“Pastor, you’d like us to consider in the near future leaving this church to start another one? But why? You just got here. And aren’t there enough churches on that side of town? We don’t have anything against doing ministry over there. We’d just very much like to see us reach people here.”

And the narrative could go on and on. And does many times. To be fair, I sympathize with many people’s responses. The thought of friends leaving fails to leave me all “jazzed for Jesus.” The possibility of pushback from members doesn’t excite me nor does the seemingly endless sidebar conversations of explaining once again why we’re planting a church. The reality of the church decreasing in number confronts my pride. Again, the narrative could go on and on. And does many times.

So then why should I push to plant new churches? Here’s why I’ve made a commitment to lead our church to grow in an awareness concerning the call to plant churches: Jesus.

I’m not intending to be trite or cliché. I truly mean that being changed by Jesus, he compels me to see my life, marriage, family, and church family as gifts to steward instead of duties and possessions. Thus, I pray that the church I serve as lead pastor, by God’s grace and the work of the Spirit, will be used to make known “the manifold wisdom of God” (Eph. 3:10).

It’s God’s Plan

God’s plan A is the church. There is no plan B. Therefore, I’m compelled to plant churches. Right now, this consists of serving with SEND Phoenix on the assessment team and planter-care team. It also looks like our church, Foothills Baptist Church, being a sponsoring church for two church plants: Mercy Hill Church (Pastor Anthony Cox) and Freedom Life Church (Pastor Shea Ferguson), both of which we give to financially. The growth groups (our name for small groups) in our church help personally by writing notes, sending gifts cards, helping with missional activities, and praying for them by name. We’ve introduced the planters to our church family, include them in prayer time in our staff meetings, and regularly reference them on Sunday mornings.

We do this because we’re attempting to create a culture of “otherness” where it becomes normal to not only pray for and partner with other churches, but to eventually transition to starting other churches.

Leading to Plant

I want to lead our church to go from an “aunt” or “uncle” to a “dad” or “mom.” I want to see our church go from being a sponsoring church to being a sending church. We want to move the ball down the field in our church planting partnerships and commitments.

This will take time. That time will involve prayer, where we ask God to incline our hearts not to 15450 S. 21st Street, where Foothills is located, but to those down the street or in another city. That time will involve preaching, where I remind my heart and the hearts of those sitting in the pews that reaching more people necessarily means planting churches. It will involve confession and repentance, where I acknowledge that I’m not here for my kingdom but for Jesus’ kingdom. It will involve a constant reminder that I’ve been set apart by God (Acts 20:28) to pastor the flock and remind our hearts that we’ve been purchased by the invaluable blood of Jesus (1 Peter 1:19). Our lives are not our own, but his (1 Cor. 6:20).

Nathan Millican

Nathan Millican

Nate Millican is the pastor of Foothills Baptist Church in Phoenix, Arizona. He holds a Doctor of Ministry from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.