The Church Planting initiative that the North American Division has launched in this quinquennial (2015 -2020) has motivated many churches, members, and leaders to re-examine their true mission in the world. We are commissioned to “ ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen”—Matthew 28:19-20, NKJV. This command, if taken seriously, will empower the people of God not only to go and preach the gospel to the nations of the world, but to go and plant churches.
Church planting is one of the best ways to begin new congregations. Paul set a good example by going from place to place preaching and launching new churches. “From country to country and from city to city Paul went, preaching of Christ and establishing churches. Wherever he could find a hearing, he labored to counteract error and to turn the feet of men and women into the path of right. Those who by his labors in any place were led to accept Christ, he organized into a church. No matter how few in number they might be, this was done. And Paul did not forget the churches thus established. However small a church might be, it was the object of his care and interest”—The Story of Redemption, p. 310.
Paul did more than organize new churches; he went back and visited them to determine their well-being and encourage them in the Lord. Over the past three years, church planting has been given greater emphasis in the North American Division, and we join in this effort. It is important for us not only to plant churches but also to ensure that they are being nurtured.
The Atlantic Union church-planting effort is currently being led by the Greater New York Conference followed by the Northeastern and Southern New England Conferences. It is projected that by the year 2020 there will be more than 150 new churches planted in the Atlantic Union. This will give us even more reasons to celebrate how God has moved through the combined effort of our pastors and laypeople.
Ellen G. White stated “Upon all who believe, God has placed the burden of raising up churches”—Medical Ministry, p. 315. This effort must be given priority if we are going to accomplish the mission that God has entrusted to His church. White also said, “I saw jets of light shining from cities and villages, and from the high places and the low places of the earth. God’s word was obeyed, and as a result there were memorials for Him in every city and village. His truth was proclaimed throughout the world”— Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 28.
The North American Division is joining with the rest of the world church in planting churches and companies. This method of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ is fundamental to church growth. If we are going to impact the world and finish the work of God on this earth, we need to go back to the methods of the early church and establish churches everywhere.
The Lord is coming soon and we need to be diligent and intentional in how we fulfill His mission. We are to follow the Master’s plan in multiplying churches and in helping to populate the kingdom of heaven. Church planting is at the heart of the mission in these last days. Let us put every effort into this work, and we will see the results.
G. Earl Knight is president of the Atlantic Union Conference and chairman of the Atlantic Union College Board of Trustees.