G enerations Church is a church of less than 200 people on Sundays, but reaching the lost has become a part of who we are.
That culture has developed through Organic Outreach International, an organization that offers an approach to evangelism that’s natural and, well, organic. It’s “about living the kind of life that naturally draws people to Jesus,” the website explains. “It involves speaking the kinds of words that you use in ordinary conversations and that reveal the presence of a loving God. It means loving people in a way that is genuine.”
For us, this approach has been pivotal for the mission we believe God has given us.
A commitment to church planting
Let me back up a step and share some history. In January 2016, Generations Church was birthed out of an old traditional denominational church that ultimately closed its doors. We launched with a specific vision to plant churches. Most of the time, when you hear about a church-planting church, you hear about larger churches, often with 1,000 or more members, which send out people to new areas. For a church with that many members, sending out 30 people to plant a church is manageable. For us, with just 200 members, it is different.
We wanted to plant right from the beginning. Literally, on our first day as a church, we sent out a team of 35–40 people to start a church a few cities away. Our goal is always to be identifying leaders and teams who want to be spreading out across our city, county, state, and even country! Now, here is the struggle: how do you do this as a relatively small church with a big vision?
How we make it happen
Through our work with Organic Outreach International, we learned to view evangelism and outreach through every lens we have as a church. With that framework, suddenly our social media channels, children’s ministry, and Sunday services all become opportunities to reach lost people. That has enabled us to grow as new people come to faith, rather than as people merely transfer from other churches.
In this way, we have people coming to faith and coming to church. And those people catch our vision to multiply disciples, leaders, and churches.
The joys and challenges
I don’t want to make this sound like it has been painless, because it hasn’t been. The upside is that in 2019, Outreach Magazine recognized us as one of the top 100 multiplying churches in America. We were one of just a few churches on the smaller end of the spectrum. The downside is that to accomplish our vision we must be constantly raising up and sending out the best people if we hope to see new churches become sustainable.
We have seen a lot of people leave to become part of a team starting another church somewhere. These are people that we invested time in discipling and caring for. This cycle is a beautiful thing when we view it through the lens of the gospel, but it’s hard in the day-to-day church ministry. The presence of those people is missed, often in very tangible ways. Yet if it weren’t for each of our ministries constantly focusing on lost people coming to know Jesus, we would never be able to do what God has called us to do.
Now, as we approach our fourth anniversary as a church, we have sent out three different church plant teams, one of which has already sent out another church plant team from within their church. Recently we also sent out some people who are going to go help restart a struggling church in another state.
Being a church particularly focused on multiplication can be tough. We are in southern California, where people are leaving the state constantly. In order to keep up with those who move out of state, and to accomplish our vision of multiplying churches, we must constantly be growing outward.
Organic Outreach has provided us with a way to operate not just in our ministry as a church but in our lives, too. It has given us a lens by which we see ministry in every area of the church so that we can always see new people coming to faith. From there, we can teach people to engage the ministry of reaching other lost people.
The work is never easy, but it is rich and satisfying. May Jesus be glorified in all we do!
This article was also published in RCA Today, the Reformed Church in America’s denominational magazine.
Jeff Ludington is the lead pastor of Generations Church in Cerritos, California.