To further its mission of planting Gospel-centered churches across the United States and around the world, the Matt Chandler-led Acts 29 has announced a bold new initiative, giving up to $50,000 to new churches started through its sponsorship in 2022.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Acts 29 Executive Director Brian Howard said the church planting network hopes to plant 30 churches this year. Each church plant will receive two $25,000 gifts within two years. The first sum will be gifted to assist with start-up costs, while the second will be awarded once the now-established church reaches a certain funding metric.
“One of the things that Acts 29 has not historically done is the direct funding of church plants,” Howard explained. “We've always done peer-to-peer church plant funding, where a church comes in and relationally connects with another church, or maybe connects with another church in their general area. While that kind of thing is still going to happen, we're also investing $750,000 this year, initially in North America, in the U.S., and likely Canada, and then we hope to eventually be able to expand this internationally as well.”
Currently, there are 724 churches in the Acts 29 network, spanning 44 different countries, and there are more than 500 candidates and applicants looking to join the network. Acts 29 describes itself as a “diverse, global community of healthy, multiplying churches characterized by theological clarity, cultural engagement, and missional innovation.”
The new initiative, Howard said, is essentially a “church planting mutual fund,” adding: “Our churches are giving a certain percentage of their budget into a common fund, and then we are doing as an organization, as a network of churches, a really robust assessment process, and we’re going to fund everybody who makes it through that assessment process.”
The assessment process, which typically takes about six months, is given to ensure every church affiliated with Acts 29 aligns with the network’s doctrinal and missional values, he posited.
“We have 11 core competencies that we feel like make for a successful church planter, and we’re going to go through those core competencies, we're going to ask a lot of questions about those core competencies,” Howard explained. “You're going to go through a couple of interviews, both as a church planter and a church planting couple and essentially, it culminates in a three-day assessment conference.”
“This is a process that has been developed over years, and we have five full-time people that work on it all the time, and we will assess and then fund the approved church planters that come all the way through that process.”
Already, Acts 29 has asked churches in their network to voluntarily commit extra dollars from their missions and outreach budgets to help churches — and the response has been “really, really positive.”
“There's a church in the Los Angeles area that is raising $200,000 to try to fix up their property,” Howard said. “They've got some problems in their parking lot and some broken plumbing lines have to be fixed because it's damaging the property. So they're having to raise $200,000, and they’re tithing off of that. They raised $75,000, and they called me and said, ‘We'd like to give $7,500 to this new church planting initiative.’”
“Churches are excited to participate; there’s not a good argument for why we shouldn’t do this,” he continued.
In 2014, Chandler, pastor of the Texas-based Village Church, assumed the role of president of Acts 29, and Howard became executive director of the network in May 2020 — just months after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization.
But despite the pandemic, Acts 29 saw significant success.
In 2021, Acts 29 Español and Acts 29 Urban were launched to start and grow Gospel-centered churches in diverse contexts. Also in 2021, Acts 29 announced a new partnership with Grimké Seminary, a diverse, reformed seminary solely devoted to training pastors for church ministry.
Howard explained that the network is dedicated to planting churches that are contextual to the places where they are. For example, in Winnemucca, Nevada, a city largely made up of miners, Acts 29 planted a church that meets in coal mines in the middle of the week instead of in a traditional setting.
“If you're planting a church in an inner-city context in the United States, you're having to deal with space issues and in political issues,” he contended. “If you're planting a church in a suburban area, it may be somewhat traditional still. We do not have one model; what we do is try to empower church planters and church planting teams to plant in a way that makes sense in their context.”
“We want to teach the Bible, we want to help people be in community, we want to serve our communities, and it’s going to look different depending on the context,” Howard continued. “We don’t provide a model, but we assess basic competencies and then send people out the plant in their contexts.”
Though the message of the Gospel never changes, the way it’s spread — and the manner in which churches are planted — is ever-changing, particularly in the wake of COVID-19. Howard told CP that the churches the network planted several years ago “are not the same kind of churches we’re going to be planting when church attendance is down by 20%, 30%, 40%.”
“We're still figuring out what the future looks like,” he said. “I think right now we have probably more questions than answers. We’re engaging in, what does the future of the church look like? What does the future of church planting look like? A lot of the churches that we planted three years ago weren't necessarily preparing for a new environment, and they're having to pivot at the last moment. They’re having to find different places to meet, figure out how to reach a community that is afraid to come to church, those sorts of things.”
But whatever the future holds, Howard stressed that Acts 29 is “really excited in terms of where we want to go.”
“We are super excited to continue to live in community with each other, to continue to plant churches together, and to continue to see people come to Christ because we’re planting churches,” he said.
“We've expanded outside of the U.S. to Europe and Australia and New Zealand and India and Latin America and Africa and Southeast Asia. We are no longer a network of just pastors or church planters. We're a global network of churches that are planting churches. We're excited about the mission that we get to be a part of.”
Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org