The Life Cycle of a Church

By Dean Inserra

From launch to legacy, the phases and stages of a church plant are like those we experience as humans. So, where's your place in this mission of making new churches?

The life cycle of a church is similar to that of humans. In the beginning, they’re birthed and begin to mature. Next, they continue growing along the way. Then one day, they don’t exist anymore. We can look at the churches in the New Testament—the specific churches to which letters were written—and notice they aren’t there anymore. However, the new churches that exist today do so because of the faithfulness of those original New Testament churches.

From Launch to Legacy

Often in a church plant, all the focus and attention seems to go into the launch. There’s so much pressure to get rolling, to recruit people to join a launch group, to have funding, and to have the right space. All that goes into launching a church is important, but when we first planted our church and started from scratch with about 20 people, it seemed like all we focused on was the launch.

Once we actually had our first few gatherings, we were suddenly asking, “Now what do we do?” We didn’t have any systems in place that would allow us to be a church that thought not just about the next Sunday but already had the future in mind. We wanted to be a church that multiplied. We wanted to make sure that even if one day, generations down the road, we didn’t physically exist anymore, we would still be a church whose markings and reach still continued.

Knowing What You Signed Up For

In the launch phase, it is important to know what you are asking your people to sign up for. They’re not just signing up for a place to go because they didn’t like their last church or because this church has better music or a better children’s ministry. That’s not what we’re talking about here. They’re signing up to be a part of a church that hopefully is going to reproduce itself. And that’s a really important culture to establish at the beginning.

Culture is a Priority

If your culture is simply focused on the launch, then you miss the reason you’re launching in the first place. Many things happen in the life cycle of a church, but keep your mindset on the fact that no matter what’s going on, you want to be a church that reaches people for the gospel, who reach people for the gospel, who make disciples who make disciples. This reality compels you to invest in church-planting churches rather than to merely grow content with the church you already have.

We all need to continue the work of starting new churches until Jesus returns. This takes place by creating that culture out of the gate. We believe the best way to reach a community is through church planting. We believe that the way we’ll see the most momentum and excitement and forward movement as churches is through getting people excited about church planting and putting our resources into reproducing ourselves to the future.

Published November 8, 2023

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Dean Inserra

Dean Inserra is the founding and lead pastor of City Church, in Tallahassee, Florida, where he leads the vision and preaching. Dean graduated from Liberty University and attended Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He holds a master’s degree in theological studies from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and is pursuing a D.Min from Southern Seminary. Dean is an advisory member of the Leadership Council for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. He also is a member of Baptist 21. Dean is married to Krissie, and they have two sons, Tommy and Ty, and a daughter, Sally Ashlyn. Dean likes baseball, wrestling and the Miami Hurricane.