I recently shared some info on why we would be wanting to plant a church in the Fox Valley (Appleton area). You can find that post by clicking HERE. However, I thought it would be beneficial to back up a bit and share why do we even bother planting churches at all. I haven’t even started planting a church yet, and already I’ve had numerous people ask me, “Why do you think we need more churches?” or, “Aren’t there enough churches already?” or, “Can’t we just invest in the churches we already have?” My dad, elders at church, my friends, and even the dog (not really) have asked me one or more of those questions.
Obviously, I would not be writing this if I didn’t believe in the necessity and the need for church planting, however the questions people close to me have raised are legitimate questions. It is my belief that church planting is not merely an effort to establish “one more church”, but is the obedience of Christ’s Great Commission in Matthew Chapter 28. It is an effort that has four componenets:
Church Planting is…
- Evangelistic in its motivation
- Strategic in its implementation
- Historical in its practice
- Vital to Church renewal
Evangelistic in its motivation
In the book of Titus, Paul has sent Titus to the island of Crete to minister to a particularly brutish group of people. He even quotes Crete’s own poets, who call them, “liars, evil beasts, and lazy gluttons.” How does Paul commend Titus to minister among these people? He opens his letter by presenting the gospel, tells him to appoint elders in every city, and complete the work by teaching the people to live exemplary, attractive lives that flow out of a gratitude for the loving kindness and goodness of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
What kind of work was Paul calling Titus to? He was giving him a basic Pauline blueprint to plant a church! He tells him to preach the gospel (v.1-4), appoint leaders from those he preaches to (v.5), and to continue to preach the gospel to grow communities of people who believe the good news, grow into maturity as believers and live sent lives that continue to preach the gospel and live out the implications of the gospel in everyday life (the rest of the book).
Likewise Jesus, in chapter 28 of the Gospel of Matthew, tells his disciples to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Jesus is the orchestrator of the plan previously mentioned and used by Paul. He tells his disciples to make disciples, which obviously starts with preaching the good news about Jesus. We are then sent by Jesus to baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, which is to grow a community of believers (the church) and appoint leaders in that church. Lastly, we are to grow in maturity by teaching them all that Jesus commanded them. The best part is that this command is like the back of a shampoo bottle, we lather, rinse, and repeat until Jesus comes again!
Jesus and Paul make plain that planting the gospel is planting the church which is planting the gospel and planting the church again and again until the end of days. Tim Keller states, “Only a person who is being evangelized in the context of an on-going worshipping and shepherding community can be sure of finally coming home into vital, saving faith.” Church planting is a call to continually preach and share the good news about Jesus Christ (evangelism) through the context of a worshipping community. Only by multiplying the number of churches through church planting, through the power of the Holy Spirit and for the glory of God, can we hope to make the good news of Jesus Christ known throughout the neighborhoods, cities, and nations. I’m sure there is a Peter Wagner quote somewhere for this.
Strategic in its implementation
Not only is church planting an effective evangelistic strategy, but when strategically implemented, it is an effective vehicle for making new disciples among members of the community that most need the gospel and need a church family. Those people in a community tend to be new generations, new residents, new people groups, and the un-churched.
In any given community, as younger and emerging generations move into or grow up in a community, churches that reflect more of the ideals and culture of that generation tend to attract their kind to that type of church. Culturally, we need different expressions of church for the different generational cultures in our nation. For example, a church in my town that was started twenty years ago is most likely to have my parents attending it, who are in their late 40s. A church that was started two years ago is more likely to attract someone from my generation (i.e. my friends) as compared to the church that was originally geared to reach my parents when they were my age. As newer congregations spring up, there is always a greater amount of younger people to be found in those churches.
Likewise, newer churches are bound to attract new residents to their churches and given more leadership and influence faster. As Tim Keller states, “ In older congregations, it may require a tenure of 10 years before you are allowed into places of leadership and influence.” Newer churches (church plants) put a premium on being able to mobilize new members quickly and get them to be a vital part of the church. It only makes sense that a church with a more fluid minor league system tends to attract brand new members of the community the church is a part of (whether they are believers or not-yet-believers).
These new members might not only be the dominant socio-economic or cultural group , but might also be members of new people groups as a result of immigration or shifting economic conditions. Instead of waiting for existing churches to either adapt or wait for the cultural group to assimilate into the existing culture, church planting is strategic to plant the gospel among these people immediately, and reap a harvest among those God has brought to the community. This can also be true if a community changes from Blue Collar to White Collar or service oriented (i.e. Rust Belt cities), and a church plant is more effective reaching these people instead of a church positioned to reach the previous socio-economic majority.
The last point is by far the most compelling, as we long to see people who do not know Jesus Christ know him and walk in relationship with him. Overwhelming evidence shows that church plants are strategically effective at reaching and evangelizing the un-churched. The following is a small sampling of the many researched statistics that evidence the necessity and effectiveness of church planting among the un-churched:
- No county in America has a greater church population than it did ten years ago.
- There are now nearly 60 percent fewer churches per 10,000 persons than in 1920
- In 1920 27 churches existed for every 10,000 Americans
- In 1950 17 churches existed for every 10,000 Americans
- In 1990 11 churches existed for every 10,000 Americans
- The number of US adults who do not attend church has doubled since 1991.
- Today, of the approximately 350,000 churches in America, four out of five are either plateaued or declining
- There are over 100 million Americans who have no contact with a church and 85 million of them do not believe in Jesus Christ
- One Christian denomination recently found that 80%of its converts came to Christ in churches less than two years old
- The average new congregation will bring 6-8 times more new people into the life of the Body of Christ than an older congregation of the same size
Being able to reach and grow the church among the un-churched is critical to Jesus’ Great Commission. The disciples who were sent out by Jesus had this task, since everyone they were making disciples of would have been un-churched! Why are we to expect anything different of ourselves? If we are making disciples among the un-churched, they will likely have un-churched friends and family and so will they and it creates a rippling effect of the Spirit working as He did among the 1st century church we read about in Acts!
It’s no wonder Peter Wagner said something you have all heard before! Church planting is a highly effective strategy to reach the un-churched. If we are truly serious about starting a movement of churches that long to see the gospel resonate in the hearts of people and people groups that are not a part of the church, then we should be very serious about starting more churches through church planting.
I will address the last two points in my next post. Until then, the gist of the beginning on this material is found over at Tim Chester’s blog. You can click the vocabulary word for today and read his blog series, “Titus for Church Planters.”
Obliquity [oh-blik-wi-tee] noun – divergence from moral conduct, rectitude; immorality