What Is Church Planting?

Church on top of a mountain

What is church planting? It is a means of glorifying God through the expansion of his kingdom. Churches, when operating how God intends, are useful in equipping men and women for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12). Brothers and sisters “…encourage one another in love and good deeds, not abandoning our own meeting together…” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NASB). Churches exist to glorify God by strengthening believers within a community. Therefore, where people exist, there is a need for local churches.

In This Article:

The Origin of Church Planting

Church planting is the process of starting new, local bodies of believers, otherwise known as churches. Church planting efforts began after Jesus’ ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Jesus commands his disciples to go and make disciples, baptizing and teaching them to follow his commandments (Matthew 28:18-20). He also promises that his disciples “…will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you,” (Acts 1:8, NASB). Jesus’ life, death and resurrection was only the beginning. Now, as men and women from across the globe come to know Christ, they are called to participate in a local church community.

One can see Paul’s church planting activity throughout the book of Acts and in his Epistles. Clint Clifton writes, “His commissioning by the church at Antioch in Acts 13 marks the beginning of an incredible church planting streak by the great apostle. Over the course of 13 years, Paul embarked on three missionary journeys, during which he traveled more than 7,000 miles and planted at least 14 new churches.”1

The New Testament is largely comprised of Paul’s letters strengthening churches in Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, Thessalonica and Rome. When Paul wasn’t starting new churches, he was encouraging and strengthening them.

What Is a Church Plant?

A church plant is the formation of a new, local church. I am well-accustomed to this process, as I moved to Arizona to help plant a church in North Phoenix. Our core team came primarily from Memphis, Tennessee. We moved to Phoenix with few contacts and limited knowledge of the area. However, we were united in purpose. Our desire was, and still is, to see lost people come to know Christ and connect with our church plant, where they will experience true discipleship.

Church plants are even needed in areas with other preexisting churches. For instance, there are around ten churches in Anthem, Arizona, where we planted. Ten churches might seem like a great number, but Anthem proper is over 23,500 people, and that’s not including surrounding areas. The population in Anthem’s zip exceeds 41,500 people. Each of the churches would have to reach and minister to 4,150 people to meet the population demands. Therefore, more churches are beneficial.

What Is a Church Planter?

A church planter is the individual, family or team leading the church planting process. As with other ministry vocations, whether pastoral or missions-related, a church planter must have a sense of God’s calling. Guiding principles for helping the church planter recognize his or her call include a recognition of the need for a church plant, an understanding of Christ’s command to make disciples, a passion to engage in the work of ministry and church support.2

The church planter is aware of the needs involving an area. For instance, our team prayerfully considered where to plant the church. We spent time praying for God’s guidance and researching areas of spiritual need. Our team understood the Gospel need in North Phoenix. Following this recognition, church planters must be motivated by the call to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). A church plant that fails to reach its surrounding community for Christ, making disciples, will not thrive and honor God in a meaningful way.

It is important for the church planter to have a passion for the people and location to which he or she will serve. When I first visited Phoenix in the middle of July, I immediately thought, “No way!” I am no fan of the heat, and I initially believed God could not be calling me here. However, as I began to earnestly pray for God’s direction, he gave me a love for the people and the place.

As the church planter embarks on the journey, it is crucial to have church support. For one, church support confirms God’s call. If he is calling you to plant a church, your home church will be supportive and encouraging. If not, then reassessment and prayer are necessary. Also, having as many churches as possible supporting your church plant through prayer, mission teams and funding will be a blessing and help in the long run.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Planting New Churches

Church planting is a key responsibility of the larger church. J. Seungsoo states, “Church planting tends to fulfill the urge for the church to actively be involved in the mission of the church while it builds a community of faith through planting.”3 The activity within church plants is often characterized by zeal and life because the church planting team is called to a new work.

Sometimes older, established churches face the temptation of entering maintenance mode after their congregations have increased over the years. The outward focus begins to shift to an inward focus. On the other hand, a church plant that is only inwardly focused will not last. It is outwardly focused by design, reaching the surrounding communities for Christ.

There are few negatives to church planting, but the most glaring is the temptation for churches to split over petty issues. You would be surprised by the nonsensical reasons that churches split and form new churches. The purpose behind church planting is not to make a name for the local church. The purpose is to engage in God’s kingdom work. Therefore, all Christian churches should work together for the same purpose.

How To Get Involved in New Church Planting

If you are interested in becoming a church planter, a good starting place for information is to talk with the pastor of your church. Many churches and or denominations have set processes for sending out and supporting church planters. Also, I would encourage you to research different church planting organizations and ensure that you align with their doctrinal and ethical stances, in addition to their vision and mission.

If you feel called to pursue church-based work, such as church planting, consider enrolling in a College of Theology degree program at Grand Canyon University. Programs such as the BA in Christian Ministry can help you deepen your understanding of Christ in preparation to teach and serve others in the church. Fill out the form on this page to learn more. 

1 Clint, C. (n.d.). Where is church planting in the Bible? North American Mission Board. Retrieved Nov. 2023. 

2 Sills, D.M. (2008). The missionary call: Find Your place in God’s plan for the World. Chicago: Moody Publishers.

3 Seungsoo, J. (2019). Finding the Church Planting Model for Our Church: How Existing Churches Can Be Part of the Church Planting Movement. Great Commission Research Journal, 10 (2), pgs. 72-97.

Approved by faculty for the College of Theology on Nov. 20, 2023.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.