What happens when innovation collides with necessity? In 2020 hundreds of church planters answered that question in a multitude of diverse and creative ways to not only launch their churches, but share the gospel message and draw people to Christ.
According to Church Multiplication Director Jeffery Portmann, despite the pandemic, the U.S. Assemblies of God saw 214 new churches planted in 2020, with hundreds more having been planted the previous year.
“One of the things we require for new church planters going through Church Multiplication Network (CMN) training is that in addition to a location to meet, they need to also establish an online presence,” Portmann says. “What we didn’t realize when we were training planters leading up to 2020 was that their online presence would become one of their only presences as in person gatherings stopped.”
Church planters, simply by their nature — not to mention the challenges of church planting — often possess strong organizational skills as well as dexterity, enabling them to use the available to overcome the unpredictable.
“’Flexture’ is a word we made up years ago — it’s the combination of flexibility and structure,” Portmann says. “You make a plan and then you have to adjust . . . and we saw that taking place across the nation with our church plants this past year.”
Portmann can cite church plant after church plant that recorded unprecedented success as their online ministries drew in thousands of people, often including those even beyond their states’ boundaries. However, what also has become clear is the need for community.
“Our next step has to be moving people from engaging online to engaging in person,” Portmann says. “We love online ministry, but just like if someone signs up for an online dating service, at some point, in order for the relationship to more fully develop, they need to meet in person. We believe God made the Church to be in proximity of each other . . . and we’re seeing that people, all across the nation, are wanting to lean into relationship with their church and with Christ – they’re ready to take that next step.”
And churches are ready for people to come experience relationship within the body of Christ. From March 1-3, CMN held a conference in Houston for pastors, leaders, multipliers, and church planters.
“We had 1,489 in actual attendance, which included 261 who paid to attend online,” Portmann says. “We also had 134 missionaries that participated from 20 different countries — by far the greatest engagement [for the conference] globally as well as in the United States.”
The conference theme was “Boost” and leaders were encouraged that if they received a boost they should in turn consider giving a boost. Churches and organizations stepped up in response, with churches and ministries in need often receiving unexpected gifts — from a new roof to laptops.
“There were ‘Boost’ moments at every turn,” says Portmann, who noted the incredible diversity of generations and ethnicities attending. “Generosity marked the whole conference as God was meeting us in a really powerful way.”
With the evident excitement for and generated at the CMN Conference, Portmann believes that the future for church planting is bright as the need for new church plants is growing. “The pandemic brought the church out into their communities, engaging with people, meeting their needs,” Portmann says. “People are seeing the gospel message before they hear it.”
Portmann says that even though many church launches will take place on Easter (April 4, 2021) and Church Planting Sunday (Sept. 19, 2021), every Sunday matters; the important thing is in following God’s timing.
And God’s timing for accelerated church planting seems to be gearing up. “I’m looking forward to General Council this August,” Portmann says. “I believe the incredible excitement generated at the CMN Conference was just a precursor to what God is going to do there.”