With a population of around 1.2 million people, Erie and Niagara County make up the largest region in Western New York. Of that population, only about 10%, at best, attend an evangelical church of some sort. That’s a staggering 120,000 people out of more than one million that are connected to a local body. As the Church, those numbers should be troubling to us, as it represents a large number of this region that doesn’t know Christ.
What would it look like if all of Western New York were saturated with the Gospel? And how would that be accomplished? Now, there are many different factors that help to answer those questions, but a good place to begin is planting more churches. More expressions in areas where they are lacking, giving people an opportunity to hear, see, and respond to the Gospel.
The Church Planting Initiative, or CPI, was formed to identify those that are interested in planting churches and help strategize and give input to the larger picture of church expressions in our region. Church planting is nothing new in Western New York, but those that were doing it, were doing so independently. The question then became, “What would it look like to bring these groups together and partner towards seeing saturation happen?” By asking that, there become a much more intentional focus towards building relationships with each other and working together on the common goal of gospel saturation. Those relationships were a product of the Church Of Western New York.
CPI fully believes in the idea that church planting can only be done through kingdom partnership and much more can be accomplished together than could ever be accomplished separately. This mindset not only helped as they worked through strategy of church plants, but it helped in being able to resource new expressions effectively.
The process for church planting is not as simple as choosing a location and starting. There is a lot of time that goes into prayerfully considering the individual that is proposing a church plant, what other expressions exist in that area, and what it ultimately means for saturating all of WNY. The process begins with someone approaching the group with an RFP (Request for Proposal) to plant a church in a particular area along with the denomination it would fall under. The first, and most important step, is assuring that this plant comes from the right place. That the individual has a heart to see lives changed and recognizes a need in the particular area they will be occupying. From there, CPI works to help support that leader as they get the plant off the ground. This help consists of physical resources, guidance in logistical details, and tons of prayer. Once the plant is established, the prayer is that it would be an expression of the church that reaches into the community it has influence in and people would come to know Jesus.
The goal and hope for the Church Planting Initiative is to see all of Western New York saturated with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That every community making up this area would have a Gospel presence and that ultimately, lives would be changed.
To hear more about CPI, listen to our Saturation Podcast