The Hindrance of Territorialism

Hindrances to Church Planting

Church planting cannot be considered just another "fad" of which a few pastors and churches are now emphasizing as a small part of their overall church program. Church planting must be considered the very core of world evangelism because without the planting of independent fundamental Baptist churches, the Great Commission cannot be accomplished and would be futile in its attempt.

Most if not all pastors and churches would verbally express the importance of church planting, but many of these would also begin to make excuses for their lack of emphasis, vision, or participation in church planting. One of the main reasons expressed in this day for a pastor and church’s lack of involvement in church planting is the limitation of finances. While this reason does have some merit if a church of moderate or average size was trying to plant the church without other churches or pastors. This reason disappears when the biblical philosophy of church planting is revealed. The Apostle Paul was supported in his church planting journeys by many churches, but his main support came from the poorest churches such as the church in Philippi. Yet it is to this church that Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit writes in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” As fundamental Baptist churches, I see in Scripture only one reason to work together and that is for the proclamation of the Gospel in planting churches on both the foreign and home fields. There are no other valid reasons of which we must be, “... with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27). Very few churches can on their own support a new church work in America, but several churches, just as in foreign missions’ can and ought to prayerfully and financially strive together to reach this nation for Jesus Christ.

The reason we are planting so few churches and have nearly a net gain of zero churches, with new churches starting and existing churches closing, is because of the philosophy and hindrances to church planting. I would like for us to consider at least four wrong attitudes and philosophies which hinder church planting today.

Territorialism

A major hindrance to church planting can be summed up in the word: pride. Only pride could cause a pastor or church to think that they could reach an entire community or city with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. While every believer is commanded to, “Preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15b) and the vehicle that God has chosen to accomplish this is the local church, most churches in most cities are not even scratching the surface when it comes to fulfilling this command.

One of the main verses that is often used to support territorialism or the idea that every city needs a Gospel-preaching church before we dare plant another church in a city where there already exists a “good church” is Titus 1:5. As the Apostle Paul, he had the authority from God to commission Titus to, “... ordain elders in every city... .” Today I believe that Scripture clearly teaches that the authority for such comes from God to His local church and then its pastor. Churches plant churches, and so churches are commanded to “ordain elders in every city.” This hindrance to church planting comes from a misconception of the word every. Though we know that God does want the Gospel preached and churches established in every city across this land and around the world, this does not mean that God wants only one Gospel lighthouse in each city until we achieve the goal of a Bible-preaching church in each and every city. The word translated every is the Greek word kata which is a preposition generally translated “according to, after, down from, throughout, against, in, or by.”

While there are some cities which could very well only sustain one fundamental Baptist church, most cities of even modest sizes could support several “good churches” of average size. I am not going to suggest what size that needs to be because I believe size is only one factor to consider. I am simply stating that from Scripture there is no support for the position that because there already is one “good church” in a community, city, or area that another church should not be considered for the need of planting there as well. Obviously there are several other factors to consider not the least of which is the will of God and counsel from godly men.

Oftentimes the one who resists the planting of a new church in an area is the pastor of the church already in that area. Some of this I am sure is related to bad experiences of an unethical man coming to plant a church in an area and “stealing” some of the flock from the church and pastor. The unethical practices of some should not be the cause for sending lost people to Hell. In most metropolitan areas and in many cities, it will take the effort and cooperation of many churches to have an impact on these places.

Do we dare let common philosophy of territorialism hinder God’s command to plant churches? In our city of almost 300,000 and our county of almost twice that number, I am begging God for more churches to come over and help us. We cannot do it all alone nor should we try!

If this article was a help to you, consider sharing it with your friends.