Church planting is perhaps the most effective way to reach people in a community for Christ. In fact, statistically, more people come to Christ in new churches than they do in old ones. According to author Larry Krieder, Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena examined the link between the age of a church and its evangelistic effectiveness and found that the younger the church, the easier it is to win new people for Christ. Statistically speaking:
- For churches 10 years or older, one person will come to Christ for every 85 church attendees.
- For churches 4 to 7 years old, one person will come to Christ for every seven church attendees.
- For churches less than three years old, one person will come to Christ for every three church attendees.
Lost in America author Tom Clegg confirms this, saying, “Research shows that in most cases, the younger a church is, the more effective it will be at bringing people to Christ.“
So, why aren’t more churches involved in planting?
In Genesis, Sarah laughed when she was told that she’d conceive a child after 90 years of barrenness.
While we may mentally chastise Sarah for her lack of faith, are we really acting any differently when we say that our church is too old, too small or too inconsequential to participate in the “church birthing“ process? In truth, church planting can greatly expand the impact of our own ministry and influence in the community. And, helping in the multiplication process may require less time and resources than expected.
A number of pioneers are leading the way in the critical area of church planting. Their message to the thousands of Christ-centered, Bible-believing churches is that regardless of your size, you too can advance the kingdom by helping to plant new churches.
A Church-Planting Church
While many church leaders have put little thought into church planting, and fewer still have made it a priority, Spanish River Church in Boca Raton, Fla. has been intentional about church planting for the past 20 years. Under the leadership of Senior Pastor David Nicholas, Spanish River Church has planted nearly 115 churches across the U.S., as well as in Brazil, Mexico, Portugal, India, Peru, Chile and Haiti. More than 95 percent of these churches are thriving today, and several of the churches have begun planting their own churches.
“Church planting is not easy,“ Nicholas said. “The key is finding the right man who fits the specific location, a man who is gifted in the areas of leadership and evangelism, and someone with good communication skills so that he is able to proclaim the truths of the Scriptures in a relevant manner. The effective church planter is also a man of solid Christian character.“
Nicholas has also been active in church planting outside his role as Spanish River pastor, forming the non-denominational Acts 29 Network in 1999. Churches planted by Acts 29 contribute 10 percent of their general offering to church planting through the Network, thereby establishing what Nicholas calls a “built-in reproduction mechanism.“ Though only two years old, Acts 29 Network planted 32 churches in 2001.
A prime example of a small congregation successfully planting another church is Emmanuel Baptist of Vista, Calif. Although the church had only about 210 weekly attendees in 1992, several members, including founding pastor Mark Williams, felt called to help plant a new church. The result became New Song Community Church in nearby Oceanside, which today has more than 1,200 people attending each weekend.
“In some fashion, every church ought to be involved in church planting,“ said current Emmanuel Baptist Church Senior Pastor Dick Phillips. “The key is being open to the Holy Spirit’s leading. You can strategize all you want, but sometimes the Holy Spirit just grabs an open, ready heart.“
In the case of Emmanuel Baptist, for the past two years the church has participated in a short-term missions project in Russia, sharing its facility with a Hispanic church and mentoring young pastors.
Church Planting Organizations
Church planting is not a new phenomenon—it’s been going on since the first century. But it has become a trend so significant that, in addition to a renewed church planting emphasis by many denominations, many organizations have formed to facilitate successful church planting. Two of those institutions are the Church Multiplication Training Center (CMTC) and Dynamic Church Planting International (DCPI).
Formed in 1991, CMTC’s chief objective is to multiply reproducing churches through training for churches and church planters. The organization not only trains new church planters, but also church and denominational leaders through its assessment, placement, coaching and training systems.
“I’m convinced that we will truly impact our world for Christ as our churches take multiplication seriously,“ said Bill Malick, founder of CMTC. “There are many churches doing wonderful, positive things, but I believe churches are intended to multiply, not merely take care of their own.“
DCPI, which equips leaders to plant dynamic churches worldwide, believes that the single most effective model for planting new churches is mother-daughter planting and offers training geared specifically to this type of multiplication.
“This is the most effective way to complete the Great Commission,“ said DCPI President Paul Becker, who planted four churches between 1980 and 1988 and started DCPI in 1995. “The church is meant by God to be reproductive. Just like people give birth to people, churches should give birth to churches.“
Church planting is becoming so widespread that individuals such as Jim Griffith have leveraged their church planting experiences into mentoring new church planters and organizations.“
I think that many churches are just now realizing that they have inadvertently gotten out of the church planting business, often due to the survival mentality,“ Griffith said. “The idea of giving something away, whether it be people or resources, is uncomfortable when you’re focusing on surviving. But the Bible says that unless a grain dies, it can’t bring forth fruit.“
WHAT CAN MY CHURCH DO?
As stressed by church planting specialists, church size is not an issue when it comes to
participating in this God-ordained activity. Here are some ideas on how any church can be involved in church multiplication.
This process involves providing resources and personnel for the core team of a new church.
No matter how active your church is, there is probably some down time when your facility is not being used. Allowing a small church to meet in your facility until it is
able to afford its own building can go a long way toward helping it grow and prosper.
As new churches are in the process of getting off the ground, they may be in temporary need of a worship team, child care workers or help with other ministries. Allowing this new church to utilize the talents of some of your team members during this transition period could make or break the new church.
A member of your church’s pastoral staff can spend time in a discipling relationship with an aspiring pastor who wishes to start a new church.
If there is a segment of the population of your church that is either not attending or not benefitting from your worship services, consider starting an alternative service for that group.
By joining forces with other area congregations, your church can combine resources to target unchurched people.
Often overlooked, intercessory prayer can offer a huge support system for church planters.