People who have given their lives to vocational ministry are often motivated by the words of Jesus, “go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.” A desire to see people far from God come into life changing faith in Jesus Christ is a great motivator. In Jeremiah 29:11 God says “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” With a strong sense of purpose and the Call of God on your life, Christian leaders are ready to change the world.

Being a church planter and reaching people by starting new churches is more and more the option that Pastor’s are choosing to fulfill their Calling. Many gifted and passionate leaders take this courageous path to plant new churches. Church planting is on the increase in the U.S. in spite of the fact that around 75% of new church plants won’t make it past the 5-year mark. Why is it that so many church plants don’t make it for the long haul? There are many reasons, but the one I would like discuss today is what I call Church “Splanting.” Church splanting is when a pastor plants a new church by splitting the mother church.

While many church plants are born out of a passionate call of God on a person’s life, on occasion a church plant has less noble beginnings. In spite of Jesus’ Call for unity among His followers, at times the Church struggles to achieve it.

There are times working at a church when leaders feel those over them lack vision and a willingness to change to maintain effective ministry, and in some cases they may be right. Younger leaders may desire to grow & be developed and yet feel more senior leaders make no investment in them. Pastor’s may find themselves at odds with their Lead Pastor or Elder Board and think they know best. A Pastor may be passed over when it comes time to fill a position, maybe even a Lead Pastor role in the Church where they are serving.

Then anger & bitterness grow in the Pastor’s heart at the circumstances in their church, and all of the sudden they develop a call to become a Church Planter. Often motivated by frustration or hurt they declare “God is calling them to start a new church,” not in another town or state, but just down the street.

1 Samuel 24:3-7 tells the story of David after he had been anointed King of Israel by Samuel. Saul had turned on David and was trying to kill him.

David and his men were hiding in a cave, when Saul came in to relieve himself. Look what happens next. The men said, ‘This is the day the Lord spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’ Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe.  He said to his men, ‘The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.’ With these words David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way.”

If church leaders could learn from the example David gives us in this story and listen for God’s Spirit speaking. David was human, he did cut off the corner of the Kings robe, but, ultimately he listened to God and realized what he was being tempted to do was wrong, to take matters into his own hands and raise his hand against God’s anointed, rather then trust that God has a plan and purpose for his life.

In my ministry career, and specifically in my years working with Church Planters, I am saddened by the number of church “splants” that I have seen. As you might guess, hurt, anger and impatience are not the best foundation on which to build a new church. The reluctant mother church is often torn in two as the new church is born. What once was a strong growing community, is now weakened and bleeding people and other resources. Instead of one strong church you have two weak churches lead by wounded and broken leaders. What’s lost? More than we know, but at minimum a Church healthy, growing community that is multiplying.

How can we avoid Church “Splanting?” Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Lead Pastors – develop a vision for multiplicationWe often think that we are not big enough, strong enough or healthy enough to plant a church. A recent study by Barna Group, that was done in 2015, shows that Church Plants that plant another church in the first 2 years of their launch grow in attendance and financial strength more quickly then Church Plants who do not plant in the first 2 years. It takes vision and faith to be a Church Planting Church, ask God to give these gifts to you.
  1. Steward the young leaders God has entrusted to you – Young leaders are a resource to be developed, empowered and yes sometimes sent to fulfill God’s Call on their life. Pray with and for them to see God’s purpose in their ministry and help them get there, even if it means they need to leave us.
  1. Wait on the Lord – As a Christian leader remember that God is at work in your life and ministry, and like King David you don’t need to force His hand. Be patient and trust that in His time God will place you in a position He has called you to.
  1. Having a Church “Splant” on your resume is never good – Weather you are the sending or going, a leader that’s been involved in a Church “Splant” is something you never want. It is better to be wronged and walk away, trusting in God, than to be responsible for harming God’s Church in this way.

To sum things up, Pastors, need to hold the ministry with a little looser grip and realize that the church does not belong to the clergy. The Church is the Bride of Christ and we are called to be it’s steward, impacting the community around us with the Good News of the Gospel.