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The “Lucky Thirteen” Benefits of Sponsoring a New Church Plant

When Rodney Harrison and I wrote SPIN-OFF Churches, I was asked what I considered as the critical characteristics of pastors who lead their churches to sponsor new church starts. There are some vital characteristics that must be present or nurtured in the sponsoring church pastor, which can be inborn or incorporated. By this, I mean that some leaders have them naturally (inborn), while others work to develop (incorporate) these characteristics.

In the early 1990’s, Southern Baptists were starting almost 1,300 churches annually. With the development of a new missions agency for the Southern Baptist Convention, we were planting between 1,400 and 1,500 new churches annually with some miraculous years where we as Southern Baptist planted over 16,000 healthy new churches. During one year it was reported that we had planted 1,749 healthy new churches. Recently, while attending a Church Growth and Revitalization conference in Brandon, Florida we were told that there were 900 churches which closed their doors last year and we only planted 1,000 new churches for a net gain of 100. If we are going to grow as a convention we need to develop a renewed vision for planting healthy new churches. This vision must become a priority if our convention is going to climb out of its declining numbers.

Once responding to the question, why was it that the Church Planting Group of the North American Mission Board was so zealous about church planting, I responded as a team leader, “We have to be this zealous! Unless we create a sense of urgency for church planting it would be very easy to watch our precious convention dwindle due to our very own failure to keep the heat on for planting the gospel through church planting.” Gaining only one hundred churches while we watch 900 close is alarming to say the least.

All across North America we need local New Testament church leaders who will cultivate the characteristics necessary to lead their churches towards sponsoring new works. Those leading the established church, need cutting-edge daring and inspiration to move it forward as a sponsoring church. It is not for the limited thinker, the hesitant in spirit, or the comfort-seeker. Established church pastors must move away from doing "business as usual" and move into the sphere of "unusual business." This all begins with the cultivating of the characteristics necessary to lead your church into the uncharted territory of sponsoring churches.

Developing the Distinctives
There are at least seven strong distinctives, which need to be present or cultivated in the sponsoring church pastor:

The Sponsoring Church Pastor Must Have the Ability to See Beyond One's Own Harvest Field.

This is true kingdom vision. It is beyond the local church, association, and the denomination. It is the characteristic that believes God is pleased with a harvest, even if it is not in our own area. Having a truly kingdom perspective is essential.

The Sponsoring Church Pastor Must Have Ability to Release the Lord's Resources Beyond One's Immediate Interests.

This is a willingness to release any resources that will help multiply the gospel message of Jesus. It is not driven by "how will this make me or my church look?" It is motivated by "how will the kingdom of God benefit from this?" Someone has said it well: "Churches that plant churches need a pastor with a real vision for the lost of this world and a complete lack of selfishness."

The Sponsoring Church Pastor Must Have Willingness to Invest in the Kingdom.

A pastor who leads his church in sponsoring will have to make incredible investments. The big five investments are:

· financial investments
· ministries investments
· gifts investments
· skills investments
· talents investments

The Sponsoring Church Pastor Must Have Willingness to Go Against the Flow.

Partnering (another term for sponsoring) church pastors must also be willing to move forward to implement what is right and biblical. You must be going against the flow. You will resist the popular attitude of the 1980’s where everyone believed that bigger is better and that the most "successful" churches are those that build a huge crowd, as opposed to those who mobilize more of God's people in the harvest. Partnering church pastors are the great missional thinkers of our age as they look for ways to give away, not simply gather in.

The Sponsoring Church Pastor Must Have Ability to Paint the BIG Picture About a Vision That is Hard to See.

A partnering church pastor must be able to help his people see that it is not just about them, but about those who are not yet in the kingdom of God. It will take tremendous creativity to rally people to that which are not easily seen. It is one thing to help people see a brand new building that is not yet constructed, but they have been able to see an artist’s rendering of the building sitting in the vestibule each Sunday. However, it is more of a challenge to help Christians see a body of believers where none exists.

The Sponsoring Church Pastor Must Have Ability to Regularly Develop and Apprentice Young Leaders.

A sponsoring church pastor has to develop young leaders. He needs to develop leaders intentionally and regularly. Often it is the young leaders who accept the challenge to participate in a new church launch. A wise sponsoring church pastor needs to have new leaders ready to step up and step in. The task of raising up leaders out of the harvest never stops. The sponsoring church pastor is unable to rest on those who have been previously developed. Movement planting pastors need to keep looking for those who can be apprenticed and developed as leaders for new churches.

The Sponsoring Church Pastor Must Have Ability to Boldly Go Where None Have Gone Before!

We need to make every attempt and expect to succeed, but realize we will sometimes fail. We must develop the characteristic of going boldly where others have not gone. You may fail at what you attempt, but for the kingdom's sake, keep trying! All great things accomplished for the kingdom involve risk. You get better at being a sponsoring church the more you do it. Each time you gain in the skill sets necessary to be a great sponsoring church. We must be willing to address our fears towards the sponsoring of new works. This fear causes us to hold onto the known, limits what we are willing to attempt, and shortchanges incredible discoveries. Christ Jesus is counting on all of us—let's get going![1]

The Lucky Thirteen
There are thirteen things[2] (the “lucky thirteen”), which happen within sponsoring churches when those churches become actively involved in planting new churches.
Let’s take a look:
1. Sponsoring keeps the church fresh and alive to its mission and vision and challenges the church’s faith.
2. Sponsoring reminds the church of the challenge to pray for the lost.
3. Sponsoring enables the church to welcome other people into the kingdom that it would not otherwise have assimilated.
4. Sponsoring creates a climate open to birthing a variety of need-meeting groups within the sending church.
5. Sponsoring provides evangelistic vitality and activity.
6. Sponsoring encourages the discovery and development of new and latent leaders.
7. Sponsoring encourages coaching, mentoring, and apprenticeship in ministry while providing a renewed understanding of how we are all part of a team effort.
8. Sponsoring provides an occasion for church members to get to know missionaries personally.
9. Sponsoring builds on the past and insures the future.
10. Sponsoring minimizes the tendency toward a self-centered ministry.
11. Sponsoring provides an education in missions and serves as a stimulus for young people’s dedication to Christian service.
12. Sponsoring provides a visible proof that God is still working through people and that some are responding to his commission to go out and evangelize.
13. Sponsoring provides new opportunities for personal involvement in missions.

What Do Church Planters Need from the Sponsoring Church?

What do planters want from a sponsoring church? I asked that in a peer-learning group recently and the first response surprised me. Let’s see what planter’s think:

It’s not about the money, but the relationship!
Not that planters do not need financial resources, they do, but the most important thing they want from a sponsoring church is a vital relationship with the church and the pastoral leadership.
Coaching and mentoring is important to us.
Church Planters spoke of the importance of the mentoring or coaching relationship with the sponsoring pastor, the one-on-one time to share dreams and visions, and the opportunity to bounce ideas off someone with more experience.

We need a prayer covering!
Developing a prayer covering was another huge appeal. When the sponsoring church enlists prayer warriors and encourages the church to pray with and for the church plant and planter, everyone shares in the victories and the heavenly Father gets the glory.

Finding the right volunteers for the work of the ministry.
Even more important than money, the church plant and planter needs people, the right people. Helpers who come should understand what church planting is about, come prepared to work, not just sit in a chair.

We need the stuff that others do not think about!
Sometimes the ‘stuff’ the sponsoring church has stored such as – chairs, tables, sound equipment, and lights – can be just what the new work needs. When available, the sponsoring church staff can be of great assistance in sharing input on worship resources, providing administrative support, even the use of office equipment.

If you commit to sponsor, fulfill your commitment!
When it comes to support, consistency is the key. Deliver what you promise, and when you promised it. Far too many church plants are hurt when a pastor leaves the sponsoring church and the new leader comes in and pulls funding because “that is not our thing,” and the Lord’s church is hurt as a result.

Wrapping it up!
Remember also that the sponsoring church often learns from the church plant. New ways to do things, innovative ideas, and new technology skills can be shared from the plant with the sponsor. The North American Mission Board reports that nationally 4% of SBC churches are sponsoring churches. Sounds surprising doesn’t it; but if we are going to have one million believers in our Southern Baptist congregations by the end of 2020, we must have many more sponsoring churches. If you would like more information about becoming a sponsoring church, there are many ready to help you and your church in the effort. Contact your Executive Director of Missions, Dr. Tom Cheyney (tcheyney@goba.org), or GOBA’s Director of Church Planting, Mark Weible (mweible@goba.org and we will be glad to work with you in your effort to sponsor new churches. Right now we need 225 new churches in the next ten years right here in central Florida and we are praying for 1,825 new church plants around the great state of Florida through the godly churches of the Greater Orlando Baptist Association.

[1]www.churchplantingvillage.net/churchplantingvillagepb.aspx?pageid=8589989663 by Tom Cheyney.
[2]The list is taken from Spin-off Churches: How One Church Successfully Plants Another by Harrison, Cheyney and Overstreet.