by Ed Stetzer from Christianity Today
I’ve done extensive research on the topic, written books about it and even planted churches. In addition to my love for church planting, however, I also love established churches. I’m as passionate about church revitalization as I am about church planting.
While some may see the two as mutually exclusive, I’m most excited about where the two overlap: churches planting churches. Pastors of established churches should be engaged in church planting. Here are five reasons why.
Church planting reaches lost people.
The first reason is simple. It’s one on which, hopefully, all pastors – both planters and established can agree. Lost people need Jesus. This is one that hits me personally, because I grew up in a non-Christian family.
Most of my extended family members are not believers. Recently, however, two of my family members have met Christ through church plants. Their experience is not uncommon.
A few years ago, Christianity Today published “Go and Plant Churches of All Peoples,” an article which said church planting has replaced crusade evangelism as the preferred evangelistic method for evangelicals in North America today.
Church planting has experienced so much growth that in some cases, it’s harder to find people who want to revitalize churches because there are so many who want to plant. Some of the attraction might be from the entrepreneurial bent in people, but the greatest driving force that I see among church planters is that they want to see people won to Jesus.
I would challenge established church pastors to mother a church plant. You’ll see that people will be won to Jesus in the churches you plant and in your church. Some that may be less receptive to your church will be very receptive to your plant. That’s why we want to plant churches that plant churches that plant churches.
Church planting follows a biblical pattern.
When we look throughout the New Testament, we see church planting as an established pattern. I will be the first to tell you the Bible never mentions church planting. It never comes out and says, “Plant churches,” but it’s clearly assumed. It’s the first thing the disciples did when they responded to the commissions of Jesus. They planted churches.
Most of the churches recorded in the New Testament were involved in sending people in some form or another to start other churches. Ironically, the Jerusalem Church was an exception. They sent people out to check up on the new churches and to make sure they weren’t getting too crazy.
We’ve got too many Jerusalem churches today. The only time they’re heard from is when they believe someone is doing something wrong. We’ve got to change that truth. Church planting is an overwhelmingly Biblical passion and we need to support it. We were all started at some point. Let’s model that spirit again and start more churches.
Church planting is essential for survival.
For any movement to thrive, it has to plant churches. Statistically speaking, if a population just wants to “break even,” it has to plant at least at a three percent level—a denomination of 100 churches has to plant 3 to stay even considering attrition. A five percent increase is needed to grow. Ten percent is needed to thrive.
If we honestly believe our movement is the place to land theologically, then we need to support it by planting churches.
Church planting benefits the planting church.
Jeff Farmer did his Ph.D. dissertation on how church planting impacts mother churches. He studied seventy-five churches of different sizes that were planting churches and compared them with seventy-five that were not. Comparing churches of similar sizes and backgrounds, he found churches that were planting churches were healthier than those that did not.
The data did not simply reflect the tendency that healthy churches are more likely to plant churches. It showed that the planting of churches actually makes churches healthier as an end result.
When people hear stories of life change at the new church, they start to see their community differently. “Maybe it could happen here, too?” The rising tide of church planting lifts boats all along the way.
Church planting is necessary to reach North America.
If we’re going to reach North America for the gospel, it’s going to take thousands upon thousands of more churches. North America is huge, geographically, but even more than that, it’s incredibly diverse culturally.
Too many people look across North America and think it’s uniformly flat like a pancake. Look closer. It’s not a pancake. It’s a waffle. There are thousands of little divots with people living in them who have customs, cultures, and contexts that are vastly different from each other.
I believe that Jesus is calling us to go into all those divots of the waffles to evangelize, and if there’s enough of a population, to plant churches in those divots that will plant churches that plant churches.
There’s never a good time to plant a church – do it anyway.
I just gave five reasons why established churches should plant churches. There will always be numerous reasons why you shouldn’t. “We’re too small. We’re too young. We don’t have enough money.”
An informal survey several years ago asked pastors what was the optimal size to plant a church. Across the board, whether the church was large or small, most pastors answered about 25 percent larger than their existing church.
Planting a church is like having a baby. There’s never really a good time. There is enough time, money, energy, and space to have one. Childbirth is messy and has a lot of yelling, but in the end, a beautiful life is born, the labor is forgotten, and we often want to have another.
We’ve got a lot of churches on some strong birth control. We need to have a lot more pregnancies. Intended ones. We need to see some beautiful church plants born and then we’ll want to have another one. And another one.
I would exhort some established church pastors to get some skin in the game. Generously give to church planting, yes, but then go and plant a church. Choose not to become a cul-de-sac on the Great Commission Highway.
God likes to surprise people. Get in a place where He can surprise you and the rest of the world, as we see a church planting movement birthed here in North America once again. I’m just crazy enough to believe it could happen. Are you?