Why Plant Churches? John Wesley and Foundations of Church Planting in the United States



I want the whole Christ for my Saviour, the whole Bible for my book, the whole Church for my fellowship, and the whole world for my mission field.
– John Wesley

In my previous post, I addressed some of the biblical moorings for church planting, specifically pointing out the Bible “case study” of Paul instructing his disciple, Titus, on planting church bodies on the island of Crete.  I also mashed fast-forward and looked at some of the current day strategic necessity of church planting in our American context.  There is a great need for more churches today, not only in other countries, but even right here at home.  

However, the strategic necessity of church planting has always been of importance. It is not something that the church has discovered for the first time in the 20th and 21st centuries, but church planting is a tried and true methodology for the proliferation of the gospel and the growing of the Church. Here in America the foundations of our most long-standing denominations have their roots in church planting movements.

The story of Jonathan Wesley and Methodism is a story that many of you will be familiar with. He was a large part of the “pietist” movement among frontier and colonial churches in America in the 18th century. However, it was his “circuit riding” and his titanic efforts to spread the Word of God on the American frontier that are legendary. He is said to have ridden thousands of miles every year, in whatever weather, until he was seventy years old. His goal, along with other Methodist and Baptist itinerant preachers, was the conversion of lost souls and the starting of new congregations in each town they went to. These men, long before the term was coined, were frontier church planters taking the good news to the people of America.

In 1820, even after Methodism and Baptists had taken root, there was one Christian church for every 875 U.S. residents. But through the efforts of Protestant church planters, that ratio by the start of WWI was just 1 church for every 430 persons. The church planting pace was so rapid, that in the late 1800s Methodist churches were averaging one new church per day. Despite that pace decelerating and church ratios having declined since then, what we can learn from Wesley’s and other’s efforts are that church planting is not some new fancy way for some guy to start a “new thing”, but is a tried and true historical method for the proliferation of the gospel and the continuation of God’s mission to save lost souls and make disciples of all nations.

“You have nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore spend and be spent in this work. And go not only to those that need you, but to those that need you most it is not your business to preach so many times, and to take care of this or that society; but to save as many souls as you can; to bring as many sinners as you possibly can to repentance.”
– John Wesley

I am praying for the fire and passion of Wesley as we gear up to plant, and also I am praying for you and others in America to obtain that same fiery passion for Jesus Christ and a love for the souls of those in our neighborhoods, cities, and nations around the world.  

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