Who Will Go To Scranton?

At least once a week I receive a call from an aspiring planter that includes a some variation of the following question…”where is the best place in America to plant a church?” When I probe to make sure I understand the question, almost without exception I discover that by “the best place to plant a church” they mean a “fast growing” typically suburban community where the time and money investment will be quickly recovered. Such reasoning certainly makes sense if the only consideration is going after the “low hanging fruit.”

A major problem with this approach is that everyone is doing it. Go to any fast growing suburban community and you will find a bunch of new church start ups.  Typically, these new start ups are pursuing a similar strategy… good marketing, excellence in presentation, relevance in message, cool brand… And so, in the “best place to plant in America” you end up with a group of planters playing a game of “our church is better than the other churches.” And only the very best survive. And as I’ve pointed out in other blogs, David Olson’s research indicates that when the dust settles they’ve mostly succeeded in playing a good game of musical pews.

So maybe a better question to guide our planting efforts is “where will I find the right place to plant a church?” Since there are unreached/disconnected people everywhere and God loves them all then it stands to reason that He’s not just calling multipliers to the fastest growing suburbs. He also cares about rural America, tough urban places and communities that aren’t fast growing. Places like Scranton. I have a feeling that God is calling people to the harder places, but His still small voice is being drowned out by the stampede scrambling to the fast growing suburbs.

It’s time to stop. And listen. Maybe He is calling you to a fast growing place. But it’s actually more likely He’s calling you to a place like Scranton. God loves people there too.