By Peter Meier | March 15, 2019
You’ve heard the statistics about church. They play to a negative mission narrative.
· Each year approximately 3500 churches in North America close their doors for good. They die. That’s about 72 churches each week.
· Of the approximately 350,000 churches in the US, 80% are plateaued or declining.
· Population continues to outpace new church development even though more churches are being planted in the US than were previously.
· Most Protestant churches are not growing if you measure finances, attendance and staffing.
· Involvement in church planting is at a low point. 68% of churches have no involvement and of the remaining 32%, investment in church planting is indirect or minimal.
· And so on. . .
Do we actually take Jesus’ promise seriously, Matthew 16:18 – I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it? Do we believe his promise and claim His resurrection power, Mt 28:18 – All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me?
The narrative doesn’t have to be negative.
There is another narrative. It’s one of hopeful multiplication. While the realities of our time can appear insurmountable, if we believe Jesus’ words, we will see these realities and challenges as opportunities for mission action. And we know how the story ends! (If you don’t, then read Philippians 2:1-11, Revelation 5; Revelation 7.)
This past month, the Send Institute Missiologists Council drafted A Church Planting Manifesto for the 21st Century North America. It’s worth a look. You can download a pdf here, or read about it on their website here.
The drafters and endorsers of the Manifesto commit themselves to join together around sound missiological and biblically-faithful principles for planting new churches in North America. They urge collaboration as a “diverse mission force both in intentionality and intensity.” They pray that this collaboration will result in “a new generation of disciple-makers, churches, and networks across North America participating in God’s redemptive work and accounting for innumerable people coming to Christ, immeasurable cultural transformation, and every-increasing glory to God.”
In this and future Mission Moments posts, I will review the 12 principles for church planting in 21st Century North America. Follow and pray along with me, and see what you think.
01. Prayer and obedience to the Holy Spirit in light of the Word of God take priority over systems and structures. (Luke 6:12-16; Acts 16:6-10)
We affirm that any genuine church multiplication movement is birthed out of prayer and sacrificial obedience in cooperation with how the Spirit of God is already at work. Over the last few decades, denominations and networks have developed useful organizational tools and practices that assist in efforts toward church planting stewardship – both human and financial. With great appreciation toward this end, we recognize that church planting is not simply about starting efficient and sustainable organizations. Church Planting is about cooperating with the heart of God and accomplishing his creative work in a specific context through prayerful methods and means.
This principle aligns with the Prayer Principle the Center uses in our training and practice. Church multiplication begins with God’s heart, God’s mission – which is to reconcile and reclaim lost people to Himself. Prayer is the starting point of every mission effort because it seeks God’s will, and aligns our planning and effort with God’s mission. Dependence on God as the power and wisdom in each step of church planting is the prerequisite.
In the Manifesto, each principle is followed by an action point. Here is the first, which I encourage you to consider adopting for your own mission work: We agree to lead our ministries as a spiritual movement, steeped in prayer and communion around the Word of God and the people of God. We call on our churches in North America to seek God for spiritual refreshment and awakening. We need more methods that are inspired by Scripture, but we resist the temptation to rely on more turnkey processes than Spirit-led means.
02. Church Planting is both the impulse and the result of multiplying disciples who hear and obey God. (John 10:27; Romans 15:18)
We affirm that Jesus’ primary commandment is to make obedient disciples. Because of the complexities in modern methods, church planting methodologies have often focused more on executing a project plan for launching large group gatherings rather than on developing appropriate disciple-making strategies. However, the missionary task of church planting is to engage a particular context with the gospel in order to bring non-believers into a relationship with God, and believers into the profound joy of a deeper obedience within that mission. Therefore, the multiplication of new disciples from the harvest into biblical community and mission becomes the modus operandi and the expectation of a new church.
Disciple-making is the heart of church planting. Making disciples is the single imperative Jesus gives in the Great Commission. It is surrounded by His Gospel promise that He provides the power, the means, and the presence with us to carry out His command. Because we have been called, gathered, enlightened and sanctified as His disciples, we are therefore moved to make more disciples, Christ’s love compels us, 2 Cor 5:14. Making disciples who make more disciples who gather as a group of disciples (to make more disciples…) is what church planting is all about.
We wholeheartedly affirm this action point: We agree to orient church planting strategies around multiplying disciples and disciple-makers from the harvest. We avoid any strategy that side-steps or deviates from disciple-making as the primary vocation of the church.
These are the first two of twelve church multiplication principles in The Manifesto. What is your response? Consider and discuss with your team; study the scriptures provided; pray together for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and direction, and commit yourself and your congregation to making disciples of all the peoples!
God has equipped His people, His church, to carry out His mission. Do you believe that? You can do it. Let us know how we can help!
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
Center for U.S. Missions – Contact Information
Email us at: | Rev. Dr. Peter Meier, Executive Director; email@example.com | Rev. Eric Wenger, Director of Mission Coaching; firstname.lastname@example.org| Kathy Meier, Coordinator; email@example.com | Mil Behnken, Office Manager; firstname.lastname@example.org