It’s been a while since I addressed the issue of whether churches should build more facilities or plant new churches. The trend in established churches is unfortunately, an unquestioned embrace that “bigger is better.” However, as I’ve said in previous entries in this series, it’s obviously not wrong to build or expand ministry facilities. What I’ve tried to advocate is a thoughtful, missional strategy for a growing church.

With that said, let’s look at the next reason why many churches choose building over planting:

  • Desire for achievement, recognition, or status

While we see these selfish grasps for ambition more easily in individuals, they are just as apt to be present in a myopic organization. It’s the unspoken motivation of wanting other churches and ministries to “look how good we are…” What began as joyful response to God’s blessing in growth morphs into an unhealthy organizational self-love that devolves into self-promotion and neglect of assisting the development and extension of the kingdom of God in the world. Rather, it focuses only on what will make itself look good or earn other’s envy.

If church leaders aren’t zealous self-examiners, they may unintentionally begin using their church as a way to prop up their own ministerial resumes. Church growth becomes a means to earn the approval and respect of other churches and leaders.

Because the church itself benefits from this growth and activity in obvious ways (new facilities, new ministries, a wide range of social activities, and a feeling of success), its members too fall prey to this type of thinking and become mindless advocates for the progress of their own church.

It doesn’t matter that sister churches in the area might be blessed from some of their abundant resources. They are unaware of the urgent needs of missionaries overseas. Strategic thinking about how Christ might desire them to minister and connect with His larger body is conspicuously absent.

Money, time, and resources are invested and spent internally – and on projects endorsed or developed by that one church. If the idea doesn’t originate from within, it becomes unworthy of consideration or investment. It’s not that the church isn’t doing wonderful things, but in the long run, it is running a one-horse race to win achievement, recognition, and status.

One of the reasons that it’s exceedingly difficult for churches to consider starting a new church rather than building or expanding is due how exceedingly difficult it is to plant a new church. It will take resources, manpower, more prayer than ever before, the generosity of allowing current members to go with the new church plant, etc.

Most of us pastors don’t thrill at the idea of “losing” key leaders. But that’s what beginning a new church often does. In joy and grace, we lovingly release some of our best and brightest to ensure the health and guidance of the new plant. Of course, there are other folks that we’d love to “send out” to a new church, but that would bless the mother church and curse the daughter church. 😉

We also don’t get charged up about allocating significant resources from already-tight budgets to another church plant. It doesn’t “benefit” the main church. But perhaps that’s another precise reason why church planting should be done. It’s selfless. It’s a recognition that if previous leaders hadn’t invested in us, our own church wouldn’t exist today.

In short, church planting may actually be one of the primary tools that we can use to kill the sinful selfish desire for achievement, recognition, or status.

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