What is Church Planting?

By Clint Clifton

Church planting is not a job or career choice. We pursue church planting because God has broken our heart for a people and called us to plant among them.

It’s hard to imagine a Christian today not knowing what church planting is all about, but the truth is, the most-googled church planting question is “What is church planting?”

Church planting is about starting new churches. And starting new churches is important for two reasons: first, because there is a great need for it and, second, the Bible commands it. But most churches that are started are not planted; planting requires a certain intentionality.

In Discovering Church Planting, J.D. Payne’s simple definition of church planting is “evangelism that results in new churches.” People who are saved are raised up to be leaders of the church. Then the church must be equipped to fulfill the Great Commission. That is evangelism that results in new churches.

Let’s look at two crucial elements of church planting.

1. Find the need

Look for places where there might not be a church or gathering community. This might be caused by an under-represented gospel presence because of decline. Sometimes the need is because of growth. If a town is growing quickly, there may be people who haven’t been reached yet. Sometimes the need exists because of a niche of people with specific needs. If you are planting in North America, the more you go out of the South, there the more need you almost always will find. Even in South, some places have churches that are not connecting with a significant segment of people. Planting requires a soil of lostness in which a church plant will grow. That is part of the challenge. We have to ask, “Where is that soil of lostness where the gospel can thrive?”

2. Find a location

Start by putting your “yes” on the table and let God be the one to put it on the map. Say to God, “Lord, if you want me to plant a church among an unreached people group, I am willing to go there.” Look also at the more secular areas of North America and be open to them. Ask the question, “If church planting requires a soil of lostness, where would God place me?” Be obedient to His call to that place and that people.

Pursuing and answering God’s call is truly why we plant churches. Church planting is not some man-made job or career choice. It is a call of God. God will break your heart for a people. Look at the stats and consider the needs, but let it get personal.

Adapted from the New Churches Podcast Episode 621: What is Church Planting?

Published July 20, 2022

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Clint Clifton

Clint Clifton is the founding pastor of Pillar, a multiplying church in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., and the senior director of resource and research strategy at the North American Mission Board. He is the author of several books and periodicals on the subject of church planting, including Church Planting Thresholds: A Gospel Centered Church Planting Guide and Church Planting Primer and is the host of the Church Planting podcast.