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9 Essential Elements of Church Planting

Elmer Towns


There seems to be more focus on church planting in the past ten years than at any time in the recent past of church history. Why? Some say it is because American mainline denominations are honestly facing their declining statistics and realizing revitalization is not tied to existing churches but will come by planting new churches.

Other people say that church planting is gaining interest because it grows out of the recent Church Growth Movement of the 1970s and 1980s. That movement emphasizes building a large church (megachurch) to evangelize and/or influence larger areas, usually metropolitan ones. The many reasons for growth and decline in megachurches are discussed at other places. However, individuals are questioning the viability of large churches and suggesting that new church plants are a better solution to reaching a metropolitan area for Christ than bigger and bigger megachurches.

A third reason for new interest in church planting comes from the nature of some large churches. Some are moving into multisite models, that is, one church in multiple locations. This model communicates the central strength of a mother church into satellite churches. All churches in a multisite church have the same DNA and are held together by a single vision and a common value. These large churches are planting new congregations to ensure continued growth.

Still others see the growth of church planting as a biblical methodology for completing the Great Commission. In the past, some have attempted to carry out the Great Commission by focusing on individuals won to Christ through soul winning, street preaching, mass meetings, and/or media evangelization. But today, many believe the correct biblical methodology is church planting, which may include some of the above methods.

Therefore, many believe the most efficient way to preach the Gospel to every person (Mark 16:15) and to make disciples in every ethnic culture (Matt. 28:18-19) is to plant a reproducing church that will multiply itself into all cultures.

Finally, some believe the key to completing the Great Commission in our generation is when we win the Omegan to Christ. The Omegan will be the last person won to Christ in the last unreached people group or tribe. “And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14 NLT). They believe when the last tribe is evangelized and the last person is won to Jesus Christ, then the Father will say to the Son, “Go get My people.” Then Jesus will come to rapture the church out of the world.

9 Crucial Elements of Church Planting


At no time or place can we separate prayer from any ministry on this earth. Prayer is the master plan for reaching any new people group. Before planting a church, people must be given to prayer, and the neighborhood must be saturated in prayer. Beyond that, all plans must be covered by prayer.

Early in the transfer of vision and values to the new church, prayer becomes the road by which the transfer is made. All momentum for any new church plant will come from prayer.

Abundant Gospel Sowing.

There can be no church planting without evangelism. Without it, all new works will struggle. Mission churches and Sunday school missions have been planted, and God has blessed the teaching of the Word of God, but without evangelism outreach to lost people, there is no new life and enduring ministry. Only as a church sows the Gospel with abundant faith will it reap abundant harvest. God has said, “…You will always harvest what you plant” (Gal. 6:7 NLT).

Intentional Church Planting.

The key to successful church planting is based on a deliberate effort to begin a new church with all its ministries. Churches don’t simply happen, just as farm land doesn’t automatically produce a great harvest. There must be an intention to plant a church with the purpose of evangelizing an area and fulfilling the command of Jesus Christ. Intentionality leads to strategy, and strategy leads to plans, dates, locations, and activities.

Spiritual Authority.

The Bible must be the guiding source for doctrine, strategy, polity, and even church life itself. Because the Bible has life and gives life, any church endeavor that is not based on the Word of God will not have life, nor will it have any long-term results. The Bible gives purpose and direction for the new church.


John Maxwell has often said, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” Therefore, there must be a leader and/or leadership team in every new church plant.

In the 1950s, one of the greatest church planting sources was Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri. The president of the college, Dr. G.B. Vick, often said, “Great men plant great churches, average men grow average churches, and weak men cannot plant churches, but in the end those churches plateau or decline.”

The strength of the new church plants depends on the total life and ministry of its leader. If the leader is committed to evangelism, the church will probably be evangelistic. If the leader is committed to Bible knowledge and teaching, the church will be a strong great Bible center. If the leader is great in exhortation and motivation, the church will be motivated to serve God. If the leader has the heart of worship, the new church will be a worshiping church. The new church will grow according to the leadership seed that is planted.

Lay Leadership.

The growing edge of any new church is first the leader or leadership team, and then lay people will carry out the ministry. Obviously, there must be a great leader to lead great churches. But great leaders can never do it alone; they must delegate and recruit other leaders to serve with them. The reliance upon lay leadership will ensure that the new church will succeed because out of it will come the growth and multiplication of ministry, evangelism, abundant life, and maturity.

New Church Outreach by Planting a New Church.

The secret of a great future for any church is when it plans to start another church like itself. When God created life, He put its “seed within” so that plant life would reproduce itself. He did the same for animal life and human beings. The “seed within” was God’s strategy for the reproduction and multiplication of life.

The first church planters were laymen. “But the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went” (Acts 8:4 NLT). The next wave of church planters were Barnabas and Saul, who were sent out from the Antioch church (see Acts 13:1-3). Today, foreign missionaries and/or church planting pastors are sent out to begin new churches.

The exponential phase of reproduction began when new churches began themselves to plant other new churches. “This went on for the next two years, so that people throughout the province of Asia—both Jews and Greeks—heard the Word of the Lord” (Acts 19:10 NLT).

Rapid Growth.

The wonderful thing about new churches is that they are unencumbered with nonessential elements. It seems that the longer a church exists, the more programs, organizations, and committees it finds and uses. Many of these new “things” are not primarily life-sustaining and reproducing. We must evaluate things that are added to the church that are not vital yet contribute to its ministry. Space is necessary in new facilities, new programs give new life, and new officers and workers add abundance to the ministry. The fact that something could be dropped without endangering the mission of the church indicates that it was never essential to the church’s life in the first place.

Healthy Churches.

Every seed that is planted must grow into a healthy plant before it can produce a harvest. Although leaves, stalks, and branches do not necessarily bear fruit, there would be no harvest without them. While not seed-bearing, all of them—leaves, stalks, and branches—make for a healthy plant. And healthy plants bring forth a great harvest. Therefore, in a local church, make sure you always give priority to the essential aspects, but never ignore the nonessential ones.

The Absolute Essentials

When the early human race was threatened by sexual sins, God found a servant—Noah—to save the world.

When the nations were given over to idolatry, God found a servant—Abraham—to worship the one true God.

When the world faced seven years of severe famine, God found a servant—Joseph—to save Egypt and the world.

God has always had His servants to attain the unattainable, remove barriers, and do the supernatural. Whether the servant was named Samuel, or Deborah, or David, or Nehemiah, or Paul, God has always used a person.

Remember, a new church is always planted by a person, but it is never built on a person.

A new church is always caused, but it is never caused by a person; it is caused by God.

Although God does not use a modern Gideon to slay an army of Midianites, God still uses the same principles of faith and obedience, along with His power, to bring about a victory.

Dr. Vick once told me, “If a young man wants to plant a church that will be influential, he must study great men.” Learning from those who have planted successful churches will give many insights to the church planter who wants to build a powerful new church for the glory of God.

Remember Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me” (AMP).

- Elmer Towns, author of Planting Reproducing Churches

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