Maybe you’ve been the new guy before. You were new the new guy in your class, new on your street, started a new business, or even a new church. A lot of times, the new guy looks a little cooler, a little more edgy, and a little more fun. Some people want to immediately gravitate to the new guy because of that. It’s the “grass is always greener” syndrome. The coffee may taste better at the new coffee shop. Or, that new church may have a stronger youth and children’s ministry. This can often be an unhealthy way of seeing things because the newness eventually wears off, and the consumer is looking for the next new ministry. There’s no stability and no loyalty. In a church setting, that person becomes a shallow consumer instead of a dedicated follower of Christ.
However, there is a reverse reaction that can take place that is unfortunate. The new guy is seen as a threat or a competitor to take away existing business or people. I remember when a new girl moved from another state and joined our class. She was pretty, and I remember some of the girls were jealous when she came in. They gave her the cold shoulder, and she had a hard time making friends. She moved to our town to live with her grandparents because there were some issues back at home with her family. I’m sure it was very difficult for this girl to move to a new place, but on top of it, no one really brought out the welcome wagon for her.
Unfortunately, this is often the response that new churches get when they open up in an area. I knew a church planter, who upon arrival of his new town, received a visit from the local evangelical church who told him that he needed to go back home. He was unwelcome in this new town, and this church was to be the only church in town. He still had his moving truck parked in his driveway!
Established ministries often live in an environment of fear.
Some ministries live for the moment. They have their people, they have money to support their bills, and they are just floating from week to week. They are not taking bold risks in their community. They live for the status quo. Change is something that is incomprehensible to them. So, the worst thing that can happen is that someone would come in and upset the apple cart. They would force the congregation to change when they have no desire to. When a new church comes into town, the congregation that lives in fear is afraid that their status quo will be changed. The truth is that nothing stays the same. Whether that new church comes to town or something else happens, your community will never stay the same. It’s an illusion and an idol to think that things will never change.
A new church needs encouragement and support from seasoned pastors and churches.
When a new church is started in a town, that planter and that team can most benefit from encouragement and support from local pastors and churches in the area. I don’t know what we would have done without the support of so many churches locally and abroad who have poured into us. I have had pastors who have called me to say they are praying for me. Others who have made themselves available to whatever issues we are facing. And, others, yet, who would buy me a meal to hear our story and pray for me. If you’re an existing church and you’re reading this, maybe God has placed you in a planter’s life to be an encouragement and support to him and his team. Don’t react out of fear but out of love.
Sometimes existing ministries see new ones as competition.
One of the reasons existing ministries operate out of fear because they see new churches as competition fighting for the same people. I was talking to one of our denominational staff not too long ago, and he described it like a pie. Churches see the Christian community in a city as pie, and they have worked hard to fight for their piece of the pie. When a new church comes into town, they might take part of their pie.
Instead of seeing a new church as someone trying to take their piece of the pie, they should see them as co-laborers working in the fields of the Gospel continuing the ministry Jesus instituted of seeking and saving those who are lost by proclaiming the Good News with a unified voice! Imagine if the church were to be 100% unified in that mission.
One of the things that happen in an area where there is evangelistic church planting going on is that all the churches see an increase in people that go to their church. That new church may not be the best fit for that new believing family, and they wind up settling in an established church for many reasons.
Existing ministries often feel new ones are not valid because they don’t have the same credentials.
This is one that I think is often under the surface, but I believe it’s a big reason why they decide not to partner with new ministries. Because of the internet, we’re entering a world where the existing gatekeepers are going out of business. For example, bookstores, publishers, and book agents are going out of business because of this reason. Self-publishing, digital books, and e-readers are making it incredibly easy to lower the entry for new authors. Credentials don’t matter as much as they once did.
Church planters are often guys who were just youth pastors or college pastors. They don’t have a ton of ministry experience and have not “received their stripes” as many others have. Pastors and churches who have gone through this often have a hard time seeing these new ministries as valid because of that. This is regrettable. Many of these young pastors need mature mentoring, accountability, and discipleship. Not only do they need to receive, but they can also offer new ideas, fresh energy, and youthful enthusiasm to these pastors who may have gotten used to doing the same old.
Advice to New Ministries and Established Ministries
If you’re a church planter reading this, go above and beyond to show existing pastors your heart. Spend time over coffee and lunch with these guys, and humbly seek their advice. Listen to their war stories, and find common ground. Don’t be so quick to dismiss their years of experience and “old” ways of doing things. They have much to teach us, and we should be apt to receive good instruction.
If you’re a pastor or one who has been apart of an established ministry, spend time with these new guys. Seek them out. Ask them how you can help them. Listen to their stories. See if there are things you can learn from them. One of the most discouraging conversations I have had yet as a church planter was with a pastor that I respected greatly. We were looking for partnerships in prayer, people, and resources. As we sat down over lunch, he sat and lectured me about how I should not be asking for resources in his state. I should only be seeking help in Utah. Not one time did he ask me my story or ask me about our ministry. What that communicated to me was this man did not care about our ministry and was a great discouragement that day. Don’t be like that pastor.