Church planting is part of Saddleback’s DNA. We’ve started at least one church every year since the beginning.
It is simply who we are. We believe that mature churches are just like mature plants or mature people: They bear fruit.
You can tell an apple tree is mature when it starts growing apples. You can tell a Christian is mature when he or she starts winning other people to Christ. And you can tell a congregation is mature when it starts having babies—planting other churches.
I believe any definition of fruitfulness for a local church must include the planting of new congregations, in addition to growth by the conversion of unbelievers. If we’re not reproducing, then it is a sign that something is unhealthy in our congregations.
As I’ve often said, a church’s health is measured by its sending capacity, not its seating capacity.
Regardless of size or location, your church can help start new congregations. At Saddleback Church, we started our first church plant when we had 150 people coming to the weekend services. The truth is, it doesn’t take a megachurch to start new churches.
Over the course of our history, Saddleback Church has planted three kinds of churches.
We’ve planted micro-churches, or house churches. They are small groups. They can multiply quickly because of their simplicity.
We’ve also planted mid-size churches. These are what most of us think of as “churches.” They are 100 or 200 or 300 people. They don’t have the simplicity of a micro-church, but they have more strength.
And we’ve planted megachurches. That is, we’ve planted churches that have grown very large, that have gone on to plant many other churches.
I’m for megachurches, and mid-size churches, and micro-churches. They each have their own strengths and weaknesses.
No matter what size your church is, you can be involved in church planting. You can reproduce.
Jesus doesn’t expect us to produce more than we can, but he does expect us to produce all that we can by his power within us.