The Most Successful Form of Church Growth (Church Planting)
When I ask, “What is the fruit of the apple tree?” many people look at me as if to say, ‘what a dumb question – apple trees produce apples’. But this is an incomplete answer. The apple is a package of seeds. Within each apple are seeds designed to produce more apple trees. The body of Christ is like the apple tree – producing individual disciples and more congregations. Like the apple tree, every church contains seeds that can produce more churches. Healthy churches multiply churches.
The relationship between gospel proclamation and church planting is so intimate it cannot be divorced without doing violence to the mission of the church. The primary mission of the church is to proclaim the gospel and gather believers into local churches where they can be strengthened in their faith and made effective in service. God has placed within all churches the potential to grow and reproduce. In fact, church planting is the most effective means of evangelism and church growth.
WHY PLANT NEW CHURCHES?
New Churches Reach More People
Would you rather have 1 church of 1,000 or 10 churches of 100? Which will reach more people for Christ? Christian Schwarz surveyed over 1,000 churches from 32 countries and 6 continents. He discovered that small churches (averaging 51 in attendance) were 16 times more effective in winning new converts to Christ than megachurches.
Having more entry points into the kingdom of God increases the possibility of people coming to faith in Christ. Ron Gladden, a church-planting leader, asks: “If your city had only one restaurant, would more people eat out?” The answer is obvious. More restaurants increase the possibilities of more people eating out. The same is true for churches. If there are more churches, there is a greater potential for reaching more people with the gospel.
New churches have life and are vitality attractive to the non-churched person. This is often a necessary component for catalyzing that person’s receiving Christ. There is little in life more exciting than the birth of a new baby – such an event softens and energizes even the hardest countenances.
We are aware of the need for new churches throughout the world. The bulk of people in most countries have no meaningful church relationship. The harvest fields surround us. Many people will not be reached without new churches. Jesus would still tell us today, “Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest” (John 4:35).* Look around and you will see that the harvest is very plentiful.
One church cannot reach everyone. Rick Warren says, “It takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people. ” This is true when people speak a different language. But even when the same language is spoken, there are Incredible differences.
Consider generational differences. Congregations that are effective in reaching baby boomers are often not as effective reaching Generation X. I discovered this while I was pastoring a primarily boomer church. One of our interns, had a vision for reaching people in their twenties.
List the churches in your area. Find out the seating capacity of each one. Total the number of available seats. Double that number, assuming that two services are needed to hold all the people in every congregation. Compare that number to the total population in the area. You will have a very conservative estimate of the number of people who still need to become disciples of Jesus.
Jesus said, “Open your eyes and look at the harvest.” The opportunities to reach people for Christ through church planting and multiplication are all around us.
New Churches Release New Leaders
Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37). Church planting provides an opportunity to raise more workers for the harvest. When I graduated from seminary, I spent several months looking for a ministry in an established church. When nothing opened up, my denominational leader approached me about starting a new church. Many leaders realize their full potential by establishing new churches from non-churched people.
We should not send unqualified people as church planters. Careful assessment of the character and competencies of potential new church developers is important. However, my experience in over 20 years of church planting has confirmed that God calls pastors for existing churches and church planters for establishing new churches. Let’s not overlook the potential for a greater harvest by finding, developing, and releasing new leaders for church planting.
New Churches Increase Growth Potential
Christianity has always expanded through the multiplication of churches. The Book of Acts records how Christianity expanded to the uttermost parts of the world using this method. And this has been true throughout every generation. The church is only one generation away from extinction. You and I are Christians because those who preceded us faithfully reproduced their churches through church planting.
HEALTHY CHURCHES GROW AND REPRODUCE
HEALTHY CHURCHES GROW AND REPRODUCE
Christian Schwarz confirmed that healthy churches are growing churches, making more and better disciples in loving obedience to Christ. His study also showed a clear, positive correlation between the quality of a church and the number of churches it had planted within the last 5 years. Hardly anything demonstrates the health of a congregation as much as the willingness and ability to give birth to new congregations. The opposite is true as well. Hardly anything is a more clear indication of illness than structures that hinder church multiplication, or at best permit it as an absolute exception.
Reproduction is a basic principle of life for all organisms, including the body of Christ. Churches are not designed by God to be unfruitful; they are designed to grow and reproduce other churches. As churches multiply, the potential harvest increases proportionately. Yet, many pastors and church leaders make excuses about their congregation’s lack of involvement in church planting. Smaller churches think they need to get bigger before giving birth. But a small church with a vision for reaching the non-churched can train workers for the harvest.
One pastor planted a church in a nearby town when his church attendance was 125. The new church had its first worship service on the Sunday the parent church celebrated its third anniversary.
Larger churches often get distracted with other things and forget the harvest. Since God has entrusted more
resources to larger congregations, more will be expected in terms of investing to reach the harvest.
Decide how your church will be involved in church-planting ministries. There are numerous ways to help start new churches.
Commission a church planter (ideally with a small team) to evangelize and make disciples, forming a new church primarily from the harvest.
Recruit, train, and send a core group from the parent church to form the nucleus of a new church.
Cooperate with one or more congregations to start a new church.
Provide finances, resources, and prayer for a new church with primary leadership and direction coming from another source (denomination or church-planting organization).
Close a dysfunctional or dying church and rebirth a new church with new leadership.
Starting new congregations is one of the best ways to reap a greater harvest and maintain evangelistic effectiveness. Rick Warren, founding pastor of Saddleback Valley Community Church, while growing the congregation to over 10,000 people, started at least one congregation every year.
Every church can, and should, be a strategic player in fulfilling the Great Commission through starting and multiplying new congregations. Church planting is the most effective way to advance God’s kingdom.
Set your eyes on the world, just as Jesus directed His disciples when He told them to begin in Jerusalem and go to the uttermost parts of the earth. Seek the Lord’s guidance as you develop a strategy to multiply congregations in loving obedience to Christ’s command.
Bob Logan has well over 30 years of ministry experience, including church planting, pastoring, consulting, coaching, and speaking. Bob has seen it all, yet remains on the cutting edge of ministry as he is currently planting an organic, missional network of churches in Los Angeles. Bob earned his D.Min from Fuller Theological Seminary.
- Church Planter Pathway: Coaching Guide with Storyboard – Ministry Specific Resource (PDF)
- Church Planter Pathway Storyboard – Ministry Specific Resource (PDF)
- Planting the Church: Coaching Guide with Storyboard – Ministry Specific Resource (PDF)
- Planting the Church Storyboard – Ministry Specific Resource (PDF)