Allow me to make a bold assertion. Every church needs to plant churches.
God implies this in his description of the local congregation as a Body, the needs of
North America for churches demands it, and it will improve the health of your body at
the right time.
Healthy mature bodies reproduce. Christian Schwarz records in his book
Color Your World with Natural Church Development notes a conversation he had
with the father of the church growth movement, Don MacGavran. Don
asked Christian, What is the true fruit of an apple tree? An
apple, of course Christian replied. Wrong, Don replied. The
true fruit of an apple tree is not an apple, but another apple tree.
Think of that. We want the apples. God designed the tree to produce trees. If God had
only designed apple trees with only the apples in mind, then after the first apple tree died
all the apples would be gone. By designing apple trees to produce apple trees, God
insured that no matter what happened to the first tree, His apples would be spread
around the world.
Applying this to churches, we tend to think the fruit of churches to be church members.
Outside of reducing the idea of making
apprentices of Jesus to names on a church roll, this approach assumes that no
churches need ever be planted after ours. Had the apostles taken that approach, the
church would have remained in Jerusalem.
Of course, some of us think that other people (denominations,
dynamic pastors, etc.) plant churches but not local churches. Why? When
Paul went out he was sent out by a local church, the church in Antioch. (Acts 13:
1-3) And Paul depended on the local churches he planted to maintain him in
planting further churches. (2nd Corinthians 11:8-9)
We dont have enough churches in North America. And we are falling
behind. I have heard pastors say, We dont need more churches. We need
fewer. We need to merge churches to make them stronger.
David Olson in his book
The American Church in Crisis notes that from 2000 to 2005 Americans
plant about 4000 churches and closed about 3700 churches. During that same time the
American population grew by 26 million people. 300 more churches for 26 million more
people. Something has to change.
Local churches can plant new churches in innovative ways and do it more effectively and
Planting churches benefits the Mother Church. Ed Stetzer and Warren Bird in
Viral Churches note:
Church sponsoring Benefits the Sponor as Well:
A study of church-sponsoring churches showed
that the typical sponsor fared quite well from the
experience. Worship attendance increased 22 percent
for the five years after sponsorship of the church plant.
Financial giving to the local church likewise increased
48 percent over that same period, and designated gifts
such as toward foreign missions giving increased 77 percent.
Now add to this news the facts from the Leadership Network (leadnet.org)
that churches under 200 members plant churches more frequently than larger churches.
A church does not need to be a megachurch to plant churches and they can reap
Finally, New Churches draw more new people to following Jesus than older churches.
According to Olson In their first 5 years average churches grow 5-12% per year. By the 11th
year the average churchs growth had dropped to 1%. By the 31st
year growth has halted. By the 41st year decline has set in.
My own experience affirms this. As the secretary of a home missions committee for the
regional body of an evangelical denomination I helped oversee a church plant. Over the
first 3 years of the new church plant the congregations of this small body of 15 faithful, and some of them,
growing churches had each made at least one new apprentice (disciple) for
Jesus. In those same three years, the new church plant had drawn 3 times as many
new apprentices as all the other churches combined. This is not unusual.
Your church could plant a new church in a variety of ways.
- Join or create a church planting network, a group of churches that pool
their resources to plant a church.
- Plant a satellite church, a separate worship center at a distance from your
church, such as in the next small town over.
- Plant a house church, a separate congregation founded in the home of
a member of your congregation.
- Hive off a significant portion of your congregation with some of your staff
to set up a separate congregation.
There are many other possibilities. I encourage you to prayerfully consider this move.