Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions What Is the Ideal Church Planting Model?

What Is the Ideal Church Planting Model?

Back to the quiz …

At the beginning of this post I proposed a quiz to identify the verse or verses that charge Christians to plant churches. In my reading of the New Testament, there is no such imperative because the church of Jesus is built by Jesus through the relational and organic work of discipling people. Any time two or three disciples gather together around the Lordship of Jesus Christ to worship, serve, and grow in their knowledge of and obedience to him, and to join him in his mission, there is the church. It rises out of discipleship rather than out of organizational strategy or the vision of a “church planter.” People who live in the second example don’t think of themselves as church planters. They think of themselves as disciple-making Jesus-followers, and if they’re doing that, then church emerges out of what they do naturally and organically. It is also absolutely free (though it will cost a person their whole life) to think of church in this way. That doesn’t mean that there is no financial cost, but the movement will not die if no one tithes to the organization planting the church. This group of disciples can tithe too. But they individually or collectively use their resources to carry out their missionary and discipling priorities.

By the numbers …

When we planted our church under paradigm #1, we raised over $200,000.00 the first year, and we spent most of that money on the things I described in section one above. If it costs two hundred thousand dollars to plant a church, and if it must be done by a gifted leader with a special calling, and a core-group consisting of department and ministry functionaries who can do all of the ministries in the church’s program, and if that leader group will need to collect the money buy all the stuff needed to facilitate “church” the way it’s described there, then I propose that the Christian movement cannot grow and cannot expand fast enough to reach the whole world for Jesus Christ.

The town we live in now has 60,000 people in it, and the average church has less than 100 people. There are a couple of medium, large and very large churches, but the total number of people in these churches totals around 15,000 people. Fifteen thousand people “go to church” (one of 70) in a town of  60,000. If my supervisor was right, and our church was way beyond the norm in the first year, then imagine replicating what we did enough times to reach all of the other 45,000 people in our city. At the end of the first year, our church was around 200 people and had about 225k in income. Divided by 45,000 people, our town would need 225 more churches of 200 people (like our “way beyond the norm” church), and if they all did ministry the exact same way we did the first year, they’d all need about 200k to do ministry the first year (and more every year after that). So, we’d need 225 churches and 40 million dollars to reach every person in our town. Yep. That’s right. 40 million dollars. But we would also need enough buildings to accommodate the 225 churches of 200. Some of them would want to buy land and build their own buildings. That would add millions of dollars to the equation. Anyway, you get it. We can do the numbers all day. It’s incredibly expensive!

By the way, all of this assumes lots of evangelism, which is not the primary way our church grew the first year. We grew by affinity and transfer. That means people already knew us and joined us, and others came from other churches. In the 225 new churches, 100 percent of the members would need to come from evangelism.

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Kenny Burchard (M.A. New Testament), his wife MaryJo and their son Victor live in Virginia Beach, VA. Before his family's journey of reconciliation with the Catholic Church Kenny served for 20 years as an ordained Protestant pastor, worship leader, church planter, and Bible teacher. Kenny is the host and curator of the Metastory.org podcast and blog, and is a regular blogger at ThinkTheology.org. You can follow him on twitter @kennyburchard.