By Peter Meier | January 15, 2019
It’s fairly well understood that the best way to reach new people with the Gospel is to start new faith communities, new churches. “Start new to reach new” is a pretty ubiquitous saying among those of us who are all about church planting in its various forms. And it’s a true statement. You can read an article I wrote about that topic here.
It’s my understanding that God’s intention is for churches of all sizes to multiply. God calls us to multiply disciples who make more disciples, and he calls us to multiply groups of disciples, or faith communities. This is what the Great Commission is all about – making and multiplying disciples. If you wish, you can read another article on that topic here.
So why is it that we are seeing churches in North America close at an estimated rate of nearly 4000 a year, or over 75 a week? Why is it that churches of 200 or less are four times as likely to plant new churches as are those over 1000 members? Why is it that churches between 200 and 300 are twice as likely to start new as larger churches with over 1000 members?
Here are five reasons why churches don’t plant. As we begin another calendar year, consider these five and the thinking behind them. Ask yourself: Have I heard these at my church or from my church leaders? Have I thought these in my own mind? Have my friends expressed these concerns? Maybe this is the year to address these and take some steps forward to starting new!
1. Mud. Or Turf. We worry that other churches might take offense, and even oppose our church planting efforts. We don’t want others to invade our territory, and we assume others feel the same way. Rather than assuming we will encroach on another’s turf, let’s start with the concept that it takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people. Take a look at your local demographics. Check them out at thearda.com – or see this article. Use the DAWN (Discipling A Whole Nation) church planting ratio to figure out the potential in your community (1 church is needed for every 500-1000 population in a given county or community.) Invite other pastors and leaders from other churches to partner with you as you start new.
2. Members. Many pastors resist the idea of starting new because they fear the loss of members to a new church. Instead of fearing the “loss” of members, why not consider “sending” them as missionaries? Instead of seeing them as “leaving” your church, why not consider the new faith community they start as growing/multiplying your church? How many children and grandchildren will God give you? Your church family can grow largest through multiplication!
3. Momentum. Sometimes a church is in the midst of a building program or campaign or addition of new staff or new programs. The idea of starting a new faith community may be frightening. “What will this do to our current project? We can’t start something new until we finish what we’re already doing! If we start something new, we’ll confuse people, divide loyalty, lose momentum, etc etc.” While planning new initiatives, why not include strategic multiplication components? Why not design initiatives which complement and advance the mission of God, rather than compete with it?
4. Money. Fear that a new start will cost too much, or will take needed revenue from current projects is real. When talking about church planting, many imagine that mega-dollars will be gobbled up to purchase land and erect buildings. Yet, how much does it cost to start a new faith community in someone’s home? How much does it take to equip and send disciples to multiply in their own neighborhoods? It doesn’t cost a penny to share the Gospel story, and to invite someone else to hear and learn more. Starting a Bible class in a new venue, gathering some neighbors for a party or game night or movie night doesn’t cost anything. Besides, doesn’t God say, “The cattle on a thousand hills are mine” (Ps 50) and “The silver and gold is mine” (Haggai 2)? How can we best use the resources God has given for His purposes? The greatest of all the resources are His people! Let’s mobilize and motivate and deploy God’s priests, his disciples, to serve in His mission!
5. Meism. The final reason on my list is “me.” What’s in it for me? Why should I disrupt my comfortable situation (even though I often complain about it!)? Why would I want to go, or give, or serve, or stretch beyond my comfort zone?
If you honestly consider these five “M”s you’ll have to agree that they are all fear-driven and self-focused. None are Biblical. None reflect God’s heart or His mission to seek and to save the lost.
It is God Himself who tells you, Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). So, consider Jesus, who while He was God, did not consider that as something to be grasped, but instead, he emptied himself, assumed the form of a servant, and humbled himself even to death on the cross (read Philippians 2). He did this so that you, and all God’s creation, would know God’s boundless love and forgiveness, so that you would enjoy the gift of life here and forever, and so that, because He loved you so much, you would tell someone else about it. You might even begin to gather a few more people to learn, to grow, to go and make more disciples.
So, what’s holding you back?
We are here to help you plan for and take necessary steps to start a new faith community. Let me know how we can help.
For positive reasons to start new, read the two posts in my “Why Start New” series. Take a minute to read both the first and second articles. Check out our Mission Moments archives for more helpful and encouraging articles for those who want to explore what it means to multiply new faith communities.
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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