August 29, 2011

Church Planting: What Comes to Mind?

What comes to mind when you mention the phrase "church planting", to another Christian in America, particularly someone involved in ministry?  Chances are, they begin to think about one fully-established American church starting another similar church often in the same area code.  In fact, most of the times I've heard pastors talk about planting churches, they're talking about the one they are starting on the other side of town.  I heard this last Sunday.


Why plant another church on the other side of town? Do they not have churches there?  How much sense does it make to plant a church, when there are already 10 churches within a mile of the church plant?

Oh, I get it!  You think there is something special about your brand of Christianity.  You want to spread and multiply the way YOU do church.  It makes you feel proud of an accomplishment.  You can talk about your success to other pastors and your denominational overseers.  You also would like to think you are taking part in missions work and the Great Commission of making disciples.

OK, I'm exaggerating here.  I believe that church plants like this have really good intentions.  It is good that churches want to expand and multiply.  It shows growth.  I've been to dozens of churches that I wish could multiply and do what they're doing in other parts of the city and country.  (Shout Outs!: House of Prayer International, Palm Bay, FL; Isla Vista Church, Isla Vista, CA; Reality, Carpinteria, CA; C3 Church, San Diego, CA; Ignite - Knott Ave Christian Church, Anaheim, CA; et al.)  It's also a good strategy to plant a church in an area where you can be there for backup to help the ministry grow and visit and pray with the young leadership.

However, I wouldn't be surprised if there's a small amount of some of those selfish reasons for planting churches in areas close by like that.  Pastors generally do like to talk about it on Sunday morning.  It's their pet project - their baby.

My biggest objection is this: instead of planting a new church where there are already 10 other churches within a mile, why not plant another church where there are no churches within 50 miles?  Places like that exist.  In fact, those places can contain thousands of people without 1 church.  It seems like common sense to plant a church there, rather than on the other side of town.  Why not expand your horizons and consider the whole world instead of just your little area?  It's time to leave the Shire, Sam!

Actually Sam, since I'm a proponent of supporting national missionaries, radio broadcasts, and internet outreach, you probably don't have to leave the Shire.  However, I would like you to think about the lands outside of the Shire.

I don't believe that churches should stop multiplying, even here in the US.  BUT, if it requires an incredible investment of men, finances, prayers, and time, ask yourself if it is really worth it.  Might you be better off investing those things into planting churches in a more unreached part of the world?  In most cases, I think the answer is 'yes'.  After visiting many Outreach Conventions, I've seen how outreach and church planting can turn into a huge marketing fanfare with strategies upon strategies all promising growth.  If planting new churches becomes such a hassle, is it really worth it to plant a church in an area already highly-Christianized, while you try to compete with other churches for congregants?  It's easy to evangelize, do outreach, and grow naturally.  If your people are followers of Christ, churches will grow and multiply automatically.

So pastors, please, when speaking of "church planting", consider the 3 billion people who live among unreached people groups of the world.  Think about the hunger of those who live in non-Christian lands.  People are coming to Christ in record numbers in some parts of the world.  Why not invest some time and money on planting churches there?  You'll be able to plant 10 churches in the time it takes you to plant 1 additional church in the United States.  Check out Empart, Advancing Native MissionsChristian Aid, and others.

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