Roundtable interview with Chad Rieselman, Dan Trippie, Christopher Baldwin, and Ryan Kozey
Have you ever wondered how many churches actually meet for worship services on a Sunday morning in Buffalo, the surrounding suburbs, even in the whole region of Western New York? Do we really need more locations and opportunities for people to hear the gospel? After all, how many people live in this region who still need a church home? The Church of WNY took a serious, prayerful look at these and other questions before developing the Church Planting Initiative (CPI).
On Mission had the opportunity to connect with several members of the CPI selection team who will better introduce us to this crucial initiative and what is happening in our region.
On Mission: What is the Church Planting Initiative and why is it needed?
Chad Rieselman: CPI is an outcome of the collaboration of all the churches involved in everything that God has been doing through the Church of Western New York. There was already momentum in church planting through a collaboration of efforts of the greater kingdom work of a few churches.
Ryan Kozey: Over the past eight to ten years, we’ve seen roughly 25 churches planted throughout the region, which essentially has given us a beachhead of one church plant for every 50,000 people. CPI is designed to plant churches in greater Body partnership here in our region. The significance is the churches that have been planted possess an intention to see that every man, woman, and child has repeated opportunities to hear, see, and respond to the gospel message of Jesus Christ. . . . Ultimately, we desire to see one church expression for every 1,000 people in this region, with that particular DNA. We have a lot of work to do, and this offers us a synergistic opportunity to do this with great intentionality together.
On Mission: How is CPI different from traditional church planting? What are the benefits and challenges you see in CPI’s approach?
Dan Trippie: CPI seeks to maintain a delicate balance of diversity and unity among partners. Many church planting movements can be monolithic; they seek to plant only one style of church. CPI is unique because we partner to plant churches that are one in the gospel, but different in form and tradition. We have partnered with Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist, Wesleyan and non-denominational churches. What unites CPI is an understanding of the gospel and a conviction that every man, woman, and child should have an opportunity to receive or reject the gospel.
Chad Rieselman: Another great benefit of CPI is our ability to resource church plants and planters with a larger network of support and relationships that go beyond the building of the team and the launch of the church. It's more than just cash resources. It's assessing, training where needed, and partnerships in ministry that go far into the future. There can be challenges to such a high level of collaboration across denominational lines for obvious reasons. However, the wide bandwidth of Church traditions and backgrounds that sit around the leadership table are creatively able to navigate those differences so that our ability to build the kingdom is not limited by concerns about compromising our convictions or crossing core doctrinal lines.
On Mission: What are greater Body partnerships and how key are they to church planters?
Ryan Kozey: Most church planters don’t realize how much they need partnership until they actually transition from dream phase to action phase. We have been around long enough to understand this need. While the planter might not know that in praxis, we are there for them when they discover that reality. We have more than 40 churches in the region that want to plant churches together. It is incredible to have that sort of base to build on. The cohort of relationships emerging from this intentional effort has been incredibly exciting!
Christopher Baldwin: A greater body partnership like the one we are seeing in Western New York sets a culture and atmosphere that encourages risk for there is a greater network of support. Just as prayer begets more prayer, church planting begets more church planting. Also, once you have church planting associations, networks, and denominations discovering the partnership and kingdom culture that exist in WNY, I believe they will be looking to send their very best to begin new works in our region.
On Mission: Could you tell us about the most interesting church planter application you received?
Chad Rieselman: There was so much passion in what God was leading so many of these folks to do. There was one application that sort of spelled out how God wanted to provide not just a church but an entire medical campus. You can imagine the kind of resources that that would take, but you might not imagine the boldness of someone to actually go ahead and believe that God could provide that through something like CPI.
Christopher Baldwin: I guess for me, it was the application of the Anglican Church. John Wesley, from whom our denomination derives its origin, was for all of his life an Anglican. He sought to bring reform to this very traditional church. I am excited to see how God will use a traditional form, which many people are used to from their upbringing, to reach people of the region. I am excited about all the work God is doing in our region.
On Mission: What did you find compelling about the church planters who were approved for CPI? What singled them out from the other applicants?
Dan Trippie: Clarity and conviction. Planting a church is hard work –really, hard work! At the beginning of a church plant, people are excited and expectations are high. It is not long before one realizes the hard work of preaching, exhorting, praying, and evangelizing. False conversions, spiritual warfare, the loss of people, and constant pressure begin to take a toll on the church planter and his family. Conviction and clarity on the gospel keep a planter plowing in the hard soil.
Christopher Baldwin: Two things that are the most important, in my mind, are vision and plan. The first was church leaders who seem to have a good vision for what they saw developing as a church. The second was the most strategic and effective plans for how to get the work of church planting done.
On Mission: Over the next five years, how do you see the vision of CPI fleshed out and possibly change local church planting and genuinely impact the overall “lostness” of WNY?
Ryan Kozey: Well, first off, I think that we must realize that the goal for the region is the saturation of the gospel. Church planting isn’t the goal, but it’s a way that gets us to the goal. We want to be careful not to put church planting at the center of our strategy. That being said, it’s an important part. Over the next five years, especially if we increase in the diversity of planters throughout the region, I am confident that we will increase the saturation of the gospel throughout the efforts of those who are connected to CPI. God ultimately controls what happens with “lostness.” My prayer though—that as we saturate, hearts are drawn from all over by the irresistible grace of God. I think that CPI is going to be a strategic part of that process.
by Amy Tartick
Editor’s note: This interview first appeared in On Mission magazine—an annual publication of The Chapel. It has been edited to fit our format and is reprinted here with permission.