Why Church Planting Matters
By Matthew Roberts, 17 Dec 2015
This week we are saying goodbye to Simon and Becky Arscott, and their delightful children. They will be a very great loss to us here in York, as I’m sure all who know them will agree.
For those who don’t know the history, when I was first asked by the IPC to consider starting a new church in York, one of the first things I did was to look for an Assistant Minister to come and work with me. I had met Simon and Becky once a couple of years earlier, and Simon was an obvious choice. Before we had had our first service in October 2009 Simon agreed that they would come to York to join us in January 2010. This was no small thing given that they were expecting their second child within three weeks of arriving. I have often told people that the way we ensured the new church grew was to pay people to come and join us!
Simon and Becky are now going to Ilford in Essex to do the same as we – and they – came to York to do, to begin a new church. So why begin a new church? Why take the huge personal risk they are taking in moving to a new place where there is nothing but a house to live in and a salary available for a short time?
The answer is that it’s because starting new churches – church planting, as it’s often known – is something that the church must always be doing. Because the spread of the gospel means new churches.
Jesus ended his ministry on earth by commissioning his apostles to ‘go and make disciples’ (Matthew 28:19). And disciples of Jesus never exist on their own; because to be a disciple of Jesus is to be part of his body (1 Corinthians 12:13). And Jesus’ body is not a vague idea; it is as real as your body and mine, sitting at the right hand of God in heaven. So how can we be part of it? Because the Christian church here on earth is also his body. The Holy Spirit, in a way we can’t understand, joins the believers on earth to Jesus in heaven so that the church is the body of Christ.
Which means that no-one can become a Christian without joining the Church. The two are the same thing. And as the one Church of Jesus Christ is found (imperfectly) in all the individual churches which we find all across the world, if people are to become Christians then they must join real churches. And there must be real churches to join if people are to become Christians. And so if the good news of Jesus is to spread, the Church – the universal Church (capital C!) – needs to be constantly starting new churches. Churches where the word of God will be proclaimed and where believers can find fellowship with God and with one another.
So that is why Simon and Becky are moving away. Their departure will make a big dent in our life and ministry in Trinity Church York. But I am praising God for it, because of the faithfulness to and trust in God they are showing, and because of the way I’m sure God will work through them in Ilford. Please join me in doing so, and in praying for them and the growth of the Church as people hear the gospel and repent and believe in Christ.