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August 14, 2018

What if Everyone Leaves Your Church…to Plant More Churches?

By Ed Stetzer

People in your church are going to be nervous. They’re going to say, “Now, wait a second. If we send people out, won’t our church decline?” Statistically, the most likely scenario is that it won’t. Jeff Farmer (researcher and professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary) did a comparison study of 75 churches and found that churches who planted, when controlling for other factors of similar size and passion, actually grew. When you send people out to plant, others will show up and step into leadership roles.

When I planted a church in Erie, Pennsylvania, we decided to start two daughter churches. We said we were going to have twins, so we planted two daughter churches on one day with residents. For six months, these residents were on staff where they walked with us and we trained them. We then gave them a three-month transition period where they had a fishing license to anybody in our church. We blessed and encouraged them to approach anyone in the church with a challenge to come and plant with them. At that point, we were running 350–400 in attendance, so when they got about 50–75 people to go with them, it hurt. It was a lot more than we expected.

One whole worship team and a drummer—we had two worship teams—got a vision for church planting and decided to leave. This meant we now had no drummers in our church when they would leave. We said to our church during one of the preview services, “Listen. We’re so excited about what’s happened and how you have rallied around these church plants we’re sending out. But did you notice there’s no drummer today? We had to use a track.”

After the service, one of the members came up to me and said, “You know, I could be the drummer.”

And I said, “That’s awesome, man. But have you ever been a drummer before?”

He said, “Yeah, yeah. I used to tour professionally as a drummer.”

“What?” I was shocked because our previous drummer struggled. I mean we had a drummer all these years and he was painfully bad, but at least we had a drummer. And now this guy, who was a professional drummer, who had played for a couple different famous bands, comes up to me and tells me this?

“Are you serious?” I asked him, “Why have you never said anything?”

“Well, you know, I just wanted the guy to have a shot who was up there.”

“Dude, you’re killing me.”

This is what happened throughout the church. After we sent out people, others began stepping up to the challenge and taking on leadership responsibilities. So, cast a vision for this and allow God to send people to fill the void!

This was an excerpt from the book that I wrote with Daniel Im, 1000 Churches: How Past Movements Did It—And How Your Church Can, Too. You can learn more and download it for free here.


Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer (@edstetzer), is a professor and dean at Wheaton College who also serves as Executive Director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center. Stetzer has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, has earned two master’s degrees and two doctorates, and has written hundreds of articles and a dozen books. He is regional director for Lausanne North America and publishes research through Mission Group. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited in, interviewed by, and writes for news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He is the founding editor of The Gospel Project, a curriculum used by more than 1.7 million individuals each week for bible study. His national radio show, Ed Stetzer Live, airs Saturdays across the country. He serves as teaching pastor at Highpoint Church in Chicago and has been the interim teaching pastor at Moody Church in downtown Chicago.


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