There is no lack of debate on the topic of church planting models these days.
The “launching large” church planting model could represent a paradigm shift for you. In fact, when you think about attracting a crowd and turning it into a church, you may have negative thoughts. But everywhere Jesus went, he attracted large crowds of people, and all were potential converts for his redemptive plan for their lives. He did not want his followers to lose sight of their purpose, and in Matthew 28:19-20, he gave them the Great Commission:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
We are called to do the same in this generation, and I have found that launching large is one of the most effective strategies to fulfill this Commission.
Launching large is not a new methodology but rather the rediscovery of a New Testament church for this generation of church planters. Acts 1 and 2 tells us that the first church went from 12 to 120 believers, then to over 3,000 believers, practically overnight. Launching large offers an adaptable framework to guide you through launching and leading the healthy growing church God intended. It is focused on reaching the lost, has simple structures, follows a simple path to maturity and is reproducible no matter what city or culture you are called to reach.
After working with thousands of church planters over the past decade, I have confirmed and discovered several truths about launching large.
1. Launching large breaks growth barriers.
Start small, and chances are your church will remain small. But launch large, and you will break growth barriers more quickly.
One of the most notable attendance barriers is the 200 mark. We have found that if a church doesn’t break 200 within three years, chances are it never will. One of the most effective ways to shatter the barrier is with momentum created by launching large. Momentum is one of a church planter’s best tools for growth.
A train that is stopped on the tracks can be kept immobile by a block of wood strategically placed, but a train moving at 80 mph on the same track can shatter a brick wall. The difference in the two is momentum. Launching large produces tremendous momentum.
2. Launching large brings credibility.
Our culture overwhelmingly prefers the crowded store, the busy restaurant or the packed coffee shop over the empty one. The church is no different. It’s called social proof, and put simply, it’s the positive influence created when someone finds out others are doing something.
One of the greatest challenges you have as a church planter is credibility as a leader. Proverbs 14:28 reads, “The mark of a good leader is loyal followers; leadership is nothing without a following.” When a first- or second-time guest walks into your new church and sees 200 people, he immediately senses that something good is happening, and your credibility as a leader increases in his eyes.
3. Launching large facilitates faster self-sustainability.
By launching with a large crowd, your church has the ability to quickly become financially self-sustaining. Learning to effectively raise funds for your new church, along with creating and sticking to a well-planned budget are foundational for launching large and becoming self-sustaining in two to three years.
When my wife and I started Church @ The Springs in Ocala, Florida, we were not trained in raising financial support. We launched the church with our personal retirement funds, and many weeks had to hold our paycheck in order to pay other bills. Believe me, you do not want to live on life support from financial supporters for years.
4. Launching large creates excitement and enthusiasm.
When I was young, my aunt and uncle lived near the Kennedy Space Center where the Apollo rockets were launched. When a launch was scheduled, they had to remove everything from the walls because their house shook so dramatically. The rocket launch created unrivaled excitement and was seen and felt for miles.
Similarly, a new church launched large should explode onto the scene, create excitement and capture the community’s attention. One of the most common complaints about a church service is that it is boring or irrelevant. The church of the living Christ should be anything but boring and irrelevant. We should be capturing people’s attention with the amazing truth of God’s love for them, realizing that whatever captures a person’s attention eventually captures their heart.
Here are four warnings about launching large.
1. Launching large is relative.
“Large” is a relative term and it depends on your context, your city and the culture you are trying to reach. Community size and demographics will define what large means to you. Obviously, some communities aren’t large enough to launch with 200. If this is the case for you, launch as though it is! Launch as large as you possibly can with the resources you’ve raised, and then lead large!