I believe that church planting is the most effective way to lead a church and impact the world. Peter Wagner, in Church Planting for a Greater Harvest, states that:
“the single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planting new churches.”
For this reason, it is my desire to plant a church, that in time, will aggressively plant hundreds of churches around the world. Church planting is the best chance we have, not just to grow the church, but to reach the lost.
Most churches would say that they are trying to reach the lost yet church attendance continues to decline. It is evident that we are not reaching our culture quick enough. The number of people who have never been to church (the unchurched) is said to be greater than the those who have. Recent research states that there are now 195 million unchurched people in America, making America one of the top four largest “unchurched” nations in the world.
On top of that, several researchers claim that 80% of existing churches in America are plateaued or dying and every year, roughly“4,000 churches close their doors forever; while only 1,100 to 1,500 new churches are started.”
••• america has more people but fewer churches
Many people are under the mistaken assumption that there are more than enough churches in our cities and communities. But there are actually not enough churches to reach and respond to the needs of those communities.
On top of that, churches are continuing to decline.
The number of new churches in America has increased by 50% in the last century, but the population has increased 300%. So, even though America has more people, it has fewer churches per capita than at any time in her history.
In 1920, 27 churches for every 10,000 Americans.
In 1950, 17 churches for every 10,000 Americans.
In 2004, 11 churches for every 10,000 Americans.
And this, is the most alarming statistic to me… “Half of all existing churches will not add one new member through conversion growth this year”. NOT ONE! Surveys and research have consistently shown that our culture views the church as largely out of touch, old-fashioned, insensitive and even hateful or bigoted. We have a wonderful opportunity to reach the unchurched, but in order to reach them, we must combat the thinking and actions of the “over-churched”. I envision a church that embraces and loves our culture and reaches out to the lost — just as Jesus reached out to tax collectors and prostitutes. We need new churches who contextualize and use innovative and culturally-relevant methods to reach culture while retaining a strong, biblical, Christ-centered gospel message.
••• why plant? – we must!
And so, the question we began with was, “Why plant a new church?” The bottom line is that churches are dying at an alarming rate, our culture is drastically changing, and many of our established churches simply cannot — and will not — engage this rapidly growing generation and culture for Christ. The studies show that we need to plant thousands of missional churches every year, just to keep up with the growth. We know that new missional church plants can and do make a difference. It’s time to get on mission and reach post-modern Americans for Jesus!
Studies show that “on a per-capita basis, new churches win more people for Christ than established churches. Churches that are under 3 years old, win an average of 10 people to Christ for every 100 members, churches that are 3-15 years old win an average of 5 people to Christ for every 100 members, and churches that are over 15 years old win an average of 3 people to Christ for every 100 members.
Therefore, it seems clear that “the newer a congregation, the more effective that church is in reaching those who don’t know Christ.” For this reason we will plant a new church, of excited Jesus followers who engage our city by sharing the gospel, discipling new believers, and training them to take their new found love for Jesus and begin new churches to reach more communities. The strength of our vision will be in always looking forward and thinking where the next church plant will be. Jack Dennison writes, “Overwhelming evidence shows that the single road leading to community transformation is, if properly understood, saturation church planting.”
If we want to reach the lost, if we want to influence culture, we must think contextually and strategically and plant all kinds of churches for all kinds of people. Charles Chaney, former head of Southern Baptist Home Mission Board, said:
“America will not be won to Christ by existing churches, even if they should suddenly become vibrantly and evangelistically alive. Nor will the United States be won to Christ by establishing more churches like the vast majority of those we now have.”
In closing, I believe church planting is key for many reasons. If we desire to genuinely reach the marginalized and unchurched for Jesus, then we MUST plant new churches. However, I also appreciate the many fears and unknowns that accompany planting a new church. For that reason I would like to share a quote from a recent report on the survivability of new churches. The entire report, entitled Church Planting Survivability and Health Study can be found on our website atwww.missiodei.co/topics/planting.
“‘Statistics’ randomly and regularly quoted have led many to believe that 80 percent of church plants fail in the first year. However, a recent study by the Center for Missional Research showed considerably more favorable results. Twelve denominations and networks participated in the study with over 1,000 church plants’ status of existence determined. With more than 500 completed interviews, the study reveals that 99 percent of church plants survive the first year, 92 percent the second year, 81 percent the third year, and 68 percent the fourth year.”