God has chosen to bless the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) with the establishment of many new congregations during each of the past several years. The Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension (CHMCE), which has been charged with the task of overseeing and assisting in the process of getting them started, has stood in awe of the power and blessing of our covenant God. He has surpassed all the goals we established. He has supplied the resources to fund new churches when budgets had not planned for them and when giving forecasts had not expected that it could happen. He has both humbled us and increased our faith. The OPC is growing by the addition of new people coming from various traditions of Reformed and evangelical expression to serve as the core groups of our new mission works. They often come with unrealistic or inaccurate assumptions about their new denomination. And they are frequently pastored by young church planters who have much energy, knowledge, and zeal, but lack a clear idea of what the task of establishing a new Reformed church entails.
This outpouring of God’s blessing of growth on the OPC is also occurring at a time when many methodologies for starting and sustaining new churches have become suspect. During the last three decades of the twentieth century, the Church Growth movement substantially impacted the ecclesiastical scene. An overemphasis on growth and numbers, coupled with what seems to be the advocacy of sociological rather than Biblical principles, has left the Reformed community in sharp disagreement with much of contemporary church practice. In addition, because the Church Growth movement identifies church planting as the most effective means of evangelism, the whole process of establishing new churches has become suspect within the Reformed community. Is church planting merely a means to an end? Is the establishment of new churches just another Church Growth methodology? Decidedly not! But what then are the correct principles and the appropriate methodologies for Orthodox Presbyterians to follow? This manual will attempt to answer these questions.
As the number of our new churches increases, it has become clear that a general knowledge among us of the skills, practices, and competencies required to establish a new Reformed congregation has been overestimated. Our home missions committees, our regional home missionaries, and CHMCE have expressed a common desire for a practical manual to put in the hands of those who are involved in doing the work. The request has come for a document which articulates sound ecclesiastical attitudes and practices and which reviews accepted and time-tested methods for establishing new congregations. So this manual is intended to tell you what you need to know and do as an organizing pastor, as an overseeing elder, or as a member of a presbytery home missions committee working to establish a congregation that will be committed to the standards of doctrine, government, discipline, and worship of the OPC. Read the rest of the OPC Church Planting Manual.