By JR Rushik 

The results are in. We are witnessing the outcome of several decades of the “launch a church” approach to church planting. In the “launch a church” model, a planter gathers a core crew, raises funds, secures a meeting spot, hosts preview Sundays, and marks a start date. The excitement mounts as the big day approaches. If all goes well, a few hundred folks attend, and we rejoice as a new congregation springs up. This prevailing model, in its various forms, has been the go-to for the past 30 or 40 years. It promises to quickly get churches started and fully operational on day one.

Here’s the big question: Does it deliver?

Has the prevailing model, marked by an accelerated path to start and organize a new congregation been effective? The answer is yes … and no.

That’s good news, but not stellar. It’s good for quick results: one day, no church in town; the next, a fresh congregation. That’s amazing when it clicks.

Full disclosure: I participated in several church plants using the prevailing “launch a church” model. Some of them sprang up quickly only to fade away. Others stood strong — one of which is the church I pastored for nearly two decades. The success stories are great, but when one fails, it often results in massive financial loss and, more devastating, the painful suffering of a church planter. The prevailing model of quickly launching churches has served the church, but it is not the way forward.

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“Rooted in the parable of the sower, we scatter many seeds and initiate multiple discipleship and church gatherings.”

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A return to a biblical, discipleship-driven strategy is undoubtedly gaining momentum. As you may know, I lead a church planting organization that is witnessing the rapid expansion of God’s kingdom through a movement of church planting. The work is multiplying exponentially. At first glance, this may seem like a contradiction. After all, I just said the prevailing model of quickly launching services is not working. While at the same time, I am witnessing rapid church planting.

It is not a contradiction; it is a paradigm shift. We have flipped the script and employ a slower method that ultimately results in a faster path to kingdom multiplication.

I outline five shifts that appear slow at first, but result in the rapid expansion of God’s kingdom. The principle “start many things” is foundational in our strategy. Rooted in the parable of the sower, we scatter many seeds and initiate multiple discipleship and church gatherings. This allows us to see where God is actively working and where the soil is most fertile. Instead of quickly launching a full-service church, we mobilize many people to join Jesus in His harvest field.

A Shift From Career to Calling

The big idea here revolves around another massive shift from the prevailing model of church planting — one where the church planter is dependent on the church plant to generate an immediate source of income. Many times the church plant fails, not because of ministry weakness, but because of its lack of funds. In his book “Reaching the Unreached: Becoming Raiders of the Lost Art,” Peyton Jones emphasizes that while deficiencies in ministry strategy and execution can contribute to the failure of church plants, financial shortcomings often play a significant role.

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“The most fruitful multipliers engage in the ministry not to establish a career, but in response to God’s call.”

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I have no problem with a church planter receiving a salary. The problem is the unnecessary pressure for a church planter to establish a self-sustaining organization in a few months or years. When the funding fails, the church fails, and the church planter feels like a failure — when the reality is that good and fruitful ministry almost certainly was present.

The strategy of the Church Development Network is to focus on calling. The most fruitful multipliers engage in the ministry not to establish a career, but in response to God’s call. Of course, everyone needs a source of income, and finding that from an outside source grants the church planter a divine orientation that takes the pressure off and contributes to their ministry success. It allows them to thrive as multipliers. They approach challenges with faith and perseverance, qualities essential for overcoming the inevitable obstacles in church planting and discipleship. This also gives them space to experience how God will provide for the work.

The resources are found in the harvest. As they make disciples and teach on generosity, the Lord will provide all that is needed for the church to do all that God desires (Isaiah 55:10–11). The finances are a fruit of the ministry, not the expectation.

A Shift From Expertise to Obedience

The prevailing model relies on an educational journey as the primary preparation before the work of church planting begins. Our movement of multiplication relies on the church planter’s commitment to Christ as evidence by their rapid obedience to God’s call. They obey and get started right away. This is not a rejection of education or a credentialing journey — no way. It simply puts it in the reverse order. The emphasis is on obedience and action rather than obtaining knowledge and expertise.

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“God equips those He calls.”

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As they obey, the formal education they receive resonates at a deeper level. Instead of first becoming an expert in theology or church planting, our focus is on being obedient to God’s call and responding immediately to His leading. This shift from an emphasis on expertise to obedience is rooted in the belief that God equips those He calls. The focus then is not on individual knowledge or skills, but on the power of the Holy Spirit working through faithful disciples.

A Shift From Teenage to Infant

The prevailing model sets out to launch a teenage church. What do I mean by that? The hope in the “launch a church” model is that quickly after launch Sunday there is a new church with a menu of ministries ready to serve the community. The new church is like a teenager. It has the appearance of maturity, but still has a way to grow. For many church plants, it’s too much, too fast. Imagine if you gave birth to a teenager. In doing so, you skipped all the formative years of child raising. That would be a tough place to start. The prevailing model of church planting aims to do that very thing — launch teenage churches.

A better plan is to start with infant churches. Yes, they are small and fragile and have incredible need for growth, but, by design, there is also a space for them to experience the formative years of spiritual and congregational growth. When they trip and fall, the damage is minimal. The needs they experience early on generally represent small risks. Facility needs are smaller. Financial obligations are less. Starting infant churches becomes a perfect space to observe the faith and faithfulness of the leaders. Multiplication is more likely to happen when the focus is on starting simple gatherings that, over time, can grow to maturity. Start many gatherings and let them grow.

A Shift From Project Management to Personal Formation

This next shift is on the church planter’s ministry focus and time allocation. In the prevailing model an undue amount of attention is given to organizational leadership. Pastor Chris Hemberry notes that pastors must divide their attention between the organization (the structure, programs, etc.) and the organism (discipleship, spiritual formation, etc.) of the church. Everything in the prevailing model pulls the church planter’s attention toward the organization. Movements always focus on the organism. This is crucial, because a multiplication movement is fueled by the personal and spiritual formation of the individual. When Jesus set out in ministry, He focused on a few. Yes, he spoke to crowds, but He intentionally discipled twelve and deeply poured into three. His slow walk with a few resulted in a rapidly expanding ministry that later changed the world.

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“Prioritizing personal growth over organizational growth aligns more closely with Jesus’ ministry model.”

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The profound shifts toward starting simple and emphasizing personal formation over project management reap immense benefits for church growth and health. By focusing on the genesis of small, nimble congregations, we create a nurturing environment where faith can thrive in its most authentic and intimate form. This is not just about numbers; it’s about creating a foundation that is strong because it is deeply rooted in genuine relationships and spiritual development.

Furthermore, prioritizing personal growth over organizational growth aligns more closely with Jesus’ ministry model. This approach produces leaders and disciples who are more spiritually mature, more passionately committed, and better equipped to spread the gospel. The investment in a few, as Jesus demonstrated, yields exponential returns as these individuals go on to lead and disciple others, creating a multiplier effect that can transform communities and the world at large.

A Shift From Centralized to Sentralized.

The true power of a multiplication movement lies in the nurtured, spiritual hearts of its people. Jesus’ method — focusing intensely on a few — demonstrates timeless and biblical wisdom. It’s not just about gathering a crowd; it’s about cultivating disciples who are equipped to create more disciples, following a natural, organic growth that mirrors the early church. A Spirit-fueled movement of church planting must start slowly. Slow is the new fast.

These five shifts emphasize simplicity — laying down a solid foundation for organic, sustained, multiplying growth. By returning to these biblical principles, we are igniting a movement of kingdom multiplication with many new churches meeting in creative spaces and places in our nation and around the world.

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JR Rushik is the superintendent of the Acts 12:24 Churches and the director of the Church Development Network, a church-planting movement that is planting churches in creative spaces and places around the world. He earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from Fuller Theological Seminary, a Master of Divinity degree from Azusa Pacific University, and completed undergraduate work at Roberts Wesleyan College (now University). He and his wife, Kim, have three sons: Ryan, Jeremiah, and Nathan. In his free time, JR will be found on a snowboard, a mountain bike, or out on the boat enjoying an outdoor adventure with his family. JR is the author of several books, including, “Pray:360°” and “The Disciple Makerspace.”

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