By Phil Henry, pastor of Mercy Hill Presbyterian Church (PCA) in South Jersey
I have been supported by Tenth Presbyterian Church since 2008. Tenth has given significant gifts to Mercy Hill, and while after 2009, their support lessened, it nevertheless has been a consistent reminder that they are behind the work of spreading the gospel through church planting in South Jersey.
Tenth’s involvement in church planting is costly. Some may feel that the money and time could be put to better uses. I have noticed, however, in spite of this pressure, Tenth is wise not to shy away from taking a regional responsibility for the propagation of the gospel of our Lord. Here are some reasons why:
First, investing in church planting brings gospel benefits to Tenth. Besides the spiritual rewards promised to those who give to kingdom purposes, church planting brings growth to the congregation of Tenth itself. Statistically, people who work in the city and live in New Jersey move back and forth across the bridges all the time. I can get to the front doors of Tenth quicker than many who travel to church from the Philly area suburbs. It isn’t uncommon for young families to raise their children in South Jersey, send their kids to college, and then see the adult children settle in the city and become part of Tenth as their own local, Bible-believing city church. The reverse also happens; families from Tenth will move to the Jersey suburbs and look for a local, Bible-believing and Reformed congregation.
Beyond this, Tenth’s investment in church planting makes sense for reasons of discipleship. For instance, in order for a Christian family living in Jersey to have maximum kingdom impact on its neighbors, they need to be able to invite them to church—still a strategic tool for everyday evangelism in our area. In my experience, unchurched or unbelieving neighbors won’t normally commute to church when that commute involves crossing the bridge and paying five dollars. While families are free to choose to worship at a church of their choice, we also need Christian families to choose to be part of local, mission-minded, gospel-centered New Jersey congregations.
Finally, Tenth’s investment in church planting has regional impact. Dr. Tim Keller has observed that church planting has a kind of revitalization effect on other churches. In the case of the New Jersey presbytery, since Tenth has begun investing in Mercy Hill, it has helped to catalyze a presbytery-wide renewal. As of this writing, three new church plants began in the last five years, with at least one or two more in the works. (All that from a presbytery that has only seven churches, and none are even a quarter of the size of Tenth.)
There is room for continued, increased partnership. Looking ahead, we have much work to do. Recently in a meeting with Dr. Liam Goligher, I was able to share with him how we established our own elders last spring. We are growing and expanding to improve our current facilities. We are making plans to establish a Reformed University Fellowship campus ministry at Rowan University. These are just a few examples of what God is doing today in our church.
I was encouraged in his response and how he sees the work of Mercy Hill as a strategic gospel outpost. While Mercy Hill is a different expression of “church” meeting in a different location, we share the same, vital mission of proclaiming the truth of the Word of God, in word and deed to the communities in which we live, soli deo gloria.
That is the ultimate point, isn’t it? Tenth is wise to invest in church planting—for the glory of God.