Churches That Don’t Plant Churches

Baptist|Catholic Church

I recently had a very brief discussion with a fellow. I asked him if he was planning on planting a church in the Northwest. He said he is convinced that we should not plant churches in the United States – after all, we’ve been doing that for centuries. Rather, we should invest our time and resources into planting churches overseas. In the States we should look to pastor a fledgling congregation and trust God to grow it.

I understand the sentiment, and resonate with it on many levels. I am a little uneasy with the black|white-ness of it, though.

I like the bold-ness. I fear that many people have hopped on the church planting bandwagon. Let’s face it, we have church planting networks made for the very purpose who are not tightly linked to a church so that there is accountability. I am also uneasy about the idea that networks are sending men out in droves to plant churches. So many times jargon like military or buiness is used to make the man feel like he is doing something like a pioneer.

I have a few friends who are planting churches, are planning on it, or have planted. I have no angst against church-planting as my friend who seemed to have a vomitous aversion to the notion. I want to press the question that we have too quickly bought into the idea of planting a church rather than laboring at one. After all, there are saints at the churches that are languishing. There are buildings thet you do not have to look for. There are mortgages that are paid off. There are rooms to have community serving. There is a location in a community already established. Have we forgotten that men planted those decrepit buildings decades ago?

So…is there a need to plant churches with so many empty buildings…with a few elderly people that want to see a fresh movement of God’s presence at the once vibrant congregation. Many have got the rigor and the dream of seeing new things shaking in their city. But do we lack the foresight and endurance to labor with those who disagree with us? What about areas where there are myriads of churches with no pastor?  

4 Comments

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4 responses to “Churches That Don’t Plant Churches

  1. I have come full circle on North American church planting. I became a passionate supporter of church planting during my M.Div. studies and upon graduation, moved to a rural town to plant a church (which we did). I returned to Southern for Ph.D. studies with a bent toward church planting. In the middle of my doctoral studies, I became a bit disenchanted by the trendiness of it all. Yet, upon further reflection, I continue to see the importance and need for new churches and will continue to be an advocate for church planting here in North America.

    I agree that there is ministry to be done in existing churches. I also am a strong advocate partnership and support for international missions. Here, however, are a few reasons I believe that churches should be involved in planting new churches in North America.

    1. The population of the United States continues to grow at a pace that is continually increasing the church/population ratio. There is a need for new churches because the number of persons in the US continues to grow. At the same time, reports indicate that attendance in mainline and Catholic churches is steadily declining, and a large number of these persons remain unchurched.

    2. Population shifts and development are seeing new communities emerging where there are few if any existing churches. New churches are needed to fill the gap.

    3. The number of immigrants continues to grow. There is a need for churches to reach these rapidly growing ethnic populations.

    4. Not all existing churches are willing and/or able to make the contextual and methodological changes necessary to reach our culture with the gospel. (Other churches are “unhealthy” and are unwilling to reform.) New churches often have a freedom and flexibility that established churches do not.

    There are many more arguments in support of church planting. These are a few that I find compelling.

  2. Yeah, I’m gonna have to go ahead and disagree with you on that one. I assume, given our conversation a week ago, that I would be one of those guys who are hopping on the bandwagon. The logical argument of your friend is a bit off: just because something is “trendy” or catching on doesn’t mean that its merits are unfounded.

    Having spent several years in campus ministry, I have become convinced that churches need to do the work of reaching the young generations. Churches cannot afford to outsource the job. Yet at the same time, churches are too protectionistic to modify their approaches to ministry to hit the moving target of this generation.

    Church plants have no such limitations. Honestly, how many churches do you know that are willing to make radical methodological changes in their ministries to reach the so-called emerging generations?

    Some anecdotal evidence: my home church in Huntington, WV, has grown exponentially over the past five years. A worship pastor had a heart for reaching the unchurched, and his ministry philosophy revealed that. People were quite drawn to him and substantial growth was taking place. However, he struck many as too trendy, because he would wear jeans on Sunday morning as an expression of his freedom in Christ.

    This became such a crisis that the church divided over whether or not someone could wear jeans on the platform at church. No, that isn’t a typo, you read it right. The church was divided over denim. The church fired him for his refusal to ‘submit to authority.’

    Would this have happened in most church plants that are reaching young people? Hell no. They’d be glad to have him. But the purists at that church couldn’t handle his methods.

    This scenario plays out in countless churches across America all the time because of the inevitable friction between the purists and the evangelists. I don’t think it needs to be either/or. We need to support church planters with training and accountability and money. This is, IMHO, a great strategy to reach the lost. The apostle Paul seemed to like the idea, too.

  3. Pingback: Is Church planting just a trend?

  4. I admire the work church planters do… I guess you could correlate it to going to work for Starbucks, or starting your own shop. There are pro’s and con’s in both directions. I’ll admit that, being Catholic, I sometimes feel frustrated by our restrictions. You can’t exactly go out and start a parish without a priest, especially since most dioceses don’t have enough priests to serve their existing parishes (except those dioceses with radically faithful bishops… they tend to have more than enough seminarians/priests).

    Anyway, it’s good to remember that new churches eventually become old churches… with all the problems that old churches tend to have. I often wonder what Sojourn will be like in 20 or 30 years, if it’ll be the same creative and “cutting edge” kind of community it is now, or if they’ll eventually lose their relevancy to young adults and become just another congregation full of old folks and a so-so youth group.

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