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November 5, 2016

More Church Planting—Not Less—Is Needed

By Ed Stetzer

Among the best ways for us to reach people with the gospel is personal evangelism and church planting. Even with all the changes in culture this remains our best option for reaching unbelievers.

Church planting efforts need focus. A scattershot approach will not be the most effective.

Here are five things we are going to need to increase church planting capacity.

1. We’re going to need more engagement from more churches.

Let’s face it, most churches are cul-de-sacs on the Great Commission highway. But if we are going to increase church planting efforts, we need more churches hopping onto the highway.

In order to merely break even in membership growth, we need a church plant growth rate of about a 3 percent per year. To put it into perspective, at 100 churches, there needs to be three new churches per year. While 3 percent is the minimum, I encouraged the SoCal Network to aim for a 10 percent church planting rate, which is the best denominational statistic we have out there for a movement.

It’s doable right now.

I know that it is easier said than done, but when the Vineyard, Calvary Chapel, and Hope Chapel movements were launched out of Southern California a few decades ago, they often planted at a 50 percent rate.

So in our lifetime we’ve actually seen a rate far beyond 10 percent!

But the key is having more churches engaging in church planting.

2. We’re going to need more planters.

If we are going to have more churches engaging in church planting—especially to keep up with the population increase—we will need more planters. It’s that simple.

My prayer is that more men and women will say, “Yes” to Jesus, or “Here am I Lord, send me,” and be a part of church planting teams.

I also pray that as more planters answer the call to go and plant, the leaders in our churches, networks, and denominations will show great grace to them. I’ve seen it over and over again, where a church planting network or denomination looks for a self-starter, a go-getter, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a maverick, but becomes easily agitated, offended, and upset when the church planter doesn’t always listen to their advice or fit within the system they are trying to create.

In increasing our capacity for church planting, think running lanes not boxes. Boxes stifle and hinder creativity and flexibility. Running lanes provide boundaries with freedom.

Thus, church planting networks and denominations must create running lanes for church planters to run passionately forward for the glory of God and the good of the city or community in which they are planting.

3. We’re going to need more sacrifice.

Answering the call to “go” requires sacrifice. It will require sacrifice for all parties—individuals, churches, networks, and denominations. Individuals may have to sacrifice the comfort and stability of an established church. They may have to sacrifice the comfort of a suburb and move into the urban core.

Churches may have to sacrifice their best leaders—along with some of their best members—to plant. J.D. Greear, in his book Gaining By Losing, talks about both the pain and joy of sending their best to plant churches. Sacrificing a church’s best for the sake of God’s mission is scary and painful; yet it is an investment that potentially leads to great dividends for both the kingdom of God and the sending church.

Networks and denominations may have to sacrifice good things for main things. I like what I heard Rick Warren say once, “too many irons in the fire can put out the fire.” When it comes to being committed to church planting, networks and denominations may have to say “no” to some things in order to stay committed to the task of church planting. Trying to do a lot of good things may hinder doing some great things well—especially church planting.

I truly believe that a non-sacrificing version of church planting and mission will not reach the world for Jesus. If sacrifice was required for Jesus to save the world, sacrifice will be required for us to reach the world.

4. We’re going to need more models.

There needs to be openness to more new and different models. Some church planters aren’t going to plant churches like we’ve seen planted, or that we would plant. That’s a good thing.

Reaching a changing and diverse culture will require the implementation of new church planting models. [I have actually written an entire blog series on church planting models.]

There will be the need to plant simple organic house churches in areas that are disenfranchised with the institutional church, missional incarnational churches that meet in local cafés they may own and operate, launch big churches that use public and private schools for their gatherings, or satellite campuses that saturate a region in desperate need of the gospel.

Regardless of the model, the common element present (or that should be present) in each model is the gospel.

Although the models or manifestations of church may be different, the gospel is the same. We shouldn’t be bothered by the various models in existence now or in the future. I have said before, and I will say again, we need to hold our models loosely and our Jesus firmly.

5. We’re going to need more power.

This, by far, is the most important need. Acts 1:8 states, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses.” In addition, after Jesus told His disciples, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you,” He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:21, 22).

Jesus knew His followers needed a power far greater than what they humanly possessed if they were to fulfill the mission to which they were called.

If we are going to see an increased capacity of church planting, we must be empowered and equipped by the Spirit.

To a degree, we can manufacture church planting, but we cannot manufacture a church planting movement. In order for a church planting movement to occur—one that advances the gospel, makes much of Jesus, and transforms communities—the Spirit of God must be powerfully working in us so that He can powerfully work through us.

I don’t know the future of church planting among the SoCal Network, nor of the many other North American church planting networks and denominations. But I am optimistic as long as we have the power of the Spirit filling us with and leading us to show and share the love of Jesus. I believe when this happens more churches will jump on the Great Commission highway and engage in church planting as opposed to being stuck in the safe cul-de-sac.

Here the excerpt from what I wrote on Southern Baptist Church planting:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer (@edstetzer), Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair for Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College. Ed also serves as the Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton, and as chair of the Evangelism and Leadership Program in the Graduate School. Ed is a prolific author, and well-known conference speaker. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written a dozen books and hundreds of articles. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He is also the Executive Editor of The Gospel Project, which is used by over 1 million individuals each week. As of fall 2015, Stetzer co-hosts BreakPoint This Week, a radio broadcast that airs on over 400 media outlets. He also serves the teaching pastor at Christ Fellowship, a multi-cultural megachurch in Miami, Florida.

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