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11 Reasons to Join a Church Plant during a Pandemic

I was very excited when I wrote 10 Reasons NOT to join a Church Plant back in February. My goal was to counter the idealism associated with start-up culture. However, when shelter-in-place began, it took some time to surrender my expectations for Quicksilver Church. I dreamed about church life as sitting in a circle, sipping coffee, and having spirited dialogue about race, culture, and politics. Six months later, I’ve had some time to grieve, whine, get worked up in anxiety, experience decision fatigue, and cower in fear over the events going on in the bay area, country, and the world. In the initial phases of this season, I couldn’t think of many good reasons to join a church plant. But now I’m ready and though the negative emotions continue to linger, I am excited to share this. This list is not unique to church plants but it is specific to any church body’s willingness to die and live as a new creation.
  1. If you have both a holy discontent and persistent hope in the church as plan A for God's redemption of the world: The healthiest people joining a church plant have experienced the brokenness of church life and yet staunchly believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to empower God’s people through the church. These people have a recognition of how flawed this human institution is and yet continues to believe God works in and through the local body of believers. 
  2. If you see a pandemic as an invitation to reimagine what church looks like: House church leaders have argued for years that the church is not a building, Sunday morning is not the only time to gather, and the priesthood belongs to all believers not just paid staff. The affluent Western church is crashing into this reality and the results are not pretty. Online services leave much to be desired. This is the time to decentralize the church. This is the season to activate and equip the priesthood of all believers like never before. We need creative ways to gather and proclaim the gospel. We need innovation in how we incarnate Jesus. Church plants are often fertile soil for kingdom creativity.
  3. If you believe crises are opportunities for God to do His greatest work: The lightening complex fires in Northern California have been devastating. And yet I marvel at how bay area churches have stood in the gap, providing emergency supplies, sheltering evacuees, raising funds, and supporting firefighters. This response does not surprise me because that’s what God’s people do in times of crisis. The first-century church exploded because of persecution. Today, government persecution drives the growth of the underground church in China. Biblically and historically, prosperity withers the church whereas adversity grows it. 
  4. If you recognize a new church’s capacity to address issues of mental and emotional health: While ministering to men recovering from substance abuse in my previous Chinese church, I attended some Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. I was floored by the vulnerability of the sharing. It was raw, honest, and with little regard to people’s opinions of each other. There are few things more powerful for your mental health than to know you are not alone. As I sat in those meetings, I resolved as a pastor to foster the kind of atmosphere that would encourage this kind of sharing and to model it with others. That resolution continues through this day and vulnerability and courage is one of our church plant values.
  5. If you’re willing to follow the Spirit and work as a team to address church problems: If I had a dollar for every church complaint I’ve heard, I would be a wealthy man. Anyone in Christian leadership is well-acquainted with the problems churches have. As church leaders, we have oppressed and hurt people through abuse of power. We have fallen short of people’s expectations. We have made mistakes and been guilty of pride, complacency, and fear. We need fellow team members who have realistic expectations of us and give us grace. In a priesthood of all believers, we are each called to exhibit long-suffering towards one another. We can work together as a team, following the Spirit, to address church problems. We do so with hope and sober expectations.
  6. If you have a desire to bring the gospel to new groups of people: If Helen of Troy had the face that launched 1000 ships, Tim Keller’s Why Plant Churches is the article that launched 1000 churches. Published in 2002, Keller writes: "In summary, vigorous church planting is one of the best ways to renew the body of Christ in a city, as well as the best single way to grow the whole body of Christ in a city.” This is the basic premise of church planting: reach unreached groups of people with the gospel. 
  7. If you want to raise up leaders of color: I’ve been encouraged to witness many Korean American leaders rise to prominent evangelical leadership roles in the past year.  Pastoral ministry has a high status within the Korean American church. That’s less true among other Asian ethnic churches. In the Bay Area Chinese church, our best and brightest become doctors, engineers, and lawyers. Vocational ministry does not crack the top 20 of coveted professions. We need more pipelines to raise up leaders of color for multi-ethnic churches. Leadership pipelines have always existed for ethnic leaders in ethnic-specific contexts. However, we are at a tipping point where mainstream evangelical culture needs leadership from different ethnic perspectives. Multi-ethnic church plants led by leaders of color have the potential to become these wider pipelines. Shout-out to two brothers in San Jose leading multi-ethnic plants only a couple years old - Daniel Atondo at Eden Church and Ali Roohi at Centerset Church as well as my East Bay friends: Philip Muela at Inspire Churches, Leedah Wong at Restore 22, and Brian Hui at Living Stones East Bay (re-plant). 
  8. If your gifts are not being fully utilized where you are: If you’ve worked with your church leaders to fully utilize your gifts and yet have a growing sense there’s a greater context to use them, then perhaps a church plant is for you. This is not an easy distinction to make and vital to involve your church leaders in the conversation. Lastly, this cannot be the sole reason to join a church plant.
  9. If you embrace the daily surrender of plans as an exercise in growing intimacy with Jesus: Life is messy. Church life is no different. And COVID-19 has shredded plans on the daily. Spend time laying a detailed plan for in-person gathering and two days later, the county/state/country issues new directives. I wonder if this resembles how the first-century church operated. None of the early believers knew what was coming next. Fortunately, church plants don’t pivot because there’s nothing for us to pivot from. We are birthed out of uncertainty. Ambiguity is our friend. Perhaps this is what God intended for His people - to operate in faith when everything in sight is obscured. 
  10. If you see a vibrant faith community as an antidote to our individualistic and consumerist culture: COVID-19 has exposed how much we need in-person community. An unchurched friend asked me the other day regarding our church service, “What’s with the singing?” I tried to explain to him the mystical and transcendent experience of singing meaningful words alongside others doing the same. It’s an acquired taste but once you get there, there's a satisfaction that few other experiences rival.
  11. If you understand God doesn’t need you and yet audaciously chooses you to birth something new: Recently, two people emphasized to me that everyone who joins a church plant is a church planter. Despite what we may claim, pastors don’t plant churches alone. In this season where so many believers are gathering in their own homes and backyards, in a real sense, every Christian is now a church planter. And every kind of church - ethnic, house, mainstream, plant, aging, or mega - needs church planters who are willing to step out in faith and minister in new ways. Will you join us? 


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