By Peter Meier | November 15, 2018
In my previous post, I gave the first four reasons why starting new is not only a good idea, but is the most effective way of making new disciples. If you missed the previous post, check it out here. Then take a look at four more great reasons. Consider these Eight Reasons for Starting New, and then ask yourself, “Should I be praying about this?” and, “Is starting new faith communities something God would have me and my church consider?”
5. Starting new faith communities is essential to Kingdom Growth. We’re not talking about the old “church growth” paradigm here – doing what we’re doing bigger, better, harder, faster, with more excellence. I’m talking about inviting people to see and experience the beauty, wholeness and joy of God’s Kingdom by participating in its local expression – the church. As John the Baptist and Jesus both declared, “The Kingdom of God is here, among you.” Starting new faith communities in new places among new people brings them into contact with the Kingdom of God in visible and concrete ways. This is what Jesus invites us to pray for, “Thy Kingdom Come.” By starting new Gospel outreach, new faith communities, new congregations, we invite our neighbors and friends to be included in God’s Kingdom.
As we pray, “Thy Kingdom Come,” and work for kingdom growth, we realize we are inviting trouble. Satan does not want the kingdom of darkness emptied, the prisoners release and the captives set free. Starting new is a declaration of war against the spiritual powers of darkness. However, we move forward in God’s mission with Jesus’ promise, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Mt 16:18). God’s Kingdom will prevail! Starting new is our confession of faith that we have this confidence!
Unfortunately, many churches are in either “survival mode” or are challenged by serious decline. Their attention is on their own perceived needs. Those who are growing often see their “own” church as the priority, and seek to show annual increases in budgets, attendance, small groups, staff, and buildings. Someone once said that there are three main reasons why churches don’t start new: Butts, Bucks, and Buildings. Starting new helps us to see a much bigger picture – it focuses our attention on God’s Kingdom, rather than our own.
6. Starting new faith communities and new congregations is a means of passing on the “family legacy.” We are part of God’s family. Throughout the book of Acts, we see God’s family growing and multiplying, which is God’s intention for all living things. Do the math! We can add members to our own church family, one at a time (how many were added to your church last year?), or we can multiply members in God’s family by starting new communities who will also start new communities.
Imagine this: If each community of believers added 30 new believers a year, and you started two new communities in the next 5 years, each of which started two more communities along with reaching 30 new believers, you would reach at least 750 new believers. In addition, you would have the joy of giving birth to the next generations of churches.
The fact is that churches, like other organizations and all living things, do have life-cycles. Your church will mature and will likely die at some point in the future. What will your legacy be? New churches and faith communities, each of which is reaching new people with the Gospel? Or will you be content to simply close your doors some day after a “good run?” What will your family tree look like? May your descendants be as the stars in the sky and sand on the seashore!
7. Starting new is good for Denominational Growth. This isn’t the primary reason we start new of course. We start new to reach new people with the saving Gospel so that they will join us as God’s family. At the same time, we are part of a denomination because we believe and confess the doctrine and faith of our denomination, and we want to pass that on to others so that they join in our confession.
Take a look at the growth patterns of your denomination. Mine, the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS), is facing step decline. Over the past 10 years, we have seen average losses of over 40,000 baptized members each year as self-reported by congregations of the Synod. Child and Adult Baptisms, Youth and Adult Confirmations decline. More churches close their doors for good.
David Olson, in his landmark study of church attendance in the US (The American Church in Crisis, 2008), notes that for an association, district, or denomination to “survive,” they must plant an equivalent of 3% of existing churches annually. In order to “thrive,” they need to see an equivalent of 4% new starts. Multiply the number of churches in your own district or association by 4%. How many new starts would you need to see to “thrive?” In the LCMS, with approximately 6000 congregations, we would need to see 240 new starts annually, where we have been averaging around 60 (new chartered congregations and multi-sites).
Assuming, as I do, that our denomination has something to offer the world in the name of Christ, then the best way to expand our mission is to start new churches and faith communities, not only to take the place of those who die, but to reach every community and neighborhood for Christ!
8. Starting new culture-specific and multi-cultural churches is essential. As we see larger numbers of immigrants, churches who proclaim the Gospel in their heart-language are needed. This is particularly true for 1st generation immigrants. It is estimated that a new immigrant enters the US every 31 seconds. Within five years, by 2023, half of the kids in US public schools will be non-white, and by 2043, there will be no majority culture in the US. The United States is the frontline of the 21st Century mission field! And often, this mission field is most diverse and ready in our cities.
In addition to culture-specific groups for 1st generation immigrants, new multi-cultural churches for 2nd generation youth and their friends are needed. The second generation youth are Americans, who speak English like their friends. They do not always feel “at home” and participate in the culture-specific churches of their non-English speaking parents. We need to start new faith communities which look like the high schools and universities they attend, and these youth need to be the leaders of these new starts.
Along with the previous four, these reasons are identified and discussed as part of our Churches Planting Churches training, which is developed and presented in partnership with Dynamic Church Planting International. The Center partners with DCPI in their God-given goal to start 5 million new faith communities globally to reach the world for Christ.
Pray about these reasons. Discuss them with one or more people from your church or small group. Then email me or give me a call to talk about how we can help you and your congregation begin exploring and planning to start new!
Mission Moments is the e-newsletter sent by the Center for U.S. Missions to bring information and encouragement to all who desire to share God's great love in Jesus Christ with others. Permission is given to copy this article for distribution within your congregation or organization. Please credit the author and the Center for United States Missions. For more information contact the Center at (952)-221-0362, or visit our website: www.c4usm.org
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