By Carl Stagner
If the title of this article doesn’t get your attention, perhaps Mark Bane’s life goal will: “to win as many people to Jesus as possible, then die!” Mark Bane has a lengthy résumé, with everything from youth pastor to “church planting master,” and perhaps that’s why he’s qualified to make such a bold assertion. Can church planting really be made easy? The director of evangelism and new church development for the USA/Canada region of the Church of the Nazarene will join us at Church of God Convention 2019 & General Assembly to explain. A provocative question like this begs for an answer, so, in a recent interview with Church of God Ministries, Mark Bane offers some hints.
“When I say, ‘church planting made easy,’ I don’t mean it’s not effort,” Mark explains. “I really believe if someone depends on the Lord and follows his guidance and vision, then the resources, talents, gifts, leaders, and plans come pretty easily.”
Think that’s too simple of an answer? Mark digs a little deeper.
“The problem is that we’ve made church planting so difficult, limiting who can do it and creating a lot of hoops to jump through,” he continues. “You know, it’s not easy to pastor an existing church, either. Turning a church around can really be difficult. Someone has said it’s easier to give birth than to raise the dead.”
Mark says that the challenge of church planting is that you’re taking new territory. The enemy doesn’t like that, so he stands in opposition. But if God’s at the center of the work, he will provide everything a church plant needs to grow and thrive. This concept is at the heart of what Mark Bane will talk about during the Pre-Convention elective on Thursday, June 27 at 1:30 PM. But the relative “ease” of church planting—when God’s in it—isn’t the compelling reason we need to be doing it. Church planting is necessary because it’s considered one of the most effective, if not the most effective, means of advancing the kingdom of God. And Mark Bane really wants to win as many people to Jesus as possible! Through his pastoral ministry so far, some 1,500 people have come to Christ and twenty-four of those have entered vocational ministry.
“It’s important to me to reach a lot of people for Jesus, without exception of who they are,” Mark explains. “The most effective method ever discovered under heaven is church planting. More people come to Christ through church planting.”
Another bold statement. But Mark has the statistics and firsthand experience to back it up. And he looks forward to Convention 2019 to explain in detail. While serving the collective ministries of the Church of the Nazarene, he’s also the pastor of a church plant in the “urban core” of Kansas City, Missouri, known as Total Life Church, “TLC.” They only began in August of last year but have seen twenty-seven people come to Christ. Theirs doesn’t employ an attractional model, and they certainly aren’t anywhere near the suburbs. In the inner-city, they’ve discovered people really don’t care about flashy worship services, Starbucks-style coffee shops, and eloquent preaching. They just want to know someone really cares about them.
“I think we’re getting back to the heart of Jesus,” Mark reflects. “We need to be reaching ‘the least of these.’ The North American church has become ‘middle-income-ized.’ Most of our churches in the last fifty years, planted in suburbs with a high-impact, attractional model, have not so much advanced the kingdom, just rearranged it. Eighty percent of people who join most church plants come from existing churches. This isn’t an indictment on high-impact churches. We need every kind of church for every kind of people in every kind of place. But the larger percent of unchurched people live in the urban core.”
As a result of Mark’s efforts and others’ confidence in his ministry, he was recently awarded a grant to plant 203 churches (in the 203 urban cores of United States and Canadian cities, 250,000 people or greater) over the next ten years.
“If you want to learn how to encourage a whole lot of people to come to Jesus, then the resources I want to share with the Church of God will help.”
For the daily schedule, information on Pre-Convention electives, registration, and much more, visit www.chogconvention.org. Church of God Convention 2019 & General Assembly is June 27–30 at the World Center Marriott in Orlando, Florida.