One of the visions for a healthy church is to reproduce itself by planting a new congregation where more people can experience the life and joy that they have in another place.
There was a healthy and dynamic church in Corvallis, Oregon called Morningstar that had such a vision. People were getting saved and healed and the church thrived in the college-town atmosphere. As they grew, they began to attract people from the surrounding areas. The pastor and his leadership team prayed about raising up a group of believers to go down to Eugene, another college town, and start a second church that could reproduce the results of itself. Several couples in the congregation felt led into this new endeavor.
My younger brother attended Oregon State University in Corvallis around this time and his walk with God went from weak to super-charged through the influence of the Morningstar church. My parents began traveling to Corvallis every Sunday morning to see what God was doing. Since the church expressed an interest in starting a new church in Eugene, my parents began hosting prayer meeting in our home in Eugene each week with people from Eugene and those who traveled down from Corvallis. It was an exciting time filled with prophecies and words from God.
After six or so months of this, the Corvallis church sent a group of people to Eugene, many of them relocating their families to the town, but some staying in Corvallis and making the commute each week. They rented out a storefront and held meetings in a music store. The Morningstar pastor also made the commute teaching Sunday morning in Corvallis and Sunday evening in Eugene. The worship leader traveled too and led one band in Corvallis and one band in Eugene. Each week the store had to be converted into a church and back to a store again, but everyone helped with much enthusiasm.
The tiny church plant immediately sprouted and began growing with 5, 10 and 20 new attendants each month. At its peak, the Eugene plant had upwards of 200 congregants. The side rooms were converted into Sunday school rooms for the children.
As time went by, the pastor never raised up leadership to replace either himself or the music minister. Things started to get messy in the church plant.
Several of the couples who had moved from Corvallis received various types of pastoral training based on the pastor's recommendation. While positions of authority where hinted at by the Corvallis-based pastor, none of the couples were given the authority to actually lead. Frustrated and confused, two-by-two the couples started dropping out of the church.
The music minister became weary of all the time taken by the 45-minute drive each way, each week and started coming less frequently leaving the worship to be run by the Eugene band members. He did not delegate leadership, so there were arguments among the band members over song choices, style, etc. There was also tension between those who had come from Corvallis and those who were newer from Eugene.
The Corvallis church also began to have problems and their attendance declined a little bit. Because money is related to turnout, there became budget shortfalls. Unbelievable as it may seem, the Corvallis church began taking some of the offering money from Eugene church to supplement the Corvallis music minister's salary. This created tension because the Eugene church was all volunteer-staffed.
The last year of the church plant the main pastor stayed in Corvallis and had three different men in the church take turns preaching each week. Neither was given authority over the other. While they practiced much patience with each other, there were talks among the congregants as to who would become the next pastor and factions were created. Each of the pastors had a different vision and a different style so people would want to know which was preaching which week and only attended then. The Eugene church's attendance dwindled to about 25 members.
Finally, the Corvallis pastor visited and officially handed over leadership to two of the three men. The two men were so weary at that time that they traveled to the church denomination offices in California to get some guidance. Upon arrival they found out that the denomination leadership knew nothing of the church plant in Eugene. The Eugene church-plant closed four years after it started and the pastor in Corvallis has also been replaced. The few people remaining in the church scattered out to different local churches.