Why Church Planting?

By Lia McIntosh

And he began to teach them. He said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:2-10 (NIV)

I had the privilege of growing up in an urban neighborhood in north St. Louis County, a few miles from Ferguson, Missouri. This is the area where on August 9, 2014, Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot and killed by a white police officer. This unfortunate occurrence sparked protests across the U.S. I watched the protests for months, grieving, and hoping that peace and justice would prevail in my home town and beyond. I realized that the protests were a response by people, mostly 20 and 30-year-olds, who were poor in spirit, mourning, hungry, and thirsting for righteousness who decided to stand up! Through the mostly nonviolent protests, people used their presence and voices to resist perceived injustices in policing in their neighborhoods and across the country.

Out of desperation, I sought solace in prayer, scriptures, and conversations with friends, family and fellow clergy. A colleague reminded me that our mission as United Methodists is “Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” While the work of systemic transformation is still in it’s infancy in Ferguson, I am grateful that this mission can provide a compass for the work of all people. So, what about your neighborhood? How does the church lead the work of transforming structures that are unjust and spur people towards love, righteousness, and opportunity for all?

One of the ways, is through church planting, which creates new places for new people, to connect with one another, Christ and culture. The liberating work of transformation is the primary responsibility of the church of Jesus Christ. Yet, the history of Christianity has proven that, when compared to older congregations, newer congregations are better able to connect with younger and more diverse people than existing ones who are often older and more inwardly focused.

The work of church planting, just like transformation in community organizing, starts in the street; engages local leaders in law enforcement, local government, and school districts; and builds one-to-one relationships so people’s voices are heard. This may not immediately lead to large worship services or financial offerings, but it’s the work of relationship building which can lead to faith sharing and discipleship. Ultimately, we are all called to create new places for new people to encounter Christ inside and outside of the church. While the location of your ministry may vary, the foundational skills of relationship and neighborhood building will serve you well wherever you go. Blessings as you plant!