There are many models out there for planting churches. Many of those models have had success and it’s likely that an equal amount haven’t been sustainable. Which is to say, there’s no fail-proof model for planting a church. The ability for a church plant to become sustainable is incredibly dependent on context, people, leadership, finances, and a myriad of other variables. But so far as I can tell, the model in which I’m involved seems to be pretty stellar.
I work under the banner of Gateway Church (C&MA), Caledonia. Gateway’s thing is “letting go and launching out.” They have adopted the imagery of an airport terminal — that the point of being a part of their church community is to come in and then be launched out to live the mission of Jesus. This not only applies to individuals or small groups, but also translates into church planting. Our church plant in Ancaster is Gateway’s fourth foray into Southern Ontario. And what I find refreshing, remarkable, and inspiring, is that Gateway’s not out to expand the Gateway empire. The bottom line sentiment from Gateway is this: contextualize the Gospel for your area(!) and how can we help you in doing that? Gateway provides money, people, financial administration, experience, wisdom, inspiration, encouragement, and the list keeps going. But perhaps the most valuable ingredient in this recipe is that their church plants are called “freedom franchises.” We are not a satellite (1). We don’t take the name (if we don’t want it). People from Gateway who live in our area are free to join us if they want (and if we want them). People from Gateway, both involved in our plant or not, are encouraged to give financially towards our venture. Gateway basically believes that the Gospel must go forward, and that regardless of the pain that church planting causes the “mother ship,” it’s worth it because it’s a matter of obedience and a natural outcome of a church having intimacy with the Father (2).
Gateway also believes that being a church that plants churches naturally keeps the conversation fresh and alive in the mother ship. Church plants are forced to ask pertinent questions related to contextualizing the Gospel. These questions, and the experiments that proceed from the answers, force the mother ship to look at herself and evaluate accordingly. Church planting naturally stops the mother ship from becoming stagnant and out of touch.
It’s also worth nothing that Gateway herself is only twenty years old. But in her first years a decision was made to start a church planting fund — that someday she’d give birth so she’d need money in the bank to do so. Church planting was built into her DNA from the very beginning (which is why our church plant is already saving for an eventual baby).
But this is only one part of the equation.
In the C&MA we have what we call “Seamless Links.” We encourage our Canadian churches to sign a Seamless Link agreement with a global C&MA missionary. I think that the reasons for this are obvious.
Through a series of providential events this past summer, a C&MA church in Southeastern Saskatchewan signed the first ever national Seamless Link agreement with our church plant. Estevan Alliance Church has signed a four year agreement to financially, prayerfully, and through visitations, support us. For the reasons stated above concerning Gateway and church planting, Estevan wants in on the game. EAC is a fifty year-old church and has never given birth. So part of the long-term goal of this partnership is to wet EAC’s appetite for having a baby.
A group of five people from EAC just visited us last week, and I must say, this partnership is incredible. I am so excited and filled with anticipation as I dream about how this partnership may enable us to do what we need to do in Ancaster, but also because it will do something for Estevan. The EAC team returned to Estevan not only knowing about our church plant, but with a renewed vision and excitement for their own church.
So this, in broad strokes, is our model. And I love it. But then again, this is my first church plant and I’ve only been at this for less than a year. So what do I know? Ha!
If you like, you can check out a portion of our church plant’s recent commissioning/party service from Gateway by clicking here.