Keys to Church Planting

(Jan 2000)

By Rev. John Kao

Praise the Lord! Through the amazing grace of our Savior Jesus Christ and the faithfulness and diligence of my co-workers as well as other brothers and sisters, ACEM has developed into an association of seven member churches in a period of 25 years.

In a commission ceremony on Dec. 19th, 1974, Dr. Andrew Song, Director of C.N.E.C. in Hong Kong, laid hands on me and sent me off to plant a church in North America. In addition to regular letters of supervision and guidance, we were also given a monthly support of US$400 for a period of tw years. The first few years of our ministry were difficult, but we had the constant prayer support and encouragement of Dr. Song and his co-workers. Now, as we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of ACEM, I would like to especially give credit to Dr. Song. The pastoral staff and the 4,000 members of ACEM churches will always cherish the memory of our respected Dr. Song. We will forever remember the love of Dr. Song!

From a group of about thirty founding members, we have grown to a congregation of over 4,000! When I look back, the church planting experience of each church is different; nevertheless there are some commonalities which I will attempt to summarize as follows:

1. A Burden of Church Planting

The effectiveness of church planting is closely related to the burden undertaken by the pastoral staff.

a) Jesus Christ gave us the Great Commission to spread the Gospel to all nations. We strongly believe that He also asked us to establish local churches to pass on His teaching for future generations. Disciples should generate new disciples and churches should generate new churches. (Mt 28:19-21)

b) The Kingdom of God should be spread from place to place, first to its neighboring areas, and then extend to more distant land. (Acts 1:8)

c) The Apostle Paul set a very good example for us as an itinerant preacher doing church planting work.

2. The Need for Social Concern

a) When Jesus saw the crowd like sheep without a shepherd, He had compassion on them. He earnestly prayed for them and asked the Lord of the harvest to take care of their needs. (Mt 9:35-38)

b) As there are different needs in different communities. It is unlikely that any one church, no matter how large, can fully satisfy all needs of these communities. Church planting in different areas, however, will be better able to meet the needs of communities with different linguistic, cultural and economical backgrounds.

c) In Old Testament times, the tribes of Israel were allotted land and the Israelites were governed by local governments. As the salt and the light for the Lord, disciples in New Testament times also bore witness for Christ in various communities. Church planting is essentially the same endeavour.

3. The Channel of Evangelism

When we plant a church, essentially we are spreading the gospel and bringing people to Christ. Our goal is not to increase membership by drawing believers from other churches. We must fill the planted church through evangelism.

a) General promotions can be achieved through the media such as newspaper, radio/TV and pamphlets.

b) This can also be achieved with new technologies such as the internet.

c) Visitation teams of two or three members are effective.

d) Enquirers’ classes are offered several times a year. (Note: We once used the book Basic Christianity for the twelve sessions of our Discovery Class. Through discussions, questions and answers, many enquirers became believers.)

e) Evangelistic meetings held several times a year. God prepares the hearts of people through personal witnesses and evangelistic meetings are opportunities for spiritual harvest. Praise the Lord! An average of about 40-50 people were brought to Christ and baptized in the early years of the first ACEM church.

4. The Advantage of Expository Preaching

Different pastors use different methods of preaching on Sundays. The pulpit of ACEM churches mostly utilizes the method of expository preaching.

a) Expository preaching is not just offering a list of biblical explanations. It is a timely provision of spiritual nourishment, focusing on important biblical principles and the needs of the congregation.

b) Expository preaching also promotes the study of the Bible. For several years, I told the congregation which Bible passage would be taught in the following week. Sometimes I even asked four or five related questions to create interest.

c) As each chapter of the Old and New Testaments is explained in a systematic and orderly manner, believers will not be under the impression that the preacher selects certain Bible passages to further his own cause.

5. The Warmth of Cell Groups

For the believers of the early churches, “Everyday they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47) What a warm and wonderful place God’s house can be!

a) Good things happen when believers unite together to worship the Lord, receive the teaching of God and celebrate their unity in Christ.

b) Through “cell groups”, believers gather in the homes for worship, Bible study and fellowship.

c) Because cell groups are typically small, member have much opportunity to share openly as well as to learn accept, love, pray, confess, forgive and support each other. The cell group format is indeed a good way to nurture spiritual growth and to bring people to Christ.

6. The Necessity of Discipleship Training

Besides His sacrifice and salvation, Jesus Christ’s most important task on earth was discipleship training. Included in the Great Commission He gave us was to teach the disciples to obey everything He had commanded. The Apostle Paul’s admonition Timothy was a good example of discipleship training. .

a) Discipleship training can be one-to-one, as was the case between Paul and Timothy. Paul’s hope was for Timothy to mature spiritually, excel in his ministry and even surpass him in service.

b) The ministry of discipleship training can also be carried out in cell groups. The goal is to foster spiritual growth, encourage the use of spiritual gifts and produce more capable servants for the Lord.

c) With the increase of cell group members and the addition of more cell groups, the ministry of discipleship training can be expanded. This creates more opportunities for service and leadership, which in turn generates more growth and development.

7. The Structure of Church Organization

The church is the body of Christ. Like the human body, which is made up of delicate systems and networks, churches are made up of different structures and organizations. The following administrative structure is common to all ACEM churches:

a) If Jesus is the head of the church, how does He lead our church? He does it through the Holy Spirit with the Word of God. Who then interprets the Word of God? The Senior Pastor of the church does. This is why we appoint the Senior Pastor to be the Chairman of the Executive Church Board. Since the Senior Pastor has such an important responsibility, his  appointment not only requires the recommendation of the Executive Church Board, but the scrutiny of ACEM and the approval of over 80% of the church members in a General Members’ Meeting.

b) Since the Senior Pastor cannot serve the church all by himself, deacons have to be elected from lay leaders in accordance with the teaching of the Bible. The Executive Church Board, consisting of pastoral staff and deacons, meet monthly or bimonthly to seek God’s will and to make plans and decisions for the church.

c) The Executive Church Board cannot make decisions with regard to all affairs of the church. Therefore, General Members’ Meetings are necessary to decide on important issues. Usually, two General Members’ Meetings are held each year, one for the purpose of electing deacons and the other for the endorsement of the annual budget. When other major issues are involved, like land purchase, church building, amendment of the Constitution or appointment of the Senior Pastor, a special General Members’ Meeting may have to be convened.

d) To further advance the Kingdom of God, ACEM churches appoint representatives to form the Association of Chinese Evangelical Ministries (ACEM). ACEM helps to coordinate the joint efforts of member churches in global missions, church planting and church building, organize special meetings as well as drafting policies for pastoral benefits. While ACEM coordinates some of these ministries, it also works in cooperation with member churches in others. ACEM is financially supported by its member churches, which make an annual contribution of 7-8% of their general fund (presently 7.5%). Representatives from member churches meet each year to approve the ACEM annual budget. For the purpose of unity and commitment, ACEM holds the title of the land of the churches in trust. Member churches hold ownership of their church buildings. In this way, God’s inheritance is jointly supervised while unity and solidarity is demonstrated.

8. The Choice of Church Planting Sites

The choice of a site directly impacts the effectiveness of the new church. In general, we look for a prominent and accessible location. In the past we have had to consider factors such as transportation, particularly amongst the Chinese.

a) When the Yonge & Lawrence church was planted on January 12, 1975, it was accessible to many students from the University of Toronto and York University by public transit. These spiritually nourished and discipleship trained young students later became landed immigrants and are now cornerstone members of many ACEM churches.

b) In June 1979, we planted a church in the fast-growing Agincourt community. Rapid church growth soon followed in 1981, the church building of Toronto Chinese Community Church (TCCC) was completed. A similar approach was followed in the planting of Milliken (January 1987) and Markham (September 1990) churches.

c) In January 1985, Brother Sam Chan was ordained to the gospel ministry. Soon, Brother Simon Wong was ordained also. The two pastors jointly led the move of the congregation at Yonge and Lawrence to the northern suburb of Toronto. Eventually they began land purchase and church building in “Richmond Hill Chinese Community Church”(RHCCC). RHCCC experienced rapid growth due to the construction of highway 404 and the relocation of many Chinese families in the newly developed Richmond Hill area.

9. The Joy of Church Building

A good site for church planting will likely facilitate the rapid development of a church.

a) When ACEM began church planting in the Agincourt area, there were already three Chinese churches planted there. However, TCCC had a head start in church building and thus grew at a much faster rate than the other churches. Our motto then was “Building for Harvest”. Brothers and sisters not only worked diligently, they also gave generously to the building project and experienced great joy! Members of TCCC continued their church building effort and altogether planted six more churches. Hallelujah! Recently, TCCC succeeded in purchasing a piece of land that can accommodate over 400 parking spaces and a sanctuary with 1,200 seats at a cost of less than $300,000. This is truly God’s wondrous provision! Like Joshua, Rev. Harding Ng and Rev. Victor Lee will jointly lead the TCCC congregation into the Promised Land of milk and honey. We pray that the Lord will give them faith and strength.

b) Phase I (the building project) for RHCCC was closely followed by the Phase II (church expansion). Sunday services attendance has increased from about 300 in 1991 to over 2,000 today. This is indeed tremendous harvest! The faithfulness and hard work of the pastoral staff and deacons should be commended!

c) Under the joint leadership of Rev. Stephen Yao and Rev. Ricky Yung, Milliken Chinese Community Church (Milliken CCC) continues to enjoy steady growth. The joint building venture of Milliken CCC and Good Shepherd Church at the latter’s church site is indeed a wonderful project!

d) After a year’s service at TCCC, Rev. Stuart Ng led a group of mature members to plant a new church in the Markham area. Even now the co-workers at TCCC still feel the pain of losing their valuable partners of ministry! Markham Chinese Community Church (Markham CCC) was built in the fifth year of church planting. It was indeed a speedy process!

e) The choice of area is a crucial factor in church planting. The Nehemiah Fellowship of TCCC, the principle force for church planting, decided to start their ministry in North York. The new church was named “North York Chinese Community Church”. The courage and diligence of these brothers and sisters should be admired.

f) Under the leadership of Rev. Samuel Ng, the Mandarin Ministry of TCCC became independent of TCCC and experienced rapid growth as Toronto Mandarin Chinese Community Church (TMCCC). Because of the influx of new Mandarin speaking immigrants, ACEM leaders decided to transfer the ownership of the 500 seat church building of TCCC to TMCCC. We thank the Lord that at this critical moment, He sent the young and capable Rev. Bernard Ho to further strengthen the pastoral team of TMCCC. In the meantime, the Mandarin ministry of Milliken CCC and RHCCC also make good progress. Praise the Lord!

g) Focusing on the need to make Chinese descendants be effective witnesses for the Lord in the mainstream society, Rev. Andrew Lau and his co-workers established the multicultural Cornerstone Christian Community Church. It is very important to develop the English ministry in our predominantly Chinese speaking churches. We are glad that the English Ministry of RHCCC continues to move ahead under the pastoral care of Rev. Kai Mark while the English Ministry of TCCC and Milliken CCC also experiences steady growth. Presently a total of about 700 people attend these four English services.

10. The Vision of World Missions

In accordance with Christ’s Great Commission and the spirit of “to give is better than to receive”, ACEM churches have actively participated in world missions since our very beginning. We believe that this is the way for church growth and a channel for God’s blessings. With a heart for global evangelization, believers not only take care of their own church, but give generously to the family of Christ and the Kingdom of God, thus receiving even more blessings from the Lord. To me there are three requirements for a mission-minded church:

a) Structure for Missions

Both ACEM and its member churches have Missions Departments. We also encourage fellowships to have committee members who are responsible for missions. Our hope for the future is to have pastoral staff who will focus their ministry on the promotion of world missions.

b) Program for Missions

ACEM hosts an annual Missions Conference, which is a joint venture for all member churches. Member churches also organize Sunday school class on Missions, Missions Sundays, seminars on Missions and short-term mission trips. Moreover, announcements on notice boards, newsletters and prayer guide for missionaries encourage believers to actively take part in missions.

c) Funding for Missions:

Funds are required for the support of missionaries, short-term missions and seminary students. In terms of financial resources, the missions fund of ACEM has increased from about $1,000 in the first year to faith pledges exceeding $800,000 this year. Due to our strong belief in the golden rule of “to give is better than to receive”, ACEM churches and families truly experience the blessing and joy of giving being better than receiving.

Jesus Christ is the Head of our church. When we witness the work of His hands in church planting, church expansion and growth, we can only marvel at His amazing power. Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! May all the glory be given to our Savior Jesus Christ! Amen!

Translated by Esther Tsui

Last modified on Monday, 01 April 2019 08:50


相愛合一 . 培訓門徒 . 增長植堂 . 普世差傳 . 社區關懷

地址: 2750 14th Ave., Suite G-05, Markham,
ON L3R 0B6

Tel: (905) 479-2236   Fax: (905) 479-2232

Contact Us

Required *

  Refresh Captcha  

K2 Login