Ralph Moore is the founder of the Hope Chapel movement, which has planted over 700 churches (as of 2002). He is convinced that church multiplication is the best way to grow the Kingdom of God. One U.S. denomination found that 80% of new Christians in the denomination were saved in a church less than two years old. Furthermore, one church is limited in the number of people that it can reach. By starting a church multiplication movement, Moore has impacted many more people than he could possibly reach on his own. The true fruit of an apple tree is not an apple, but an orchard.

Churches beget churches and Christians beget Christians. A new church needs to have a parent church in order for it to thrive. The parent church will likely provide some funding and people; Moore recommends decreasing levels of funding for six months after launch and about 20 - 25 people.

After you have the vision for your church, it is time to start planning. Planning is just as important as revelation from the Holy Spirit, so do it well. Find an area and a target population that needs a new church. Find an unmet need for your church to meet, and something that distinguishes your church from all the other churches around. Singles, for example are a demographic that is often not well-served by the church. (Additionally, they have available time and money that families do not have, plus there is no need for children’s programs.)  Research the area and do a demographic study. Decide on the core values of your church. Let ideas simmer for a while, then create a plan, and ask the hard questions of “will this actually work?”

You need a team, so ask permission from the parent church first, by thanking them for how they have served you, communicating your vision, and asking for their partnership. Let the Holy Spirit bring the people to you; active recruiting is difficult because we do not actually know what we need. Also, be aware that you are likely to have two teams: a prayer team that stays back and a core team that goes. Start meeting with your team about five months before launch, with the purpose of turning them into disciple-makers. The first priority of a leader is to find and train an apprentice who will eventually replace the leader, who then goes on to find another need to fill. When you assign responsibility to a leader, give them the authority it recruit their helpers. You trust the person you appointed, so trust who they appoint. This way recruitment happens at the edges of the structure, which makes it a lot easier, and lets your leaders build their own team. After you launch give a gift of some sort back to the parent church to help foster partnership.

Developing a prayer team before you start is important because you will be a target for the enemy. While there are always problems in life, if you find problems piling on top of each other, it is likely a spiritual attack, which your prayer team will help prevent. After you launch, it helps to have add a prayer team. You can share crises and financial difficulties with the local team without broadcasting it far and wide or panicking the congregation.

Design two budgets: an operations budget with ongoing expenses and an opportunities budget with one-time costs. Do everything you can to keep the operations budget small: consider being bivocational, rent meeting space instead of buy, work from home and meet in coffee shops to avoid the expense of an office. The large expenses from the expectation of a pastor’s salary, a building mortgage, and office space make starting a church in North America prohibitive; by ruthlessly eliminating expenses you can plant churches easier and more reproducibly. Minimizing ongoing expenses frees up funds to be used for outreach opportunities and one-time expenses like sound equipment. Maximize funds for advertisement to make people aware of your church: a church that starts large has momentum.

Consider being a bivocational church planter. While there are disadvantages in that people often do not consider a bivocational pastor to be a “real pastor,” there are a lot of advantages. You can do work you love, you have a natural pool of non-Christians to witness to, you can bring more money to your family than a church planter’s salary usually provides, you can plant a church in areas that would not otherwise be viable due to costs (rural areas, overseas), and you demonstrate a church planting model that is much more easily reproducible. If you decide to be bivocational, be sure to schedule family time in to your schedule. Do a Sunday school teacher’s worth of work each week for the church, but you will not have bandwidth for much more than that.

Likewise, rent your initial space. A building limits your thinking and constrains your budget. Renting space gives you flexibility, and it also provides an easy entryway for people to start serving in the church even from the first Sunday: stacking chairs after the service. Look at your rental contract as a gift from God, and go the extra mile for your landlord. The first mile is rent; go the second mile by looking for areas of need that your church can help out with. You might be able to give to your landlord by doing some landscaping, or if you are meeting in a school by painting classrooms, helping the school get ready for the new school year, or tutoring children. Not only will you build a great relationship with your landlord, you will be serving your community as well.

You need to create structure that is flexible enough to grow. There are two aspects to this: mentoring apprentices to multiply leadership (described earlier) and providing a smooth path towards core membership. Jesus had concentric circles of belonging: Peter, James, and John (3), the rest of the disciples (12), his entourage (120), and the crowds. You need to build a pathway from the crowds to the core c  Aggressively create positions until about 80% of the membership is serving in some capacity. Stacking chairs is one possibility, serving as a small group helper is another. You can divide a children’s teacher role into four positions: the teacher, who recruits three helpers, one to do logistics (attendance, cookies, etc.), one to lead crafts, and one to troubleshoot (do one-on-one with rowdy boys, for example). Not only does this lighten the work load for everyone, but it also gives the teacher a pool to recruit a replacement. Plus, people that have a responsibility feel needed, and everyone needs to feel needed. A luncheon for visitors can give an opportunity to meet staff, hear the vision of the church, be introduced to opportunities to serve (about 33% of visitors to Hope Chapel’s luncheon get connected to a ministry), and to find a small group (about 50% join a small group). Moving further into the core happens by invitation from a leader through the mentorship leadership development process. Pastoral staff is recruited from small group leaders who have multiplied at least three groups—this shows that they have pastoral skills, and also demonstrates their faithfulness and commitment to the vision.

Every church will end up with three sizes of groups: cells (3 - 20 people), congregations (20 - 120 people), and celebrations (120+ people). As apprentices become leaders the cells will multiply, and you will find that congregational-sized leaders will spontaneously emerge. These are people to train into your vision, because while a cell-sized group will not affect the direction of the church, a congregational group going off on its own vision can. By making it clear that the vision of the church sets the boundaries, you can give these leaders freedom to be creative within the boundaries of the vision, and you will have all sorts of interesting things that come out of it.

As lead pastor you are responsible for the experience of the celebration. Since we are created to glorify God and enjoy Him, part of the function of the celebration worship needs to be to experience God, through song and liturgy. However, worship is more than just music, fellowship is also part of worship. “Interaction with God through song, liturgy, and teaching sets people up with warm feelings and a servant’s [sic] hearts. Personal interaction with others creates a trailhead toward meaningful ministry. Ministry itself is a form of worship as it gives outlet to spiritual gifts and the love God requires from each person. For this to happen, you need time and space for your congregation to get to know each other.” (182)  Moore recommends having three minutes during the celebration service to greet people around them, and he gives them a question to ask each other. Hope Chapel is also intentional about creating spaces for people to interact, by setting up tables for people to gather around and serving free snacks and selling other items. They also strongly recommend members to build a strong friendship with at least one other church member, and to attend a small group.

Teaching is another important aspect of church life and of the celebration service. Moore preaches through the Bible verse by verse starting from the first Sunday, which establishes that the church has a high value for the Bible. He has a two year schedule, starting with Philippians (uplifting), Acts (church life), Romans (theological foundation), and 1 Corinthians (power and love). Be aware of current events, and when you need to address them, do it from the context of responding from a Biblical perspective and work it into the message of your current text. He also recommends teaching regularly (two weekends in a row, once a year) on financial stewardship: it is important to talk about money openly and honestly, and to keep the biblical framework of tithing, whose purpose is to bring food into the storehouses. The principle is that “ministry costs money” (210) and that generosity begets generosity. Moore frequently uses videotaped testimonies (2 minutes) and video skits (4 minutes) as tools for creative illustrations. (He also lets the high schoolers be creative in producing video announcements.)

Membership is best done as an invitation into a large family. Family has benefits, but it also has responsibilities. He asks five questions of prospective members that indicate the commitments of membership: 1) are you in love with Jesus Christ and becoming a member to know him better, 2) do you like and respect the leaders and vision (hard to serve them if you do not), 3) are you willing to spend time with the family, 4) are you financially committed to the family, and 5) will you serve God however he tells you (which does not necessarily mean saying “yes” when a leader asks them to do something).

Moore provides many ideas for bringing people to Sunday services, with sermons on the Christian radio station, bus bench advertisements, and postcards and doorknob hangings to targeted neighborhoods with the demographic you want to reach being some cost-effective ideas. If your marketing and outreachYou will start having more people coming than you know what to do with, so start aggressively creating positions and releasing small group apprentices until about 80% of the church is involved in some ministry. If your leaders sometimes question whether you are going to far, you are probably on the right track. However, do not fill a role just because someone is available; you want people who excited about the vision. “It is easier to tame a monster than to create one.” You should also count parking space utilization and calculate the number of people per car; availability of parking will limit the number of people who attend, even if your space seats more. A good rule of thumb is that people will probably not walk farther than the distance from Walmart’s entrance to its farthest parking space.

Leadership development is your primary responsibility as a leader, and likewise for all the leaders under you. This is essential to leadership; it cannot be delegated. The edges of the organization will be recruiting new leaders and apprenticing them. At the core, you, the senior leader will need to be training your pastoral staff. Every other Tuesday Hope Chapel has “The Pastor Factory” where Moore leads studies on four books a year (read outside of that time) to train his leaders. On the off Tuesdays his leaders run a similar training for their leaders. This is ongoing training; you do not graduate from the factory (unless you plant a church). Build in multiplication from the beginning; multiply before you think you are ready, perhaps around the one year mark. This will ensure that you establish orchard-building DNA from the beginning.

Starting a New Church is a comprehensive and practical guide to starting a church. It is more prescriptive than Stetzer and Im’s Planting Missional Churches, which I like. Moore is also a little more Charismatic, which I like, too, but he keeps a light touch, so even cessationists will find this book a solid and helpful read. This is kind of like an external version of a Hope Chapel church planting manual (if such a thing exists)—Moore gives concrete recommendations with the reasoning behind them, sometimes accompanied with a story of what happened when he did it a different way. While Moore has only planted two churches himself, he has fathered a large number of churches in Hawaii which started a huge movement, so his recommendations draw on that breadth of experience.

My only complaint about the book is the publisher. Baker Group seems to be printing by photographic reproduction of an inkjet manuscript—you can see where the bottom of the page shifts over by a pixel in the middle of the line. It’s not like laser printers are expensive, and for $19, inkjet quality is simply unacceptable. The content is great, but the publisher is clearly not providing any value.

Aside from the unacceptable typography, this book is a great guide to starting a church. Moore’s practical guidelines and warnings will save you from learning the hard way. He provides enough theory, strategy, ideas, and recommendations to take anyone from God’s call to a thriving church.

Review: 9