Church Planting Strategizing
Ministry leaders gather to discuss how to grow the Fellowship.ORLANDO, Florida — In a first-of-its-kind gathering, the Assemblies of God Church Multiplication Network Aug. 4 hosted regional breakout sessions connecting pastors, church planters, and revitalizers. Leaders in eight breakout sessions shared strategies and developed action steps for launching and revitalizing churches.
General Superintendent Doug Clay has a goal of the Fellowship reaching 15,000 congregations. Currently the AG has 12,986 U.S. churches. The effort to expand would involve annually launching 1,000 congregations, which would be offset by the inevitable closure of some existing churches.
The primary method of adding new congregations is through the Church Multiplication Network. A bulwark to keep existing churches open is Acts 2 Journey conferences.
Jeffery Portmann is CMN director. The ministry helps resource, train, and network pastors through means such as Launch Training and Matching Funds distributed through AGTrust.
Retired General Assistant Superintendent L. Alton Garrison is executive director of Acts 2 Journey. The ministry seeks to revitalize congregations that have plateaued or are declining. Under the initiative, sponsored by AGTrust, church leaders gather for four two-day sessions over a year in an effort to learn how to better impact their community.
One of the Aug. 4 breakout sessions featured a panel of five California ministers representing personnel from the southwest U.S. region, which covers five geographic district/networks and three Hispanic districts.
Moderator John C. Martin, lead pastor of the megachurch First Assembly of God in Victorville, California, said if the southwest region undertakes no church planting initiatives, it would result in an estimated net loss of 473 congregations by 2031. Nationally, a projected 2,785 churches would shutter in the same period if nothing is done.
Martin said 13 years ago Victorville First Assembly of God agreed to parent two new launches. Today, the church has 14 campuses as a result. Martin is a part of the CMN lead team.
Loren R. Hicks told how he twice led Acts 2 Journey conferences that dramatically transformed the West Los Angeles church he pastored. When he started at Faith Tabernacle, the church had 90 mostly older white adherents. After Acts 2, the church doubled in size and became multiethnic, with congregants hailing from 30 countries. Hicks now pastors Pacific Christian Center in Santa Maria.
Hicks told pastors that some congregants may leave as a result of the increased discipleship expectations of Acts 2, but that the process fosters a shared vision by staff and key lay leaders.
William H. Rodriguez, pastor of Iglesia Pentecostal Esmirna de las Asambleas De Dios in Los Angeles, told how he planted a church soon after graduating from LABI Bible College in La Puente.
“Church planting is more than planting a church,” said Rodriguez, who also is assistant superintendent of the Southern Pacific District. “It’s expanding the kingdom of God.” Rodriguez said CMN training is foundational for establishing a healthy church that will last.
For more than a year, the church Rodriguez pastors in Highland Park northeast of LA has been meeting in the parking lot because of mandated state COVID-19 restrictions. But Rodriguez said the health crisis actually has sparked church growth, in part from motorists who have driven by and listened to the outside sermons. The church sets out 300 chairs every Sunday morning.
Brenton S. Fessler, pastor of Refuge OC in Orange, California, challenged attendees to take the risk of parenting a church plant, even if the proposed congregation worships in another language.
“Don’t wait until you have more money in the bank, don’t wait until more people come to step outside the box,” said Fessler, who also is a SoCal Network specialized executive presbyter.
Andrew Anane-Asane of Roseville, California, described how he came to the U.S. from his native Ghana to further his education. He ended up staying, and launching Living Springs Church in Madison, Wisconsin, even though others had warned him church plants didn’t survive in the city.
“You must hear the voice of God to plant, although the voice of Satan will try to stop you,” Anane-Asane said. Although he had started churches in Ghana, Anane-Asane said CMN helped him to contextualize how to plant in a “party city” like Wisconsin’s capital. Anane-Asane is a faculty member at SUM Bible College & Theological Seminary in El Dorado Hills, California, as well as president of the Ghanaian AG Fellowship USA.