Church planting has become the "coolest" trend in church work in recent decades, according to Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, who says that alone should not be a reason to plant a church.
"One terrible reason to plant a church is because it's the trendiest, hippest, coolest thing going on in church work today. I have seen a share of young, energized leaders who felt peer pressure to demonstrate their love for God by getting their board shorts, and surfing the church plating wave only to wash up three years later, bloodied and disillusioned by the whole experience," said Hybels.
Hybles, who spoke at the Exponential East Conference in Orlando, Fla., on Thursday, addressed the crowd of thousands pf people who are current church leaders and some who hope to become church planters. His message was upfront and frank as he delved into four reasons why individuals should and should not plant churches.
He noted that when church planters experience short-term motivation the entire church suffers along with them, and oftentimes, the planters are "done with church and God for good."
He also warned that it is easy to get caught up in the rush and enthusiasm of planting a church, however usually six months in, leaders tend to have an epiphany when they realize that a group of people is counting on their staying power and leadership. Most times, he says the "motivation that comes from the trendiest thing in church work" is not sufficient to keep planters from going forward.
"Endurance requires a deeper, richer fuel source," said Hybles.
The second reason not to plant a church is if a leader intends to cut short the developmental process normally required to become a senior pastor, explained Hybels.
"Leapfrogging from t-ball to the major leagues can be a high risk jump. It would be wiser to build your skills, deepen your faith, improve your kingdom durability in a high functioning church until it becomes obvious to you and others who know you well that you're ready to handle senior pastor responsibilities," he said.
Despite all the negative reasons that some individuals decide to get into church planting, in Hybel's view, one positive reason would be because an individual is "so bound in spirit to do so that it would be cosmic treason to do otherwise."
"I think some of you could relate to being bound in spirit. It's a powerful and curious experience. When I first felt the ropes around my heart to leave a youth ministry that I loved and had exploded from 25 to 1,000 kids in three years, I felt I had to plant a church. I felt 30 percent insane, didn't dare talk to anyone about it but I felt 70 percent sure that God was prompting me."
Hybels explained that prior to planting Willow Creek, he felt confident in God's calling. He finally gave into the calling after realizing that one day he would have to respond to God and be judged for "treason" and cowardness if he didn't plant the church.
Another reason to plant a church would be because no other existing ministry is willing to risk what a new church planter is willing to risk to reach people far from God, he said.
Hybels also explained that he was blinded for years in a church he grew up in where the leadership did not care to reach the lost. In fact, he remembers being told to stay away from non-believers. However, it was not until he personally experienced God that he understood those were the very people he needed to go after.
"If you've ever experienced watching someone you love go through slow, steady acts of self-destruction and you know what awaits them in eternity, it becomes an ache," said Hybels.
He added, "One of the thriving reasons I started Willow Creek Church was because I sincerely believed no other church I had served at would be as radically devoted to people as I knew I had to be if I was going to live with myself and stand before God someday…so here I am almost 40 years later and I can honestly say that I feel more passion and enthusiasm for church work today than any other era of my life."