“The single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planting new churches,” according to Peter Wagner (1990). This oft-quoted phrase by the former professor of Church Growth at Fuller Theological Seminary preceded a growing number of books, articles, blogs and ministries dedicated toward church planting.
Denominations and mission boards are investing much time, money and personnel into church planting. Networks of churches, like Stadia, ARC, Acts 29 and New Thing Network and NAMB have come together for the primary purpose of planting new churches.
Why is there so much interest in church planting?
1. People Need the Gospel
New Churches make disciples more proficiently than established churches (Matthew 28:16-20). Stuart Murray established the first accredited university church planting and evangelism degree in the United Kingdom. Murray believes that new churches draw converts and unchurched people into their congregations. He believes church planting is crucial to reaching people.
Church plants reach different people groups. The Great Commission mandated that disciples were reached among all nations, not just the Galileans who were gathered. Church plants can reach a whole different demographic of people by strategically positioning ministries poised to serve the community in fresh and effective ways.
2. Communities Need Churches of Reconciliation
More education, more sports options, more parks, more community centers or more gun laws do not answer the brokenness in the community. The real need in a community is a reconciled relationship with God through Jesus.
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, (Ephesians 2:13-15, ESV, emphasis added)
David T Olson said in his book, The American Church in Crisis, that every state in the US has experienced a decline in church attendance percentage. Planting new churches is Olson’s main solution to this church attendance decline in America. He claimed that denominations needed to plant at least two percent of the total number in the denomination to keep pace with population growth (Olson, 2008). Olson warned that if the evangelical church wanted to survive, established churches “must courageously strive towards health and growth” and they must “actively plant new churches” while denominations support the local congregations in these essential church-planting endeavors (Olson, 2008).
3. God Needs Laborers for His Harvest
Jesus saw the crowds of people who were like sheep without a shepherd. His response was for the disciples to pray for more harvesters (Matthew 9:35-38).
Our God is a sending God whose harvesters gather His people together to send them into other places to gather and scatter. God sent His Son Jesus into the world to save and redeem it from the curse placed upon all mankind. Jesus sent the church as laborers to make disciples of people of all nations. Where this is practiced and adhered as the battle cry of Jesus, more churches will be necessary to handle the births of new believers.
4. Christ, the Head of the Church, Needs a Body
It seems heretical to say that Christ needs anything. But Christ chose to use His spiritual body as the means to represent Himself to the world. The local church is a representative of Christ’s body in that community. To call a church’s mission “incarnational” (as some do) is somewhat belittling to the incarnation of God as Jesus.
A better term may be representational (as Andreas Kostenberger said). This simply means that the church embodies the Spirit, words and activities of Jesus Christ, especially amongst those in the community. The incarnation of God was fully accomplished by sending Jesus in a human body to live among humans in order to seek and to be able to save them from their sins. The new church plant seeks to become Christ’s representative in a specific local community or region. A church does not exist just for its own interests; it exists for the greater good of the community in which it resides—and that to bring glory to God. To properly represent Christ, a church embeds itself into the community with the clear message of hope through the One who can save them from their sins (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).
5. The Local Church Needs a Reproducing Mission
Aubrey Malphurs believes that the secret to a vibrant Christianity is a pregnant church, culminating in reproduction. He emphasized the importance of a sending church preparing itself for reproduction (Nuts and Bolts of Church Planting, Malphurs, 2011). As a church is developing leaders, clarifying vision, sending people and resources, articulating doctrines and strategizing for mission, it will have a spiritual vibrancy accompanying these pre-birth activities.
In a scientific research project done in a PhD dissertation researching 624 SBC churches that had planted a church, attendance rose 21.5% for the five years after a church plant. Additionally, monetary growth was favorable in 7 of the 8 variables tested, including designated gifts (77% increase) and tithes (48%). (Source: Jeffrey C. Farmer, 2007).
A church on mission prioritizes its sending capacity over its seating capacity. This reproductive generosity brings health to the mother church as well as to the baby churches.
Five follow-up questions are in order once a person or church understand the five reasons why church planting is beneficial:
- Who? Who are the next planters, the senders, and the support team?
- Where? Where is a strategic location for the plant?
- When? When will the church plant begin gathering and launching?
- What? What resources of people, money, technology, and training will the sending church provide?
- How? How will the church planter relate to and be encouraged by the sending church?