In recent years it has been very popular to plant churches or sponsor a new church plant. Motive, call, need, and the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit are all key factors in the planting of a new church. A new church should not be started simply because someone is tired of their present situation, tired of “traditional” church, or because of a desire to be in control. Planting a new church always begins with seeking God and seeing things through His eyes. There are several indicators which help determine when to plant a new church.
Need within a population is definitely a factor to be considered. If a church, association of churches, or an individual becomes aware of a people group, population segment, or an affinity group that is not being reached by existing churches, then we can strategize to study them and reach out to them. Many times this requires a church plant because they aren’t being reached and assimilated by the existing churches. Biblically, need doesn’t always indicate that “you” should be the one to plant a new church. The Apostle Paul saw need in Asia and Bithynia but God didn’t allow him to go to these areas but gave him a “vision” for going to Macedonia, (Acts 16:6-10). Need does mean that someone should be sensitive to God’s leadership and timing with regard to reaching the lost and planting a church which develops them into mature believers.
Vision is one of the first indicators for knowing when to plant a new church. Real vision is from God and is His specific direction for a new church plant. Vision indicates calling from God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. God gives vision or revelation progressively. In the Acts 16 example of the Macedonian vision, God called and directed Paul to first plant the Gospel and then to later plant the church. Acts 16:10 says that Paul and his church planting missionary team concluded from God’s vision that they were called to preach the Gospel to the Macedonians. The planting of the Philippian Church in Macedonia is one of the best New Testament examples of church planting because it shows call, direction, need, development of a core group, and God’s work in all this.
Obedience is another important factor with regard to when to plant a new church. The Church has been given the mandate to go into the entire world and preach the Gospel and then to disciple the new believers. While fulfilling this Great Commission the Church will encounter the lost and discover the need for a church or churches in the process of being obedient. Every aspect of the Great Commission can only be fulfilled by the local church, and because of the Church’s God given responsibilities church planting is innate in this commission. If there is not a church to disciple, baptize, and train believers, then there needs to be one established to carry on this work. So it is in the act of obedience that the church discovers the need and the vision to plant churches.