Church Planting—An Analogy

Lately you have heard me make numerous references to church planting.  It has become a subject of great interest for me and I hope it becomes a passion for all of us here at Stones River.  The likelihood is we will personally be our own greatest obstacle, though, if we do not have true clarity.

What many in America call “church planting” is better described as church “transplanting.”  A leadership core group is developed within one church that will leave and move into a new area and form a new church launch.  Since this core group arrives as a functioning body, it has really been transplanted.  (If you want to see some fascinating pictures of this, go to and click on the link to tree transplanting.)

By contrast consider planting an acorn and growing an oak tree.  We all realize it will be a long time before these baby trees will be large enough to become shade trees, but they have some real advantages.  It is very expensive to transplant already-grown shade trees.  While it appears to be a much faster process, transplanting is also a slow process.  Whether a tree grows from an acorn into a shade tree and then is transplanted, or just grows in its desired location, it always takes time.  Because you can plant and care for many more seedlings you can actually start many more churches by planting than transplanting.

Also, the reality is when you transplant risk is involved.  Large trees with extensive root systems require great care and much equipment to give a good chance at survival.  There is always shock that comes from the digging process, planting process, and stabilizing the tree in its new location.

Many people who grow in one church and move to a new location also find it shocking to be transplanted.  While they do their best to prepare for the move, it is hard to anticipate what actually happens.

When I speak of church planting I am not talking about church transplanting.  I am not talking about people leaving Stones River to be the core for a new church somewhere else.  I am speaking of planting “baby churches” in new communities—especially among people groups who do not have a good Jesus option.  Let me define the terms I use and then test them to see if they ring true.  I am convinced God is calling us to this kind of church planting.

John Kenneth King   

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