Introducing All Nations Christian Fellowship, A Church Plant of Bethlehem Baptist Church
Sherard Burns, Wally Brath, and John Erickson are leading a new church plant from Bethlehem to start on March 5. My prayer is that you will sincerely ask the Lord Jesus if you should be a part of it.
Treasuring Christ Together
The three-fold strategy of Treasuring Christ Together is: multiply campuses, plant churches, care for the poorest of the poor through the Global Diaconate. All giving to Treasuring Christ Together is divided 80% for campus development, 10% for church planting, and 10% for the Global Diaconate.
The Treasuring Christ Together funds have already begun to bear fruit in funding new church starts that share our passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ: Desiring God Community Church, Charlotte (Coty Pinkney); Treasuring Christ Church, Raleigh (Sean Cordell and Kent Capps); Berean Missional Church, St. Paul (Dwayne Gibbs); Crosspointe Church, Orlando (Matthew Molesky); and in a month TCT will help launch All Nations Christian Fellowship, Brooklyn Center, with three of our staff: Sherard Burns, John Erickson, and Wally Brath.
We asked Sherard to preach this morning with a view to helping you understand the vision of All Nations Christian Fellowship. My goal is to persuade you to listen with a mind and heart that says to God: “Father, if I should be a part of this new church plant in Brooklyn Center, please make it plain to me. Show me that this vision that Sherard presents is something you are calling me to.” I want lots of people to go with Sherard and John and Wally. But the question will be: When you hear the vision, do you find your heart and mind saying, in the Holy Spirit, “Yes, Yes. I want to commit myself to that.”
Four Reasons to Plant Churches
To that end let me give you four reasons why church planting is worthy of huge investments from our church and worthy of prayerful and serious consideration by you in regard to All Nations Christian Fellowship.
First, in 1900 there were 27 churches for every 10,000 Americans. In 1950, there were 17 churches for every 10,000 Americans. In 1996, there were 11 churches for every 10,000 Americans. From 1986-1996, the combined membership of all Protestant denominations declined by 9.5%, while the national population has increased by 11%. In an average year, half of all churches do not add one new member through conversion growth. Each year over 3,500 churches close their doors for the last time. Only 1,100 to 1,500 are started each year. We do not have too many churches today. We have too few.
And not just too few churches in general: there are too few God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated, missions-mobilizing, justice-pursuing churches. We need more. Many of the present church-planting churches are doctrinally indifferent, with the result that over time their orientation will prevail, and weaken the church, if doctrinally engaged churches don’t become more aggressive in church planting.
Second, experience has shown, and the Bible would support, that new churches are one of the most effective means of evangelism. Leith Anderson, from across town at Wooddale says, “New churches are flexible, open to newcomers, entrepreneurial, outreaching, and not burdened with servicing old internal relationships and demands.” Older churches “tend to become so burdened with budgets, buildings, and pastor and people problems that they no longer have the energy for outreach.” We will fight with all our might to keep that from being true at our 135-year old Bethlehem. But there is no doubt that new churches have new energy for evangelism. Their life depends on it. That is a good thing.
Third, new churches awaken and engage much of the under-used leadership potential of the saints in the older, larger churches. Many people are under-invested at Bethlehem. A new church would cry for your engagement. The need for more lay ministers in every sphere would press us all toward rigorous efforts of nurturing spiritual growth and leadership development.
Fourth, breaking free from the risk-free comfort of long-standing patterns of church life is a good thing. It’s good for your faith to be tested. It is good to take risks. Think of it this way. We continually call for people to risk leaving the comforts and securities of America to plant the church among unreached people groups around the world. Should not then all of us seek the Lord for what risks we should be taking at home for the kingdom of Christ? Planting a new church is filled with unknowns and uncertainties. Yes. Where else can faith grow?
Two things are not uncertain: All authority in heaven and on earth belong to Christ (Matthew 28:18), and he will be with us to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). On the basis of these two certainties Christ calls us to take the risks necessary to plant churches here and around the world.
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