JESUS CAME TO TRANSFORM LIVES AND COMMUNITIES, TO CHANGE PEOPLE'S LIVES.
A class taught by Paul Orjala and Don Owens at Nazarene Theological Seminary in the 1970s first exposed Bill Wiesman to the idea of church planting. Soon, he became convinced that church planting was the most effective way to reach people for Jesus. Since that time, the development of new congregations has marked Bill’s ministry, whether as a founding pastor, sponsoring pastor, coach, or district administrator. Since 2009, Bill has served the USA/Canada Regional Office as the director of Evangelism and New Church Development. He travels the region offering training and consultation to pastors, students, and district superintendents on church planting and evangelism. In 2015, Grace and Peace Magazine asked Bill to share his thoughts on church planting and the vision that guides his efforts.
G&P: FROM A BIBLICAL STANDPOINT, WHY IS CHURCH PLANTING IMPORTANT?
Wiesman: In the Gospels, Jesus came to transform lives and communities, to change people’s lives. The most effective way to do that is through church planting. When the disciples in the book of Acts were scattered after the persecution that broke out in Jerusalem, they started new churches every place they went. When Paul went on his missionary journeys, he didn’t stay in those places and pastor those churches; he turned them over to indigenous leaders. So church planting is marked throughout Acts, all 28 chapters—and we are writing Acts 29 today.
G&P: HOW HAVE THE ROLES OF THE DENOMINATION AND DISTRICTS CHANGED IN OUR CHURCH-PLANTING EFFORTS?
Wiesman: In the Church of the Nazarene’s early days, it was everyone’s responsibility to start a new church. Congregations would start a new church in the next town. Sunday schools would start new affiliates that might eventually become churches. As churches reached their communities, new works were started to extend their reach. Many times those churches were started by one passionate pastor or family, or even a lay couple, who simply believed a church was needed to spread the truth of biblical holiness. Due to this effort, denominational growth accelerated at a rapid pace in the United States and Canada.
Somewhere in the late 1950s, early 1960s, however, churches became more inwardly focused. It’s hard to know exactly why, but we can see from statistics and graphs that we just stopped planting churches. Some churches saw planting as the district’s responsibility, which depleted our workforce.
For the last fifty years, we have plateaued at about five thousand churches across the region, but here’s the good news: In these recent days we are rediscovering what the biblical model is: Christians beget Christians. Churches beget churches. We’re rediscovering what the early church knew and what the Bible tells us—that it is everybody’s responsibility to be involved in starting new churches. It is part of our DNA. It has been part of our denominational identity, and it should be part of who we are now.
DOUBLING THE NUMBER OF CHURCHES IN THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA WOULD BE MOVING FROM FIVE THOUSAND TO TEN THOUSAND CHURCHES.
G&P: WHAT VISION HAS GUIDED YOUR EFFORTS AS THE DIRECTOR OF EVANGELISM AND NEW CHURCH DEVELOPMENT?
Wiesman: A few years ago, I was at a training event, the first one we had in conjunction with Dynamic Church Planting International. During that event, the Holy Spirit spoke to me in a way I had not experienced before in my life. The Spirit woke me early in the morning about four o’clock; I’m not an early riser, but I was wide awake. It seemed the Lord was whispering in my ear, “I would be pleased if you would quit talking about one percent, two percent growth, and started talking about doubling the number of churches in the United States and Canada.”
I was shocked; I didn’t know what to do with that. My professional training before I was saved was as an engineer. I like charts and graphs; I’m not a mystic. And to hear this clear message from the Lord was not something I knew what to do with. I couldn’t get away from it.
That evening, when we met to put our plan together at the end of the training, I stood before the group and told them what I had heard from the Lord early that morning. I said to them, “Doubling the number of churches in the United States and Canada would be moving from five to ten thousand churches. We’d have to have ten thousand new church-planting missionaries who would go out into the harvest field and reach people and start new churches.” To my amazement, a number of pastors and leaders affirmed this vision as similar to what the Lord had been saying to them. Now, if we are going to do that, we need to recover the passion and fervor of the early Church of the Nazarene.
G&P: EXPLAIN THE IMPACT THAT DYNAMIC CHURCH PLANTING INTERNATIONAL (DCPI) TRAINING MATERIALS HAVE HAD ON THE MULTIPLICATION MOVEMENT YOU SEE DEVELOPING IN THE U.S. AND CANADA.
Wiesman: We first made contact with DCPI in 2011 when they came to the Dallas District campgrounds to hold a training event. We had fifty-four people at that first event, many of whom were trained to re-teach the materials, who went back to twenty different districts and began to hold their own training events. DCPI’s tools have helped us get in tune with what God wants us to accomplish in the United States and Canada.
We’ve trained almost 1,500 people in one or more of these training tracks. We have churches that, for the first time, are looking outward and saying, “Okay, we need a church in this community and that community and this nearby town and this people group over here.” We have literally hundreds of churches in process that we’re aware of, and probably a whole lot more that we aren’t aware of.
G&P: WHAT ROLE DOES PRAYER HAVE IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF NEW CHURCHES?
Wiesman: Prayer is the absolute essential ingredient for church planting. When you plant a church, it is a miracle of God; it is a new birth, and it does not happen without prayer. We must never forget that this is a spiritual battle, and the hard work is done in prayer.
G&P: WHAT IS THE MOST EFFECTIVE PATH TO BEGIN PLANTING, AND HOW CAN A PLANTER OR MOTHER CHURCH PASTOR ENCOURAGE OTHERS TO PARTICIPATE?
Wiesman: While the journey each person takes toward planting is unique, there are constants. Planters are most effective when they’re trained, find a mentor, and are assessed. They might become a planter, a team member, or mother church pastor.
To encourage people to be involved, remind them that our commission to make disciples involves going. Going can be as simple as walking across the street to engage a neighbor in conversation, learning the story of a coworker, or connecting with people who are not Christ followers.
Intentional relationships and a willingness to shift one’s focus from inward to outward are vital for the planter or mother church pastor and those who join God’s mission through planting.
G&P: HOW WOULD YOU RESPOND TO SOMEONE WHO IS CONCERNED THEY DON'T HAVE ENOUGH FINANCIAL RESOURCES TO PLANT A CHURCH?
Wiesman: Developing new churches on a shoestring budget is not only possible but is happening all across the USA/Canada Region. In many cases, a church plant may not begin with a building, land, or a full-time, paid pastor. Additional resources will come from the harvest field; as people choose to follow Jesus, they will begin to contribute to his kingdom work.
A planter must first follow his or her Godgiven vision and trust that people and finances will follow. In order to start on a shoestring budget, a new church must learn to depend on God’s provision rather than on its mother church, district, or the denomination. As the focus shifts away from finances and toward proclaiming the gospel and equipping leaders to do the same, a church-planting multiplication movement can occur—even on a limited budget.
This article is part of a series accompanying videos here.
BILL WIESMAN serves as the director of Evangelism Ministries and New Church Development for the USA/Canada Region.