The Tennessee Valley Presbytery is in the midst of planting 20 churches in 10 years. We rejoice to see how God has provided resources to multiply churches in this region already that are true to the reformed faith and committed to the Great Commission.
We currently have seven active church plants, three in the northern half (Resurrection in Knoxville, Grace Church in Alcoa, and Lakeway PCA in Morristown) and four in the southern half (Restoration Southside in Chattanooga, Mosaic Chattanooga in Highland Park, Grace+Peace in Ooltewah, and Woodlands Gathering in Soddy Daisy). Additionally, the Presbytery just approved four new sites for development over the next 12-18 months in Ringgold, Dunlap, Athens, and Powell.
Since embracing God’s call to plant more churches, representatives from presbytery have had the opportunity to visit churches and meet with individuals interested in learning more about the presbytery’s efforts. In conversations, it is not unusual for people to raise questions about church planting. We welcome these questions as they help us clarify important issues.
Here are some reflections on the four common myths we encounter about church planting:
1. There are too many churches already.
Yes, the Tennessee Valley does not lack churches. In fact, one survey ranked Chattanooga as the most churched city in America. We certainly believe Christ is working to advance his kingdom beyond the confines of the Presbyterian Church in America. We rejoice wherever Christ is preached and gladly co-labor with whoever is preaching his name!
Though there are many churches, we also realize many are not healthy. Some suffer from casual Christianity, others from legalism, and even more are held captive by the prosperity gospel.
We are not interested in merely adding one more church to the pile. Rather, we believe the type of churches we are planting are underrepresented in this region: Christ-loving, Bible-believing, grace-based, and community-minded. Unfortunately, these distinctives are not as prevalent as we’d like to think they are.
We believe this region will only be transformed when people encounter the gospel of Jesus Chris through a church where the Bible is preached, the sacraments are administered, and discipline is exercised.
2. Church plants take people from other churches.
Another myth often voiced is that church plants simply shuffle people from pews at one church to pews at the next. Certainly, many churches start with a core group of people from existing churches. However, church plants are more likely to reach and welcome people to the Christian faith than an existing church.
Statistics show existing churches, not church plants, are more likely to welcome people by transfer from another congregation. As churches are planted in different communities throughout the region, their members tap into relational networks at the local recreation centers, schools, and ball fields to reach new people.
Think about church plants like a hunting license. Should we prohibit any new hunting licenses from being issued because they are just going to take away from other hunters? We all recognize that is foolish. There are plenty of deer and turkey to be hunted. Similarly, there are plenty of unchurched and dechurched people in our region (to be clear, people are not animals and we shouldn’t be hunting them!). We are not close to having reached everyone in our region with the gospel.
3. It takes too much money to start a new church.
Yes, it requires money to plant a church. Typically, a church plant will take at least three years before taking in enough offerings to pay for all its expenses without needing outside support. Church planting is not expensive when compared with other options.
Additional church buildings. The cost of church planting is only a fraction of what it takes to build new facilities at an existing church. It costs approximately $150,000 per year for a church plant whereas the cost of a new church building easily exceeds $1M.
Return on investment. Church planting has a great return on investment. When you think about a church as a startup, church plants are often self-sufficient after 3-5 years and are debt free. Those are benchmarks start-up businesses would have a difficult time achieving.
Church planting requires a particular asset: an ordained gospel minister who has been gifted and trained in reaching new communities. The funds raised for church planting are used to provide them with the necessary runway to see a new community of believers established.
4. Only big churches can plant churches.
The final myth is about who can plant a church. We all have the perception that the fast-growing and crowded churches are the ones who should be giving birth to new churches. Though that is certainly true, smaller churches can be a source for church planting as well.
Rock Creek Fellowship in Rising Fawn, Georgia helped plant a church in Trenton by sending its assistant pastor and a handful of members. Today, Rock Creek Fellowship has watched as God has brought them new people to replace those they lost. Even better, their daughter church, Grace Community, is thriving.
Why plant churches? Because the Bible commands and it is the best way to see God’s kingdom expand in our region. The church is a living being animated by God’s Spirit. Like all living things, it grows and reproduces. Church planting is not without challenges and obstacles. Yet, we move forward in faith believing God will prosper our meager efforts to make the name of Christ exalted throughout the Tennessee Valley! Thanks to those who have partnered with us. Your ongoing support and prayer remains vital.
TVP MNA Committee is funded by individuals and churches who care deeply about reaching the lost and restoring communities through the power of the Gospel. If you would like to financially invest in this work, please follow this “link” to give a gift online!