There are a lot of things that we are called to as Christians. Many of them we love to do: gather for worship and fellowship, spend time studying the Word and praying, raise our children to know and love God. But one that can be difficult for many believers is what Jesus called us to with some of his final words before his ascension: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” This one can be scary… Where might he call us to go? What if the “nations” don’t accept us, or they’re difficult to love? It seems easier to just keep making disciples of our own children, rather than reach out to the nations God has brought to our doorsteps. But we are called to make disciples of all nations. This isn’t just a suggestion to do it if we have time. It is a mandate given by Jesus at the end of his ministry. It is integral to the mission of every Christian.
I have a personal connection to that mission because I did not grow up in a family where I was discipled. For much of my life, I did not know where I could find hope—hope that there was something that would make sense of the world and of me. It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that I came to understand the gospel, and I found the hope I had always been seeking. Finally, my life and the world around me started to make sense, and soon I felt a strong desire to share what I had come to understand—to pour out the love that Jesus had given me to the people around me. The first time I saw someone whom I had discipled give their life to Christ, it turned my world upside-down. I was kneeling on the floor at Tuscarora Retreat Center with this young man as the scales of sin fell from his eyes. He confessed his need for a Savior and accepted Christ as his Lord. It was one of the most amazing sights I had ever seen. From that moment on, I wanted to dedicate my life to helping people come to know Jesus. Although I didn’t know it at the time, God was preparing me for church planting.
I remember the day that I first asked myself if God was leading me in that direction. I was at a monthly pastors’ gathering in Briarcliff Manor, New York, where we met to share about life and ministry and learn together how to best shepherd our churches. That month we were talking about the need for planting churches. As I heard the statistics about movement in the US and the need that we had, specifically in the CLB in North America, I asked myself, could this be me? Should this be me? Sitting in a chair at the back of that sanctuary, God planted in my heart the seeds of my journey into church planting. It’s taken over a decade for that to come to fruition, but God has been preparing me all along.
Sometimes people question the need for church planting. Why plant new churches? Aren’t there enough existing churches around that new people could go to? Why should we start a new church? These are important questions that should be asked, especially when committing to something as intense and costly as church planting. Researchers have pored over these questions, and the statistics they’ve gathered show that younger people are more apt to go to a newer church than an established church, as are new residents to a neighborhood, and new immigrants.
Studies have also shown that new churches primarily grow from people who were not previously attending a church (60-80% of new members), while churches over 10 years old tend to grow through a church attender transferring their membership (80-90% of new members). This means that church plants can bring six to eight times more people into the body of Christ than an established church of similar size!
As I move into the process of church planting in New England, I’m aware of the awesome responsibility it is to step into this role. But I trust that, as God has led me to each place I’ve ministered, he also goes before me here. I’m excited to get to know a new area on the East Coast and to see who God has prepared to join me in this work. As we look around North America and see the nations that God has brought here, I pray God would renew the fire and passion for us to reach out to our neighbors, to plant churches, and to make disciples of all nations, right where the nations are—in our own backyards.
Rev. Kristian Anderson and his wife Mary have been called to plant a CLB congregation in Boston Massachusetts.