Why Plant Another Redeemer Fellowship?
I was born and raised in Georgia, in the deep south. One of the unique things about the state of Georgia is it's number of counties - 154 counties in all. This number is second only to the number of counties in Texas, a state more than double its size.
New Jersey also has something unique about it - we have 565 municipalities. This is a very large number considering our state's small size of less than 9,000 square miles. In comparison, California has only 482 municipalities, with a state size of over 163,000 square miles.
So what significance does this have for church planting? You
1) Planting numerous [sometimes smaller] churches
With so many townships so close together and so heavily populated, we should shift our minds from seeking to build large churches that reach muiltiple townships to many smaller churches reaching each municipality. Often times each township or borough has an unique story, history and culture that often times isn't understood unless you live there. This gives us the opportunity to actually reach each township with the Gospel, continuing to fulfill the commandment of Christ to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). This also aides in people who live within a specific township to understand that they are missionaries to their town, or their locale.
This also means that if a church is 80, 100, or 500, that we rejoice in each. Growing attendance isn't so much of a goal as is growing a church to then plant another church.
2) Planting churches close together, sometimes in the same zip code
This vision also leaves plenty of room for many townships to need multiple church plants within the same zip code, especially the larger townships like Toms River (nearly 100,000) and Brick (nearly 80,000). No one or two or even ten churches can reach so many people within the same area.
3) The sharing of resources amongst a network of churches
But in such an approach, we need to consider how to best use the Lord's resources, people and money. Let's face it - as we all know, New Jesey is expensive. In fact, last year Jersey was rated the tenth most expensive state to live in. We know that church planting costs money. Therefore, we need to think very carefully how we are to spend our money.
Also, we are the fifth least evangelical state in America, tied with New Hampshire and Conneticut. Therefore, you generally have smaller churches in New Jersey than most states - fewer people.
With these two things in mind - a very expensive state to live in with very few evangelicals - we know that we need to seriously consider our use of resources. How can we best use them to spread the Gospel in New Jersey, and in our context, the Jersey Shore? And how did this lead to our vision of planting more "Redeemer Fellowships" and not multiple autonomous churches?
A REGIONAL NETWORK OF CHURCHES THAT SHARE MISSION, MISSIONARIES AND RESOURCES
After much prayer and seeking counsel from our churches in the Northeast region and beyond, we have a vision of creating a regional network of churches that will share mission, missionaries and resources. We will initially identify our church plants beneath the same name (Redeemer Fellowship) with a shared mission, sharing missionaries to serve each other from each church, and resourcing one another financially and with ministry needs.
So why does planting in Brick make sense?
This new church plant in Brick will probably be meeting around ten or so miles from Redeemer Fellowship in Toms River. This is very ideal for the sharing of people and resources. If you consider the alternative of parachute church planting (meaning, a handful of people dropping in alone with little to no help or support of a church in the city) - we couldn't send 20 or 30 people out from our church in Toms River to plant in Belmar, simply because no on in our church currently lives in Belmar! It would take a vast amount of resources, work and difficulty in doing so due to the distance.
But planting closely with the goal of a "slow crawl" towards these townships as we aim to plant more and more north - eventually to get to cities like Belmar by slowly planting churches in townships close to it. We feel that this will lead to more effective church planting in an area that is largely unchurched.
This also leaves Redeemer Fellowship in Toms River open for planting churches farther south in the future, as most of our growth is happening from people who live south in cities such as Manchester, Whiting and Beachwod.
Therefore, creating a regional network of churches beneath the same mission, sharing missionaries and resources, will equip us to more quickly plant churches around us rather than planting autonomous churches that are not as closely linked to one another.
But to make this dream become a reality, we need something very important:
Humility to set aside ministry preferences and plant churches together
"God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6). We recognize that any two pastors will have preferences towards certain ways of ministry philosophy, or teaching styles, or names for their church. In the end, most of these things are just that - preferences that don't have deep impact for the Kingdom, things that can all be biblical and successful and meaningful in dozens of different ways.
The value of setting these things on the side and joining together beneath the same name and mission will take humility on our part. We want to be humble as we do this, having the spread of the Kingdom to be more important than our preferences that could cause a church to be more autonomous from the next, even if they are likeminded in most every way.
So stay tuned, as we will be posting more in the oncoming weeks about this church plant.