Seedbeds and Orchards
What do apple trees give us, besides apples? Cider, wood, shade, even pies. But the real fruit of an apple tree is more apple trees. Likewise, what should churches give us, besides worship, witness, mutual aid, Christian education, peacemaking and potlucks? That's right: more churches. This answer is not only theoretical; it’s biblical. While individuals such as Paul or Barnabas feature greatly in The Acts of the Apostles, Acts is the story of how the Holy Spirit multiplies churches through churches, beginning with the first church of Jerusalem, going on to Antioch, Ephesus and beyond.
The story of Acts is not over. New churches are always needed within our rural counties as well as our cities because of immigration, changing worldviews and economic shifts. God has brought the mission field to us—as if we had ever left it. New churches are often most effective at reaching new people and in incorporating and discipling them.
But this runs smack-dab into our tendency to see our churches as something like Grandma's china hutch, in which everything stays in its place. Let conferences or mission boards or lone ranger church planters do the messy, uncertain work of planting new churches, we may think.
But churches are not planted; they are transplanted from seedlings strong enough to survive in new soil. By “seedlings” I mean groups of people sharing a vision for a mission and a new church. These new church transplants, based on a common mission, may come from one church, or from several. That makes every church or cluster of churches a seedbed of more churches.
The Church Planting Strategy Team is working on three related tasks: 1) helping the conference, congregations, church (trans)planters, and new congregations plant new churches; and 2) encouraging a culture of church (trans)planting in Central Plains, so that our conference becomes a nursery of new churches; and 3) developing a model of church planting in a missional frame.
The question then for each congregation is not if we should start new churches, but what is our part in starting new churches? Prayer? Financial aid? People? Even leaders whom we might most want to keep?
Members of the Church Planting Strategy Team are:
Matthew Troyer-Miller, Wood River, NE (chair)
Susan Janzen, Tiffin, IA
Joel Beachy, Kalona, IA
Ramiro Hernandez, Washington, IA
Grant Nebel, Washington, IA
Nathan Luitjens, Wayland, IA
Nick Detweiler Stoddard, Freeman, SD