FORTVILLE — When a Fortville pastor starting a new church needed a worship leader, a volunteer from another church filled in for a season.
Another time, the volunteer’s church had acquired a building for a new church campus in Irvington. Emerge Church in Fortville was on the giving end that time, sending people to saw boards and hang drywall to help the other church remodel the space.
This culture of helping meet needs among fellow congregations is part of the heartbeat of Multiply Indiana, a network of churches with an aim of “helping church plants that happen in Indiana be better supported,” said Josh Husmann, lead pastor of Mercy Road Church in Carmel, which started the network.
Multiply Indiana leaders say the goal is “100 Churches over this decade & 1 Million Disciples in our generation,” according to the organization’s website. Church planting is a method toward that goal of one million, Husmann said, because “The fastest evangelism is starting new churches.”
He suggests that, contrary to the arguments some make, a new church in town does not simply draw congregants away from existing houses of worship. Instead, he said, as that new church gets out to meet people in the community, it often draws people who were not previously attending services anywhere.
Newer and established churches have joined together in Multiply Indiana to meet practical needs for churches starting out. Need volunteers at your kickoff to help set up or tear down? Need a guitar player to fill in on a certain Sunday? Often there’s a fellow church willing to oblige.
New churches can apply for grants up to $50,000 to help them get started. The network is also an avenue of professional development for the pastors launching churches, offering training sessions, retreats and encouragement.
“The biggest part is you’re not on your own,” said Curt Edmondson, lead pastor of Emerge Church in downtown Fortville. “You have others that are praying for you, cheering you on.”
Edmondson was buying a Suburban when he found out about the network. The man selling it to him was a worship leader of a church being planted on the west side of Indianapolis. When he heard about Emerge Church, the church Edmondson was launching, he told Edmondson about Multiply Indiana. Edmondson met with Husmann, shared the story of the Fortville church, and became part of the network.
Neither Emerge Church nor Mercy Road Church Northeast in Fortville, which is also part of the network, have sought grants from it. But their leaders see the value in the monthly training opportunities available to pastors.
“It’s just awesome,” Edmondson said. “We don’t see each other as competition at all.”
“You get to hang out with pastors from different traditions …,” said Ken Primeau, lead pastor of Mercy Road Church Northeast. “(We) have a mutual respect for these different denominations and expressions of the church.”
Primeau, also a board member of Multiply Indiana, said it wants church planters to already be part of a denomination or other church planting network, and that primary network can then do assessment with ministers and help with launch.
“We just want to come alongside,” he said. “We’re able to provide additional support.”
He’s seen that support take the form of finding someone to speak when a pastor needs someone to fill in. He recently connected a church in the Ingalls area, for example, with a church planter whose congregation has not yet started services and is available to cover a Sunday.
The church planting network is made up of partner churches who commit 3 percent of their annual giving toward Multiply Indiana and are willing to invite congregants to prayerfully consider joining a church plant launch team. Churches can also join as affiliates who give what they choose and participate in the pastors network. Individuals can become partners in the network as well.
Husmann said additional fundraising happens to make the training events possible, so that when people donate to Multiply Indiana, all those funds go toward the grants to new churches.
He said Multiply Indiana is its own nonprofit, not associated with any individual church. It’s comprised of suburban, inner city and rural churches, as well as churches that meet in apartment complexes. “There’s a number of different visions and plans that you’ll see in Multiply Indiana churches,” he said.
Participating churches are as far north as South Bend and as far south as Bloomfield; as more churches start in an area, they can develop a regional, closer-to-home hub for training.
Churches from around the state will gather in Indianapolis this summer for the annual March for a Million, where they’ll symbolically walk from different corners of downtown and meet at Monument Circle.
“At that event, we’ve had over 100 different churches represented,” Primeau said, “coming together, worshiping and praying for the state of Indiana.”
Year-round, this collaboration of churches “is just a fantastic match,” Edmondson said. “We are all Kingdom (of God)-minded. … We all pray for each other; we encourage each other.”
If you’re interested in planting a church or encouraging those who do, visit www.multiplyindiana.com. To find out more about the March for a Million, see www.marchforamillion.com.