Dr. Kris Eckenroth is the author of “Grace Outlet: Creating Churches that Dispense the Unmerited Favor of God,” and associate pastor of Southern University Church. Before his assignment in Collegedale, Tennessee, he oversaw church planting efforts catered toward youth and young adults for the Pennsylvania Conference. There, he gathered insight into the best methods for building a church from the ground up.
“I think it takes a calling. It’s for everybody who’s called by the Lord to do it. It’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever do in ministry,” says Eckenroth. “The Lord places a holy discontent on our hearts that forces us to our knees. One of the signs is that he’ll place that same calling in other people’s hearts.”
“I’ve seen that over and over, when there’s a consistent revelation.” he says.
While church planting indeed has its share of obstacles and difficulties, Eckenroth says it’s extremely rewarding. In his experience, he watched church plants not only flourish within physical buildings, but also extend into communities.
“People were re-energized because new people were coming in,” says Eckenroth. “It’s no longer us and them, it’s just us.
But like natural plants, they don’t bud from a seed overnight. Seeds need the right care in order to produce, the same goes for church plants. The soil for a church plant is its mission.
“A clear mission by any church is vital, and imperative. If you don’t have it, you’ll find your church doing may be a lot of good things, but in a lot of directions, not necessarily accomplishing one solid thing that the Lord has called you as a church to do,” he says.
The next step is to build a team. Church planting is a team sport.
“One of the first things we got right was to get a group of people together and started praying, says Eckenroth. “We asked the Holy Spirit to lead, guide, direct, and He did. In spite of our inexperience and lack of knowledge, the Lord led and provided.”
Eckenroth says an advantages of creating a church plant is the ability to build your own structure that is out of the box in comparison to traditions found in established churches.
“Start with we are a Bible-believing, Seventh-day Adventist Church, that’s our foundation, after that we say, ‘OK. What are we [going to do] here.’”
However, one of the biggest advantages, he says is the ability to make everything “mission-driven” from the beginning. “A lot of times we can be mission - inclusive,” he says by fitting mission into ministries as an after-thought. But when operating a church plant, “everything can to be filtered through the very clear mission that Jesus has given us.”
A misconception is that it is best for church plants to operate on their own without any perceived influence from other churches. However, Eckenroth says, “When you plant a church, it does need the support of an established church or church plant.”
“If you’re a silo, you’re that much weaker, but when we work together, we’re praying together, serving together and are that much stronger.”
Mylon Medley is a news writer and producer for the North American Division Communication Department