying. The authority given in this original proclamation is given new impetus, authority and focus in the words of Jesus that all authority in heaven and earth has been given to him. That is why we can and should Go. We are participating by the expansion of churches in the New Creation project of God.
The making of disciples, the last command of the Risen Christ, is best accomplished in the expansion and formulation of new churches/locations/campus – the fact being more important than the form.
The prophet Isaiah called out:
“Enlarge the place of your tent,
and let the curtains of your habitation be stretched out;
do not hold back; length your cords
and strengthen your stakes.
For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left,
and your offspring will possess the nations,
and will people the desolate cities.”
These verses have long captured the prophetic imagination of C3 Churches, and in particular Ps Phil Pringle. They have provided vision and focus. And it is these two things that are essential to enlarge, stretch, strengthen and possess. Vision is necessary to fulfil the mandate, and focus is required to give legs to vision.
At one juncture in the history of the early church it was persecution that forced the church’s hand to, “go and make disciples.”
They were forced to relocate around the Empire, taking the good news with them and forming loose communities, which became the seedbed/precursors to the eventual establishment of churches under the more deliberate intentionalized apostolic ministry of Paul and Barnabas (and others).
It has been sagely stated that the hope of the world is the local church. (And so it was, and so it is, and so it will be.) He meant that as we expand and gather God’s people we are providing hope for the world, the country, the community we find ourselves in. It was the gospel embodied (incarnated) in the life of the believers that became the reason for the triumph of faith in the Roman Empire. Love verses power, and love won.
Ed Stetzer states, “Any church wishing to recover the dynamic nature of the early church should consider planting new churches.”
Whilst recovering the dynamic of the early church may be a little more nuanced than Stetzer’s comment accounts for, we would be well advised to, at least, make a start by doing what he does suggest. New life engenders new life.
The temptation to only maintain what we have may well be irresponsible, and at very least negligent as it tends towards atrophy.
By nature most of us are conservative; we find expanding a stretching exercise, not always comfortable – and neither is it. But the call of being in Christ asks something more of us, more than we think we are capable of, more than seems reasonable, and more than becoming less – as that is what we will become it we don’t think and live out, if we don’t some how, some day, Go.
 Matthew 28:18
 Matthew 28:19-20
 Isaiah 54:2-3 (ESV)
 I highly recommend Rodney Stark’s, The Rise of Christianity. (New York, NY: HarperOne, 1997). He is a sociologist/historian with unique insights.
 Ed Stetzer, and Daniel Im. Planting Missional Churches: Your Guide to Starting Churches That Multiply. Second edition. (Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Academic, 2016), 42
Faith in ministry includes setting goals so incredibly bold that you’re bound to fail unless God moves in a miraculous way. We plant churches and lead churches to expand. And we want to expand greatly. Expansion represents transformed lives, people connected to Jesus and His saving power, and people living their best lives for His cause in our world.
God has designed all living things to reproduce, to multiply and to expand. It’s the way things work. How much more His church?
The Bible opens straight out of the gate with a Creation Commission for all human beings created in the image of God: “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:26-28).
The gospels open with Jesus calling for the same. He taught kingdom expansion in parable after parable. The King is looking for hearts that, like good soil, bear fruit 30, 60, and a 100 fold (Matthew 13:23). The kingdom begins small like a mustard seed and grows into a large mustard tree. The kingdom is seemingly insignificant at first like yeast in a lump of dough but grows In significance as it permeates the world. The kingdom progressively advances like the growing seed becoming first the blade, then the ear and then the full grain in the ear. (Mark 4:26-29). Growth. Increase. Expansion. It’s what the kingdom does. It’s what kingdom people do.
Jesus’ final words in the gospels – the Great Commission – is an expansion of the Creation Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” (Matthew 28:18-20). Reproduce yourselves. Multiply. It’s a global vision for expansion.
I therefore regularly ask myself as a leader if my faith is based on what I think is possible, or on God, who says all things are possible?
My prayers at times are small-minded. I limit my requests to things I think are possible. What if I prayed God-sized prayers?
What would this mean in practical terms for the expansion of your church and your ministry? Rick Warren suggests adding a zero to every goal you set. Do you want to reach 100 for Christ in your community? Then set a goal to reach 1,000. Set a bold goal that is bound to fail unless God moves in a miraculous way. It is in the realm of the impossible that faith works.
None of this happens by accident. We pray and work hard. We develop the skills to reach our communities. Expansion thinking focuses on building big people. Quality people. Big people build big churches.
There is a church growth and church health progression recorded in the book of Acts. It describes the exponential growth of the church in direct relation to the growth of the quality of person. In other words, the Acts Progression shows us that the quantity of people we reach happens because of the quality of people we develop.
“Souls were added…” Acts 2:41
“Believers were increasingly added…” Acts 5:14
“The number of the disciples was multiplying…” Acts 6:1
“The number of the disciples multiplied greatly…and a great many of the priests were obedient.” Acts 6:7
As the quality of people progresses from saved souls to believers, and from believers to disciples and from disciples to the salvation of the Jewish opposition’s most influential leaders, the church grows exponentially. People are added and then increasingly added, they are multiplying and then multiplying greatly.
Seek God, hear what God has to say and then believe Him for big, big things. He is more committed to expansion than we realize. God’s kingdom works by expansion.