In many ways, the world feels upside down. Many of our norms, even within the church, have been uprooted. This ministry season of COVID19 is atypical to say the least. But what if all of our overturned and uprooted norms have provided fertile soil for something to be planted? What if God is using the soil of this season to grow something beautiful? Here are three ways I think God could cultivate church planting in a COVID19 world.
Cultivating Through Prayer
During this pandemic, ministry changes have been a necessity. In most cases, churches have responded to these adjustments with flexibility and enthusiasm. As congregations are positively embracing new approaches, let us call our churches to pray that God would cultivate a passion for church planting within our hearts. Pray together that God would one day use your church to plant multiple churches in your city or region. This could be an occasion when God develops a passion for pastoral ministry in the heart of a future planter. Perhaps members who will remain in your existing church will begin to see the need for the equipping and sending out of others. Maybe church members from a specific part of your city will be burdened to see a church planted in their area. Church planting can only happen as we rely on the power of God. Praying is foundational to cultivating our dependence on God in any church planting endeavor.
Cultivating Through Necessity
For some congregations, smaller gatherings similar to a church plant may temporarily be a necessity. As COVID19 guidelines change or are gradually lifted, it is possible that gatherings of 50, 100, or 200 people will be allowed. But for many churches, these numbers will still not allow the entire church body to physically gather. This is a tremendous opportunity to cultivate church planting initiatives with your local congregation. Consider splitting the church into multiple, guideline approved groups, which would be lead by multiple ministry teams. Current ministry leaders and serving teams could train new leaders and new teams to serve these smaller groups. Multiple worship leaders could be given the opportunity to oversee music within each group. Multiple pastors or men in your church could prepare a sermon for each group. Even if these smaller groups are allowed to gather in multiple rooms within one large building, don’t miss this opportunity by having only a few serve the many. Lead your people in the process of ministry multiplication. This will serve your ministry well now, and also lay a foundation for pursuing church planting in the future.
Cultivating Through Simplicity
In the midst of COVID19, local church ministry can feel extremely complicated. And while some current restrictions are not ideal for the church, this is also an opportunity for us to revisit the concept of simplicity. What is the simplest way that we can organize a physical church service? Is our plan simple enough that it can be easily taught to others and replicated? What is essential and non essential to our gatherings? How will we identify and help with needs within our group? How will we encourage one another and hold each other accountable during the week? When will we pray for each other and for the unbelievers in our community? Answering questions like these will not only help us evaluate how to plan for future church plants, but they can also act as a tutor for our existing ministries. Over time, it is easy for our churches to become so complex that multiplication through church planting seems impossible. But when the biblical principles of a local church are brought to the forefront, we are reminded of the beauty and simplicity that is the New Testament church.
While the days ahead may be uncertain to us, God’s power and mission are as sure and certain as ever. May we look at the circumstances we have been given, not as detrimental obstacles, but as divine opportunities. If we do, I believe God can cultivate church planting in our hearts and ministries. And from the soil of COVID19 we will see God doing what he has always done: growing his church.