Image for Renew Church Planting: You Can Join the Movement! (Part 1 – Interview with Brett Andrews)

Renew Church Planting: You Can Join the Movement! (Part 1 – Interview with Brett Andrews)

Photo of Brett AndrewsBrett Andrews | Bio

Brett Andrews

Brett is the founding pastor of New Life Christian Church in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington DC. Since launching in 1993 New Life has grown to be multi-site and has helped support 240 new church plants. They’ve also built a national church planting ministry Passion for Planting that has impacted countless other church plants by providing Assessment, Training, Project Management and Coaching, and by shaping Exponential into what it is today. New Life also runs the nZone, an indoor recreational facility, which allows over 400,000 Washingtonians to experience the love of God every year before they know it’s God’s love they are experiencing. Brett’s greatest blessing on earth is his wife of 29 years, Laura, and their four children. He enjoys sailing, coaching baseball, and his beagle, who will eagerly greet you by wetting the floor.

We are excited to announce Renew Movement—a church planting movement that is being birthed in partnership with Renew Network. Brett Andrews and Todd Wilson are two key catalysts for this new movement. Brett himself is a church planter, planting New Life Church thirty years ago in Northern Virginia. His church has gone on to help plant around 300 churches. Todd Wilson is the founder and former CEO of Exponential Church Planting Network. Under Todd’s leadership, Exponential regularly hosted the largest gatherings of church plant leaders in the world (we will interview Todd in Part 2).

Q. Brett, tell us the why behind Renew Movement?

I believe in Renew. As God placed Esther in just the right time and just the right place to accomplish God’s purposes with his people, many of us believe God has birthed the vision for Renew for such a time as this.

Renew exists to be the voice for a disciple-making movement based on the teachings of Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 14:8, Paul asks, “If the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?” (NIV). Since launching, Renew continually hears people say, “Where have you been?”

“Since launching, Renew continually hears people say, ‘Where have you been?'”

However, Renew will not achieve her redemptive calling without being a catalyst for a church-planting movement. Renew is committed to discipleship based on the teachings of Jesus. Jesus commanded his followers to “go make disciples of all nations.” Obedience to Jesus’ teaching means making disciples in new locations, which means starting new churches in those locations.

Q. Tell us what happens when churches stop planting churches.

It is no accident that the book of Acts can easily be read as a history of church planting. The Acts narrative follows Jesus’ vision described in Acts 1:8: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Can you imagine those early disciples hearing Jesus’ instructions and then saying, “We are committed to making disciples in our Jerusalem church, but no one can expect us to start churches in places like Antioch, Galilee, and Rome”? In fact, modern Christians often condemn the Jerusalem church for not being more aggressive. One popular observation is, “When you don’t obey Acts 1:8, you get Acts 8:1, where the church was forcibly scattered.”

So, Renew was born pregnant with a church-planting mission. Obedience to Jesus’ teachings demands that we start new churches. Alignment with Jesus’ heart compels us.

Q. How is church planting different today than 30 years ago?

The driving force of church planters for thirty years in North America has been that there is no more effective means of reaching lost people than starting new churches. Since disciple making begins with reaching the lost, every church committed to multiplying disciples will necessarily be devoted to starting new churches. Committing to making disciples who make disciples without committing to starting new churches is like committing to communication without using letters. It can be done, but effectiveness will be limited. This is why Renew will ignite movements of disciple makers based on the teachings of Jesus who will necessarily produce the fruit of church-planting movements based on the teachings of Jesus.

“Renew will ignite movements of disciple makers based on the teachings of Jesus who will necessarily produce the fruit of church-planting movements based on the teachings of Jesus.”

When I was a kid, church planting meant taking three families to a distant town, starting a Sunday morning service, and hoping that by the 25th anniversary 200 people will call that church home. Or, church planting meant that the Smith family got angry at the Jones family at First Church. In response, the Smith’s developed a “coalition of the angry at First Church” who then started another church 10 miles down the road. Much has changed in the last thirty years.

More recently, church planting has developed a cadre of its own. In the past 30 years, church planting has moved from a handful of independent wildcatters starting small, struggling churches into a movement flooded with large numbers of books, conferences, coaches, and supporting organizations.

Q. What are the basics of church planting that have emerged in the last 30 years?

We can summarize the basics with the “Ps” of planting. To plant, you need a Person to lead, a Place, Prayer, Provision (especially financial), and a Plan. Candidly, if a church started with four out of five “Ps” in place (to this day, most are weak on the Plan), they were cooking with petrol. The consensus in many places in the previous 25+ years was that most were comfortable when churches upheld the infallibility of Scripture, the necessity of salvation through Jesus, and the priority of following Jesus’ teachings. Effective leadership and good church-planting strategies really helped new churches to be effective.

However, we don’t live in 1992 anymore. The tectonic cultural plate shifts that have touched everyone’s lives in the past 30 years have completely changed the way we need to start new churches.

Q. Explain how things have changed recently.

Thirty years ago, if a planter committed to starting a Bible-believing church, we knew the kind of church that would be planted. This assumption no longer holds. Today, a planter may commit to start a church in agreement with fundamental biblical theology, and two years after the church is planted come under the influence of a popular, progressive thinking.

“Today, a planter may commit to start a church in agreement with fundamental biblical theology, and two years after the church is planted come under the influence of a popular, progressive thinking.”

The worst-case scenario, of course, is the independent church planters who uncritically follow the culture. But it’s easy to do. In 2012, President Barack Obama opposed same-sex marriage. Today, to oppose same-sex marriage is to be called a “hater.” If parents do not support their child’s new gender-identity, some legislators today want to make the parents criminally liable. When all the cool kids in church-world go soft on sin, it is hard for some to resist the appeal of the inner-circle (to borrow a phrase from C.S. Lewis). Without strong support, coaching, and accountability from a larger family of churches, young planters lead once-biblical churches to practice heresy.

As I said, we are not living in 2012 anymore.

One other common scenario needs to be addressed. Historically, Christian Churches and Church of Christ have prided themselves in local autonomy. As a result, we plant locally independent churches. Local autonomy works as long as there is solid, mature, biblically-minded leadership. Most new churches establish elderships within the first five years of a church plant. Who will serve as elders? Sometimes, elders will be found among a few who were led to Christ at the church. Often, elders will be found in more seasoned followers who come out of denominational churches.

It takes little imagination to figure out what will happen when the original church planter leaves. Whom will the elders select to be the next minister? Without an unusually strong tie to the original church or church planting organization, the elders will follow the path of least resistance. So, while independent Christian Churches may have invested $250,000 to start the church, within a few years a lead minister from another denomination is hired. What happens? Ten years after starting a church committed to the teachings of Jesus, that church is now committed to other teaching.

“There is actually something worse than not starting new churches.”

There is actually something worse than not starting new churches. That is, starting churches that in 10 years are not faithful to the stewardship of the churches invested in them. Even worse than that is starting churches that in 20 years teach heresy, convincing people they are following Christ when their hearts are far from him.

This is why I believe that God has raised up Renew for such a time as this. Starting churches with only five “P’s” has exposed a void. The void is the need for biblical clarity, family accountability, and mission alignment.

Q. Explain what you mean when you describe the need for biblical clarity?

When a new church and planter commit to start a “Bible-based” church, the commitment is only as solid as the definitions are clear. I discovered a church recently that advertised that they were “Bible-centered.” What does that mean? Read their website. You’ll discover it means that they are committed to the Social Gospel. In a world where to be “Bible-centered” can mean to interpret the Bible through a neo-Marxist lens, we need to clarify definitions.

Renew Movement is committed to starting new churches that are committed to Renew’s faith statement. Not only does the planter agree to align with the Renew faith statement, but the church’s founding documents make the commitment to Renew theology.

“Not only does the planter agree to align with the Renew faith statement, but the church’s founding documents make the commitment to Renew theology.”

“Isn’t this denominationalism?” some might ask. What about “no creed but Christ”? First, it’s not denominationalism because to be a denomination means so much more than agreeing to a faith statement.

Second, many have abused the Campbell’s “no creed but Christ” principles for too long. In his Declaration and Address, Thomas Campbell wrote, “That although doctrinal exhibitions of the great system of Divine truths… be highly expedient… they ought not to be made terms of Christian communion….” Please note that Campbell did not say, “No Creeds Ever!” Just the opposite. Campbell argued that the more full and explicit our doctrinal systems are, the better. His point is that they must not be used to say, “You are not a Christian if you disagree.”

From the start, the purpose of Renew theology has never been divisive. In harmony with historic Christianity, Renew’s theological stance has been that in essentials and matters of faithfulness, we must be unified; but, in areas of opinion, diversity is honored. However, when starting a new church, theological cloudiness encourages theological floundering (this is one lesson from the first centuries of the church). For long-term health, we start new churches united on the clear theology outlined by Renew. Not only does this help churches build on the solid foundation of Jesus; it is responsible stewardship.

Q. What do you mean by family accountability?

After Peter baptized Cornelius in Caesarea Maritima, he was challenged by some for having baptized a Gentile. In response, Peter didn’t argue for apostolic independence or deny church authority. He did not go to church leaders in Caesarea or Antioch, but he submitted himself to the authority of the Jerusalem church, the church that sent him. Even Peter recognized the need for accountability.

When a new church is started today, there is still a role for a “Jerusalem church.” Even though Peter had direct revelation from Jesus, the Jerusalem church gave spiritual coverage and accountability. Once local eldership was firmly established, the need for accountability to the Jerusalem church lessened. Yet natural affiliations still led to mutual accountability. Paul’s letters to the church in Corinth served to hold all churches accountable, for instance. Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus connoted an accountability for organizational ordering in every church of the day.

“When a new church is started today, there is still a role for a ‘Jerusalem church.'”

While local autonomy is biblical, church independence is not. Rugged individualism is no more biblical than the denominationalism so many fear. The New Testament church demonstrates that churches can be locally autonomous in authority while enjoying a healthy accountability to the broader family of Christ. If theological drift were never a threat, perhaps indulging in Western rugged individualism could be tolerated. However, today we live in a first-century environment where doctrine is constantly challenged by those inside and outside the church.

Thus, Renew Movement churches are started with a commitment to Renew theology. These churches are started by churches committed to Renew theology. These founding churches serve as a Jerusalem-type founding church to give the theological accountability that comes from being part of the church family. Naturally connected to Renew from the start, these new churches will connect with other Renew associated churches. These relationships can be lifesaving.

“Naturally connected to Renew from the start, these new churches will connect with other Renew associated churches. These relationships can be lifesaving.”

Over the past five years, we have coached many church planters who were being tossed around by various winds of popular doctrine. “Should we have women elders?” “Is eternal security conditional or unconditional?” “Should we baptize active homosexuals?” “Does the Bible propagate the patriarchy?” Without a Renew family to lean on, many churches and pastors would not have weathered the storm. Renew church plants are born into a family of solid biblical faith so no planter has to walk alone.

Q. What do you mean by mission alignment?

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing,” the old axiom says. Yet, how hard is it to keep the main thing the main thing? As Phil Ling so often says, “Vision is a bucket with a hole in it. It constantly leaks.” Vision leaks. Mission drifts. The history of Israel shows us how hard it is to keep the main thing the main thing. Israel receives the Law from Moses, and within days, they are worshiping golden calves. A few years later, Joshua is having to challenge them to “choose this day,” because so many of them have lost sight of “the main thing.”

Jesus gave us the main thing: “Go and make disciples…” Jesus taught not only in words, but by example. So, we make disciples. That’s what we do. Renew ignites disciple-making action based on Jesus’ teaching. Brandon Guindon and Bobby Harrington have created a disciple-making statement that provides the ideal for which we strive (see Renew Disciple Making Commitments here).

“Renew ignites disciple-making action based on Jesus’ teaching.”

Renew church plants say, “Our core commitment is to Jesus-style disciple-making.” In her founding documents, the new church will affirm this commitment. Annually, each church planter will reaffirm this alignment.

Q. What is meaningful to you personally about Renew Movement?

In the mid-1990’s, the church where I serve started a new church. Todd Wilson joined our staff to be our executive minister and to lead this initiative. Not long into the project, Todd and I began to notice one unforeseen reality of giving birth to a new church: you tend to reproduce like-kind. (I realize that for most readers, this doesn’t seem like an earth-shaking profundity. So, please be understanding of our slowness.). We called this the “Xerox principle.” Our copier machine was a Xerox. Place an original on the Xerox, and you will notice something profound: the copy is never superior to the original. In fact, in those days the copy would show some element of degradation from the original.

The lesson from thirty years of starting new churches is that the new church is rarely superior in form or substance from the founding church. (As Jesus said, “No student is superior to his teacher.”) Renew cannot be faithful to making disciple-making disciples without a commitment to starting churches that start churches. Renew church planting exists because there is something better than having a lazy hope for healthy churches in the future. Renew church planting exists because we are responsible to reproduce biblically-strong, disciple-making churches for the next generation and beyond.

Will you join us?

For more information about how you can become a Renew church planting church, contact