There are heaps of church leaders who have far better things to say than me. But after reading everything I can on church planting, and having been involved in launching 5 new congregations, I wanted to try and articulate why I actually believe that church planting is worth our lives…
1. BRISBANE NEEDS MORE THAN 100 CHURCHES PER SUBURB
Population of Brisbane = 2,274,460 people
Number of Suburbs in Brisbane = 188 suburbs
Mean Population per Suburb = 2,274,460/188 = 12,098 people per suburb
The median size for churches in Australia is 70. Let’s assume we can find a way to grow them to 100 people in size.
Number of churches (assuming 100 ppl/church) = 12,098/100 = 121 churches per suburb
Therefore, Brisbane needs more than 100 churches in each suburb to reach Brisbane.
2. CHURCH PLANTS ARE BETTER AT REACHING THE UNCHURCHED.
“The single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planting new churches”
“The vigorous, continual planting of new congregations is the single most crucial strategy for 1) the numerical growth of the Body of Christ in any city, and 2) the continual corporate renewal and revival of the existing churches in a city. Nothing else–not crusades, outreach programs, para-church ministries, growing mega-churches, congregational consulting, nor church renewal processes–will have the consistent impact of dynamic, extensive church planting. This is an eyebrow raising statement. But to those who have done any study at all, it is not even controversial…
Dozens of denominational studies have confirmed that the average new church gains most of its new members (60–80%) from the ranks of people who are not attending any worshiping body, while churches over ten to fifteen years of age gain 80–90 percent of new members by transfer from other congregations. This means the average new congregation will bring six to eight times more new people into the life of the body of Christ than an older congregation of the same size.”
3. CHURCH PLANTS ARE BETTER AT REACHING YOUNG ADULTS
According to the Australian Community Survey (1998), young adults are the most unchurched generation in Australia. The need to reach them is huge. Tim Keller argues…“Younger adults have always been disproportionately found in newer congregations. Long-established congregations develop traditions…which reflect the sensibilities of long-time leaders from the older generations who have the influence and money to control the church life. This does not reach younger generations”.
4. IT IS EASIER TO PLANT NEW CHURCHES THAN REVITALIZE OLD CHURCHES
Rick Warren says: “It is far easier to have a baby than to raise the dead”.
Churches have a life-cycle. Once they plateau or begin to decline, it is much easier to plant new churches than it is to revitalize old churches. Yet nearly all our energy goes into trying to get maintaining or trying to stop the decline of old churches. It would be much better to keep planting churches.
Below is a chart explaining the typical stages of a churches life, noting the different levels of Energy, Program, Inclusiveness, and Administration. Although this is a little complicated, once you understand the diagram it will begin to make sense as to why revitalizing an existing church is so much harder than planting a new church.
It’s interesting to note that none of the New Testament churches are alive today. God seems far more interested in the mission of the gospel than He does in the preservation of individual churches. If maintaining and revilitizing an existing church is good for the mission, then we should do it. But often it is far more effective to let existing churches die and pour that same amount of time, energy, and resources into planting new churches.
5. IT IS SUCH AN EFFECTIVE WAY TO RAISE UP LEADERS
Many people never get an opportunity to lead in existing churches. There are a few reasons for this…
> Sometimes existing leaders won’t step aside to give others an opportunity
> Sometimes there is not a need for more leaders
> Sometimes young people feel like the can’t lead in the existing environment because of generational differences in the approach to ministry
New Church Plants not only create opportunities for new leaders, but actually heavily rely upon them. The stakes are higher. Leaders in new church plants aren’t in training, hoping one day to take over from those above them. Rather they are doing real leadership which leads to real results. What they do really counts.
6. IT ENSURES THAT THE CHURCH FOCUSES ON WHAT MATTERS MOST
Once a church get’s off the ground, it’s very easy for competing agendas to creep in.
In his book, The Purpose-Driven Church, Rick Warren says: “Win Arn surveyed members of nearly a thousand churches asking the question, ‘Why does the church exist?’ 89% said, ‘The church’s purpose is to take care of my family’s and my needs.’ Only 11% said, ‘The purpose of the church is to win the world for Jesus Christ'”.
Launching a new church forces us to answer the question: “Why do we exist?” And asking this question inevitably focuses the church on what matters most.
THIS REALLY MATTERS
Suppose there’s been a huge environmental disaster, and literally billions of people have been swept out to sea. The government sends out hundreds of thousands of rescue boats. Some big, some small. Their whole purpose for being out at sea is to rescue as many people as possible. Once they rescue someone, the crew attend to the person’s needs, train them up, and put them to work so they can help rescue more people.
The role of the rescue boat it simple. It’s to rescue! That’s it. That’s the bottom line.
This doesn’t mean that attending to the needs of the crew is not important. Of course we need to ensure that the crew are looked after. They need opportunities to build friendships with each other. They need to be trained and equipped. They need to be encouraged. They need to be given time off to relax and enjoy life. But the only reason the boats are out at sea and not back on the shore is because billions need to be rescued.
THE REAL BOTTOM LINE
One of the major problems with all evangelistic efforts, is that we have developed a ‘theology of seeking’ rather than a ‘theology of finding’.
We often hear churches talk about ‘faithfulness’, but hear very little about measuring ‘fruitfulness’. We often hear churches talk about ‘planting seeds’, but hear very little about ‘reaping the harvest’.
But Jesus wants both faithfulness and fruitfulness. Jesus spoke about planting seeds. But He also spoke much about ‘reaping the harvest’.
Donald McGavran says that “church growth is basically a theological stance”. He goes onto say: “It is not enough to search for lost sheep. The Master Shepherd is not pleased with a token search; he wants His sheep found”.
It’s not enough to be out at sea. It’s not enough even to be busy trying to rescue people. What matters is that people get rescued.