The goal of church planting is to see new people come to faith in Jesus Christ. Thus, a core team built from the harvest of lost men and women is an ideal foundation for the mission the plant is pursuing in the first place.
Benefit #1: New believers have tons of relationships with others who need to know Jesus. Like those healed through Jesus’ ministry, the changed lives of new converts validate the work of the church plant. A savvy church planter can leverage this transformation to empower new followers of Jesus to share the gospel with their friends.
Also, new believers are passionate and hungry. The church’s mission has made a difference in their lives, so they feel compelled to extend the work in a personal way. When existing believers in the plant grow weary, these new converts can remind them of why the church exists in the first place. We’ve all likely seen new believers’ hunger for God’s Word. They seem to have an insatiable appetite to know God from His Word, and this passion can rub off on other believers who’ve known Jesus for some time but have lost zeal for the Word of God. In the same way, passionate missionaries who are sharing the gospel, even though they only recently became Christians, exemplify for all Christians how they should live on mission as well.
Benefit #2: New believers are a blank slate for establishing the work of a healthy church. They do not bring in previous assumptions about what the church is or should do. They often are not prone to consumerism in the same way as those who’ve been members of numerous churches through the years. They just love Jesus and, since this is likely their first church experience, they are thrilled to see Jesus proclaimed and worshiped.
Benefit #3: New believers already live in the planting city. They know people, can help the plant find places to meet, have jobs and make money. You don’t have to think about how to move these people to a new city. They also have an insider’s knowledge of the context and can help validate the work of the church plant.
Are there challenges? Yes! The work is slow, at least in most places, so it can take a long time to build a core team from the harvest exclusively. Many planters will labor months, even years, before seeing someone come to faith in Jesus, so it could be a long, lonely road if this is the sole model of core team development.
Benefit #4: New believers need discipleship. New Christians are, well, new Christians, so they bring with them all the starts and stops of progressive sanctification. What they need most are mature disciple makers who can invest in them and help lead them to follow Jesus. In other words, they need core team members who are not from the harvest, or who have at least walked with Jesus for some time, to help them learn and grow in their faith. This is an amazing opportunity for the mature Christians on your team. A ton of one-on-one discipleship will help shape the kind of culture you want in your new church.
However, new believers also sometimes prove to be false converts who show no evidence of fruitful living. Like the seed that falls on the path or that which is choked by thorns, they might give evidence of new life for a season and then turn aside (Luke 8:4–15). The experience of working through these experiences will, spiritually speaking, mature your whole congregation.
A note of warning: A core team built exclusively from the harvest can exert a great deal of pressure on the planter and family. With no existing mature believers, even a small group of 10 new believers can take far more than they give. The planter needs a few strong partners alongside who can bear the disciple-making pressure.
Published February 16, 2022