After adding extra tables and chairs, and setting up a microphone for the unexpectedly large turnout, everyone settled in to listen, share, and dream about the possibility of East Hills doing a church plant.
Pastor Nick took some time to give an overview of how church planting has been on the hearts of the people of East Hills through many decades, and while it has sometimes been moved to the back burner, the vision to plant keeps popping up.
There are many statistics that support planting churches, but the most compelling is that church plants are the most effective form of evangelism today.
After Nick’s presentation, the floor was opened for questions and comments on the matter. Of the over 50 people in attendance, many had something to say. Here are some highlights from the discussion. (If you would like a full transcript or audio recording of the evening, contact the church office.)
"A church plant is like a child. We instill our values, but our child (plant) will take on its own ministries and strengths as we let it grow."
"Is the decision to plant a new church already made? I think in the back of our minds we’re thinking ‘it’s already done.’" Pastor Nick’s response to this common sentiment was "That as the lead pastor, I have made a decision to take steps in that direction. But it’s not a bus I’m driving, but I’m stopping and asking questions. Having the conversation is what’s essential at this point. I’m not trying to push it forward. I want us to take steps together to see if this is what God wants to do."
"You talked about one of the benefits of planting is that we can partner with the daughter church in events and outreaches. But it is sad that the only partnership we can take part in is with our own brainchild. Shouldn’t we be doing this with other churches in the community now?" Sadly, we can plant a church faster than we could learn to work with other churches. Buy in is extremely slow for partnering churches. The Longview/Kelso Ministerial Association has spent 20 years trying to accomplish just this, and is just beginning to scratch the surface.
"What are we looking for in a church planter staff person?" Evangelistic, entrepreneurial, administrative. This person would go through extensive assessment before ever being hired to determine if they have the right stuff to be a church planter. The planter would become a part of East Hills as a church planter in residence, and then let their vision and their passions mold what our new plant would look like.
"What about the possibility of taking over Splitz bowling and just enlarging East Hills?" There was much discussion on this topic from various people. "You miss people unless you’re in a different geographical location." "Our community is proud of being a small town. This area really likes small churches and the feeling of mini communities. "People really need to know they are cared for, and you don’t get that in a larger church."
"What are other things we can do to reach out instead of planting a new church." "What are those church plants doing that really attract new people, who then become new believers?" Nick’s response: "Yes, that’s the conversation we need to be having. What can we do outreach wise to reach those who would never come otherwise? Church plants create relationships. Relationships create evangelism opportunities."
"What if our good leaders leave with the church plant? What are we left with?" Response from the group: "If all the good people left, the people you didn’t know sitting next to you will surprise you with their gifts. Vacancies create leadership opportunities."
"When our life group split, it hurt. But I’m excited about this church plant and its flavor, and who it’s going to minister to!"
"I feel like God will always provide when we get to that spot."
"This is a faith process. If this goes, God will cover it. God works when we risk. When we obey and step out in faith, God will reward and bless it."