One of the most frequently asked questions I've received since moving to Twin Falls to plant a new church is....Why? That question is then followed by a small series of questions: Why Twin Falls? Why another church? Doesn't Twin Falls already have enough churches?
So I thought I'd share some of our primary reasons for planting a new church in this city.
1. It's biblical
I'm not going to take the time to quote every passage in the bible that talks about church planting, but it is clear as you read the New Testament, that planting new churches is of primary importance. The entire book of Acts is devoted to showing us the result of the Holy Spirit working in the lives of Christ-followers. That result was the church spreading throughout the entire world. In particular, Acts 13 and 14 tells us about the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas. What did they do? They preached the gospel. What was the result? Churches were planted. Beyond the book of Acts, the rest of the New Testament is written to churches. How did those churches get there? People went into cities, preached the gospel, gathered believers, and established churches.
This is a cycle that's never to end until the return of Jesus.
Our second reason for moving here was calling. First, we couldn't stop a couple of people from literally calling us on the phone, asking us to plant a church here. Second, we simply couldn't get around the fact that God was stirring our hearts to move to this city. I'll admit, it wasn't our first choice. Many people, when they ask, "why Twin Falls," usually ask with a tone of why in the heck would you do that? And I get the tone. There isn't much that's inherently exciting about Twin Falls. But this doesn't mean we ditch the call of God for something a little more sexy. We knew that if we ignored this calling, we'd be just like Jonah. I don't think we would have been eaten by a whale (though I suppose something like that could have happened) but we certainly would have been fleeing what we knew God wanted us to do.
3. We love Twin Falls
Our third reason for planting a church here is that we love the city. That's right. We love Twin Falls. We find her to be truly beautiful. This isn't the view we always had. Abby and I grew up here. I graduated from Twin Falls High School (go Bruins!). Most of our lives were lived in Twin Falls. And when we left for Seattle, we never imagined moving back (as with most who leave this city). But in the midst of God calling us back to this city, he was also breaking our hearts for her. We were able to look at Twin Falls, not as where we grew up or a city lacking in excitement, fun, and life, but as a city that God loves. I think we could say that he's been giving us his eyes for the people here. Furthermore, he has established a core group with the same heart.
Taproot Church Twin Falls loves Twin Falls!
4. Twin Falls needs more churches
This point is a little difficult to tackle because it seems to mostly be a matter of opinion and perspective. (Or is it?) It's true that Twin Falls has a lot of churches (there's at least a lot of church buildings). But just because it seems like there's a lot of churches at first glance, doesn't mean we don't need new ones.
Prior to moving to Twin Falls, I had a conversation with someone about the spiritual health of the city. That person told me Twin Falls is one of the most spiritually healthy places they knew. They then emphatically told me, "Twin Falls doesn't need more churches!" Now, I don't have exact numbers to tell me whether this city is spiritually healthy or not, but I wholeheartedly disagree. In fact, one of the continual story lines I've heard and seen since moving here is that the city is broken. And though there may be many here living lives filled with religion and good morals, many of these are far from Jesus. Furthermore, over half of the population of Twin Falls has no association with any religion at all. Some might conclude that's good enough, but I think we should keep preaching the gospel and planting churches until all are followers of Jesus or until he returns.
Timothy Keller is one of the greatest thinkers I know on why we need to continue planting churches in cities. Listen to the excerpt from his book Center Church.
The way to grow the number of Christians in a city is not mainly through church renewal but through church planting. When stagnant churches go through a renewal phase and begin to grow, it is typically through transfer growth from other churches. Strong programs attract believers who are suffering under poor preaching, poor discipleship offerings, or other signs of unhealthy discipleship elsewhere. But even older renewed churches cannot integrate unchurched persons like a new congregation can. Studies confirm that the average new church gains one-third to two-thirds of its new members form the ranks of people who are not attending any worshiping body, while churches over ten to fifteen years of age gain 80 to 90 percent of new members by transfer growth from other congregations. The average new congregation, then, will bring new people into the life of the body of Christ at six to eight times the rate of an older congregation of the same size.
Keller goes on to say...
So how many churches does your city need? The reality is that churches are institutions. Some of them endure because they are continually revitalized, but all of them lose some flexibility; many of them stagnate for long periods between revitalizations, and a certain percentage die every year. We have seen, then, that it requires at least modest church planting in a city just to keep the body of Christ from steadily declining, and aggressive church planting is needed to grow the whole body–meaning ten to twenty relatively new churches in relation to every hundred existing churches...Studies and anecdotal evidence indicate that if there is one church per ten thousand residents, approximately 1 percent of the population will be churchgoers. If this ratio goes to one church per one thousand residents, some 15 to 20 percent of the city's population goes to church. If the number goes to one per five hundred residents, the number may approach 40 percent or more. The relationship of the number of churches to churchgoing people is exponential, not linear. We should not, then, simply aim to maintain the church's traditional place in a city or society. We long to see Christianity grow exponentially in conversions, churches, and influence in our city. While it requires many kinds of ministries to achieve this outcome, aggressive church planting is the trigger for them all.*
In his book Planting Missional Churches, Ed Stetzer writes, "C. Peter Wagner asserts, 'The single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planting new churches.' That's because church plants can often engage persons within the lost culture in a way that established churches cannot or will not.**
All that being said, I, in agreement with the above quotes, believe the single most effective way for more to be reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ is through planting more churches. Taproot Church Twin Falls does not believe she is the end all be all of churches in Twin Falls. We're praying earnestly to plant more churches in Twin Falls, the Magic Valley, and beyond. As long as people aren't following Jesus (being discipled) we're going to labor to plant more churches.
5. Why Not?
Our fifth reason may seem simplistic, but think about it. Why not? Does it really hurt the city of Twin Falls and the Magic Valley to have one more church added to the list? I certainly hope and pray not. In fact, our prayer is to be a church to this city and valley, that if we were gone, we'd be missed. As much as possible, we will pour our resources into the flourishing of this city because we are here in the city for the city.
6. To know Jesus and make him known
Our final reason is the most important. It's why Taproot Church Twin Falls exists. In all we do, we want to know Jesus more and make him more known to the city around us. If at any point we've missed Jesus, then I agree it's unhelpful for us to be here. But all we do is because Jesus lived the perfect life we couldn't, died the death we should have, and rose victoriously from the grave reversing the curse of sin, death, and hell. In this, Jesus makes a way for all humanity to be reconciled (made right), into a right relationship with the God of the universe. We want as many as possible to hear this amazing good news.
There are many more reasons I could add to the list, but I think the above six sum it up well. I'd invite you to pray for us, join us, or even challenge our existence if you'd like, but in the end, Jesus the King is ruling and reigning, and because of this reality, we're here to preach the gospel and plant churches that will lift his name high.
* Quoted from Center Church by Timothy Keller. Page 359 and 362.
** Quoted from Planting Missional Churches by Ed Stetzer. Page 33.