HOW CAN YOUR CHURCH START A NEW CHURCH?
By: Kent B. Sullivan
I thought it would be interesting to find out why successful churches begin new churches and if there are any trends which could apply to other churches which might be led into this ministry. I surveyed five churches that have successfully implemented the satellite church ministry. They are: Full Gospel Tabernacle, in Orchard Park, New York, pastored by Tommy Reid; Evangel Cathedral, Spartanburg, South Carolina, pastored by Houston Miles; Liberty Church, Pensacola, Florida, pastored by Ken Sumrall; New Covenant Fellowship, Winter Springs, Florida, pastored by Phil Waisanen; and Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, Charlotte, North Carolina, pastored by Herb Mirly.
Satellite churches express a biblical way to answer the call and commission of Jesus to our generation, “to go out and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19).
Why do churches begin satellite churches?
Tommy Reid: “We live in a city with a greater metropolitan area of about 1.5 million. Some of our people were driving 30 to 50 miles to the church. If we were going to reach these groups of people, we would have to open centers of evangelism in other areas.”
Houston Miles: “Hundreds of Charismatics in different localities have been ostracized from their denominational churches or were not being fed by their own churches. Many were meeting in homes, listening to tapes and reading books, but were lacking a shepherd. When many of these people began to look to our church for direction and appealing to us to help start a Charismatic church in their city, we believed we must respond.”
Phil Waisanen: “The vision to satellite churches throughout Seminole County, Florida, came as our church board saw that there were only two Assemblies of God churches in a county of approximately 180,000 people. I was serving as senior pastor in Sanford, Florida, and was led to resign the mother church to pastor the new satellite in Winter Springs.
“With the permission of the parent body, approximately 25 families joined my family in the venture. Now both bodies are planning to continue satelliting new fellowships. Average attendance for First Assembly in Sanford was around 400 at the time when New Covenant was conceived. Twenty-five families left a big hole, but God has filled it. The mother is prospering and so is the baby.
“We believe that the Lord wanted to raise up ministers within the local body. Satellite churches could provide a place of ministry for these individuals.”
Herb Mirly: “We have built satellite churches because told us to do so. Without any predetermination on our part, we sensed that we had received a word from the Lord to begin satellite ministries in five locations surrounding Charlotte, North Carolina.
“After we were convinced that this was both the Lord’s word and His timing, we began our first satellite in September 1980. This satellite fellowship is now ministering to 300 to 400 people in its community.”
Ken Sumrall: “We began satellite ministries in our city to provide places for Sunday worship in the general area where our people live. We believe it is easier to reach the lost and unchurched if there is a convenient place to bring them to hear the Word of God.
“We had outgrown our facilities at the Westside location and were having two Sunday morning services. I then felt impressed by the Lord to begin another meeting place in the northeast section of Pensacola, where approximately 150 of our people lived. The presbytery of Liberty Church agreed. So, we purchased church facilities in the area from a Baptist church which had disbanded.”
What is the continuing relationship of the satellite church to the parent church, and, in many cases, its affiliated denomination?
Tommy Reid: “We have evolved from thinking in terms of totally independent satellite churches, to feeling that the apostolic, biblical model is one church in a community, operating in various geographic centers in the city. Recently, we celebrated a joint Sunday morning service in the downtown Buffalo Convention Center attended by approximately 4,200 people.
“For the first time, all of the people in our two morning services at the mother church, and the approximately 800 in our satellite churches, were able to see themselves as a united body. It was an exciting event.
“The four satellite churches of the Full Gospel Tabernacle reflect this evolving theology in their relationships to the mother church.
“New Life Assembly, the inner city church, became self-supporting and was then turned over to the Assemblies of God. Within one year, it became a fully affiliated Assemblies of God church.
“Bethel Lackawanna Fellowship has become individually incorporated with the mother denomination.
“Bread of Life Center, which was not meant to be a Sunday church, is incorporated separately from the parent church. It is fully sustained and supported on its own and is an interdenominational ministry. Almost all of Bread of Life Center’s dedicated people are members of the parent church.
“New Covenant B’rith Hadoshah, a Jewish ministry, is not incorporated separately, but is an integral part of the corporate and spiritual structure of the tabernacle. Pastor Paul Schenck also serves on the pastoral staff of the mother church. We consider ourselves one church operating in two locations.”
Phil Waisanen: “Shared leadership and fellowship mark the relationship between the First Assembly of God of Sanford, Florida, and its first satellite church. New Covenant Fellowship, the satellite church, became a self-supporting, sovereign church affiliated with the Assemblies of God.
“No financial obligations were underwritten by the parent church. There was an understanding among both church boards that, if either church was experiencing financial difficulties, the other would assist. It was also understood that when the transition came the satellite church would assume one-third of the parent church’s mission-budget.
“My former associate pastor has continued serving the parent church and has become its pastor while I have become the pastor of the satellite. Lines of communication continue to be open between the fellowships. Group outings have been planned together and God is marvelously blessing both churches in every dimension.”
Houston Miles: “The relationship of each satellite church with the parent church varies with the individual situation.
“Two churches, which are close by, are pastored by two of our elders from the parent church who have remained on our staff. They are extensions of Evangel Cathedral. Normally, the churches begin and remain under our sponsorship until they become self-supporting. At that time we release them, but continue fellowship and oversight, as requested, primarily giving counsel.”
Ken Sumrall: “It is my conviction that the Scriptures teach the principle of only one church in each community or area with one recognized, united administration. Examples of this concept are portrayed in the letters of Paul in his writings to the church at Corinth and the church as Thessalonica.
“The letters never were written to the churches in a city. Paul did write a letter to the churches in Galatia, but Galatia was a province. Similarly, 30 years after Paul’s letters, John the Apostle sent messages to the church in Ephesus and the church in Smyrna.
“Frankly, I don’t know how to change the present establishment of many churches and many administrations in the same city. The competitive climate among churches is not conducive to the scriptural principle of unity. Since I cannot change the existing system, I must not add to the confusion by establishing more independent churches: hence, we have several meeting places for the same church.
“At least one of the parent church pastors and a number of local elders are assigned to each location for ministry. We continue to cooperate with the Pensacola Ministerial Association and try to guard ourselves from competitive, dogmatic, sectarian attitudes. At least one Sunday evening per month, both congregations of Liberty Church meet together for worship and preaching.
“All of Liberty’s leaders meet together on the first Sunday morning of each month for breakfast, fellowship, reports and instruction. The parent congregation and the satellite are represented by elders who serve on the governing board, Liberty Church Presbytery. Both churches feel secure in this arrangement.
“There is no competition between the congregations since all are a part of one church. Our people can change from one to the other without changing their membership or general oversight. It is then simply more convenient to attend worship within their own locality. Each congregation has developed its own personality and a family spirit while, at the same time, being a part of the whole Liberty Church fellowship in Pensacola.”
Herb Mirly: “We see our satellite churches as extensions of our ministries that operate under the headship, direction and support of our own body.
“We have aided in the purchase of a facility for the first satellite and approved the necessary expenditure for the opening of their school. We believe that the Lord wants at least one Christian church in every metropolitan area that ministers totally under the Lordship of Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
“Wherever such churches now exist, people are literally flocking to them. From the beginning, the Lord instructed us that the administration of the new satellite church would be the pastors, elders and administrative counsel of the parent church until local leadership began to emerge. The people who join this new satellite church are actually committing to Resurrection Church, the parent.
“Our own denomination has been most positive to the development of satellite churches because, as they state, “this is how it should be.” We have not fully determined what the future of each of these satellite churches will be, but both satellite bodies seem to feel that they will always have a mother-daughter relationship to us. We encourage these new satellites to get involved in community ministries, identify with them, and use our body as a resource to carry out that ministry.”
What are the advantages to the mother church’s congregation which can result from establishing satellite churches?
Phil Waisanen: “Satellite churches provide a place for ministry for those who are discipled and maturing within the parent church. This new vision has stretched us all and helped us to realize that God was expanding our boundaries. Many have discovered new areas of ministry. Increased commitment, in both the home and satellite church congregations, has been stimulated.
“This growing commitment is fivefold:
* Commitment to the Lord.
* Commitment to the pastor.
* Commitment to the plurality of leadership.
* Commitment to one another in the local body.
* Commitment to a lost world.
“As the satellite church was formed, commitment became an immediate necessity. Twenty-eight monthly teaching positions needed to be filled. Every position was filled within one week.
“Satellite churches can stimulate creative new changes and methods within both the parent church and the satellite. Traditional methods would not work in our new situation.
“Children who are 4 years of age and older worship with their families in the satellite congregation for the first hour. The second hour is spent in graded classroom situations. The teachers teach only once each month and the other three Sundays can attend the entire worship service. Each parent is encouraged to teach their children at home during the week. The materials are provided for each parent.
“This process is helping our parents realize they are the primary teachers of their children. All materials handed out to the parents and teachers are coordinated.”
Houston Miles: “It has given our people a greater vision of getting involved outside the church. Not only are we building new churches in the United States, but we are helping to build new churches in Rangoon, Burma; Bangkok, Thailand; and the Philippines. It has also accelerated the training of workers.
“Some who come into eldership in the parent church remain involved in the leadership there, but others are sent forth to pioneer and pastor new works.”
Tommy Reid: “We feel our congregation has enlarged its vision to include an entire city. We now see ourselves as being able to make an impact on an entire area of 1.5 million people. We could not do this from a single location.”
Herb Mirly: “We haven’t really raised the question of advantages to our own congregation because we believe our purpose is to serve rather than to be served. However, the Lord has shown us that the more we give, the more we receive.
“What we have received, primarily, is tremendously positive response from people who hear about our approach to ministry. We believe that it has elevated our stature in the community as a body of people who are really interested in extending the kingdom of God, rather than building their own empire.”
Here is some seasoned advice if you believe the Lord may be leading your church to consider launching satellite churches.
Ken Sumrall: “Approach the matter prayerfully, slowly and with the full consent of your parent church leadership. Begin by explaining to your flock the principle of one church with more than one location in the city, giving them time to comprehend and digest the concept before proceeding.
“Make sure you have recognized ministers in the satellite flock who are accepted by the congregation, who fully understand the concept, who have been proven to be loyal, and can minister under your oversight.
“If your city is smaller than 50,000, I doubt the wisdom of more than one congregation for the church. There could, of course, be exceptions to this.
“I suggest that any new congregation begin with at least 100 or more people. Usually, it is hard for a group of fewer than 100 to provide activities conducive to growth.”
Herb Mirly: “Do it (start a satellite church) only if God has told you to do it. I believe only the Lord can know if it is the right time, the right place and whether the results of a satellite church will be positive. In considering the beginning of a satellite ministry, we depend upon three considerations:
* “There must be a ‘Macedonian call,’ people from the community who ask for such a ministry among them.
* “There is no mainline denomination, except for classical Pentecostals, that has a Charismatic ministry functioning in that city.
* “There is no church that has a ‘Word and Sacrament’ ministry that is also open to the ministry of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
“There is no question that there are many snares that the enemy can throw in your path when you start a satellite. Some which we have experienced are:
* “Misunderstanding on the part of local churches, especially those of our own denomination, concerning our motives in starting such a church.
* “The suspicion on the part of the people of the community that we have come in to compete with existing churches.
* “Denominational leaders who feel threatened by such a direct expansion approach from our church.
* “The possibility of pure jealousy that develops between the mother church and its daughters.
“I personally believe that the development of satellite churches is the basic future direction the Lord would have His church take in developing new work. It seems to be a natural pattern. It’s much like a couple having children, then seeing them grow up and starting their own homes, and realizing that the goal of having a family is that they can become a family.”
Phil Waisanen: “Be unselfish! Don’t be afraid to let people grow up to their full potential in God. It might mean moving over – it did for me. If you are considering a satellite church, make sure there is an adequate number of people ready to begin the new project.
“Pastors, this must be a vision caught by the plurality of leadership in your local body. One man won’t cut it! Every leader must be excited about planning new churches. Be ready for some fallout. Not every new face will stick in the satellite ministry. One of the challenges the New Covenant satellite church presently faces is helping its people see the need to reach out in love to new friends coming into the fellowship.”
Houston Miles: “Since this is somewhat new to us, we are reluctant to give advice. What has happened, has happened naturally without a lot of planning on our part. We have raised up leadership, diligently, over the years. It is only natural that some of those raised up into leadership would feel called into full-time service. When the opportunity presents itself, then we send out someone to meet the need.”
The Book of Acts records the establishing of satellite churches from the Jerusalem Church (Acts 15) by the early apostles and disciples of the resurrected Christ. As Paul and Silas entered Thessalonica to establish a satellite church, the response of some of the Jews who opposed their ministry was, “these who have turned the world upside down, have come here too.”
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.
If the establishment of satellite churches was an instrument of the Holy Spirit throughout the Book of Acts, it can still be an instrument used mightily by God today. As Thessalonica was a new place for the ministry of Paul and Silas, so within our localities there are new places, new areas of undiscovered need, which must receive the ministry of the fullness of Jesus Christ. Satellite churches can again be God’s vehicle to “turn the world upside down.”
(The above material was taken from the book, Solving the Ministry’s Toughest Problems.)
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