Church Starting: Where Do We Start?

As this article reaches your inbox we will be hosting the fourth gathering of our church plant, Grace International Church of Oslo. If it’s anything like our first three gatherings, a mixture of international families and single folks from churched and unchurched backgrounds will sit across the table from one another at our fellowship meal. When our bellies are full, we’ll learn from one another about the person and work of Jesus during our informal worship service. Despite all the awkwardness therein, this stage of planting an international church from scratch brims with beautiful potential.

But how did we get here? I’d like to invite you along part of my learning process, hoping and praying that God may be sowing seeds of international church multiplication in your heart.

The world you and I woke up in today is hurting, groaning for renewal. I’m convinced that starting new churches is the most strategic way for a hurting world to experience the Renewer, King Jesus himself. That’s true in monocultural settings and it’s true in the mobilized and multicultural setting of the international church. Tim Keller says that, “Nothing else—not crusades, outreach programs, parachurch ministries, growing megachurches, congregational consulting, nor church renewal processes—will have the consistent impact of dynamic, extensive church planting.” (For more on the why of church planting, you should read his short, powerful article)

Convinced of the strategic and biblical call to plant international churches, we have learned that there are relational, structural, financial, and other contextual questions to ask as you and your leaders prayerfully consider starting a church.


  • Is there a local church, network of churches, or denomination willing to support a new church plant?

  • Are there existing churches in the city serving the international community?

  • Would existing international churches in the target area view this church plant with a spirit of collaboration, indifference, or competition?

  • How would this church plant be different than existing international churches in the community?

  • Is there potential for a close relationship with an international school?

  • Does the church planter/pastor exist already, need to be developed internally, or need to be recruited from the outside?

  • Do members of a core team exist already?

International Infrastructure

  • Who makes up the target market (refugees, traditional expats, hidden immigrants, traditional nationals, students, etc.)?

  • What is the gravitational pull for the international community (school, commerce, oil, diplomacy, military base, missions, resettlement) and is it diversified across sectors or dependent on a few sectors?

  • How will infrastructure and transport stabilize or destabilize the international community in the future (urban sprawl, toll roads, trains, parking, projects)?

Financial Feasibility

  • Who provides the initial funding (missionary network, mother church, denomination, grants, etc.)?

  • Will the pastor/pastoral team be supported fully by the church? Does it plan for a bi-vocational pastoral model or a missionary model?

  • Can the target market reasonably support a pastor? Could the tithes and offerings of 20-30 individuals or families support a pastor within a target date?

  • How will congregants give (cash, electronic, multiple currencies, through partner churches/organizations)?

  • Are there tax incentives for non-profit giving in certain currencies? Can giving be facilitated in those currencies?

Further Context Questions

  • Is there a history of international church planting in the city?

  • Is there a spiritual openness in the target market and city?

  • How does the church planter obtain a visa and/or work credentials?

  • How will the church plant be formally legalized and internally governed?

  • What theological DNA will be core to the church and its governance?

  • What quality of life factors need to be considered for the church planter (health insurance and medical care, pension system, housing, schooling, language and cultural barriers)?

This list isn’t exhaustive nor is it meant to be an overwhelming obstacle. But it is a start. Perhaps it’s the start that you need as you and your church pray about and research your involvement in church planting. God has been using congregations of all shapes and sizes throughout the history of his church to grow his family, including churches just like yours. It’s a big, beautiful task, but thankfully there is no one more passionate and powerful to save his people than our God.

Andrew Lupton, MICN Church Starting Catalyst

Originally published at:

Used with permission.

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