I recently spent some quality time with one of the best church planters in a particular city. In just a few years he has planted almost 10 campuses or extensions of the original church he started almost 10 years ago. He was also involved in a prayer meeting with other church planters for several years. When I asked him if this weekly prayer meeting was still functional, he told me that it no longer exists because most of these planters are no longer ministering in the city and that many of the churches are either closed or are led by another pastor. He said that he has almost no pastor friends left in the area.
As I mused over this, I realized that much of what is called church planting by denominations and/or institutions often lacks biblical precedent and principles. The reason why so many fail in regards to church planting, in my particular city, is because potential lead pastors are recruited from other parts of the country and they come into a daunting, complex city that is alien to their own social context. Hence, they are stepping into a church culture that is foreign to them. Just giving theological/methodological training and sponsoring them financially is usually not enough to trump the other factors related to city planting such as: leadership development, raising a family in a secular environment, the high cost of living, finding affordable places to rent for a congregation, etc.
From my observation, most of the church plants in New York City don’t even last three years. Fewer still last a decade. Of course, Jesus told us to go into the entire world and preach the gospel, but we also have to learn the environment before attempting to establish a beachhead. Perhaps many of these leaders would be better off serving as an associate pastor for many years in a city church before attempting to lead one right out of the gate. The exceptions to the rule are if they come with an already established mega-brand (e.g., Hillsong) or they have an enormous amount of resources and can afford to purchase their own building and support full-time staff in addition to the salary of a lead pastor.