We sometimes think of church planting as one way to do church. But just as every human being was once a baby, every church was once a plant. It is the only way to do church. Church planting is part and parcel of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).
We live in an increasingly post-Christian culture. Twenty percent of the population has no religious affiliation at all—up from 15 percent just five years ago.1 At the other end of the spectrum, evangelical Christians comprise somewhere between 7 and 9 percent of the US population.2 But these two statistics do not tell the whole story, for many Americans have merely a nominal form of religion. Thus, missiologist George Hunter says that the US has “at least 180 million functionally secular people who have never been substantially influenced by any serious version of the Christian faith. That makes the United States the largest mission field in the Western Hemisphere and the third largest on Earth.3” So the country that sends out the largest number of missionaries has become the mission field.
According to church growth experts, the most effective evangelistic strategy in this culture is to plant a new church.4 More people come to faith in new churches than in established churches. In fact, one denomination found that 80 percent of its converts came to faith in churches less than two years old.5 This is because newer churches tend to be more outwardly focused. Established churches tend to turn their focus inward on the needs of its members.
Though roughly four thousand new church plants are planted each year, this is offset by about 3,700 church closures.6 We are losing ground. We are not keeping up with population growth, let alone taking new territory. So an urgent need exists to plant churches.
So why plant a church? We will not fulfill the Great Commission without planting churches that will plant churches that will plant churches. It is the only way that we will experience exponential growth.
Jesus said, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest’
- “‘Nones’ on the Rise.” Pew Forum, October 9, 2012. Accessed April 25, 2017. http://www.pewforum.org/2012/10/09/nones-on-the-rise.
- John S. Dickerson, The Great Evangelical Recession (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013), 28-33; see also David T. Olson, The American Church in Crisis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 29.
- George G. Hunter III, The Apostolic Congregation: Church Growth Reconceived for a New Generation (Nashville: Abingdon, 2009), 1.
- Aubrey Malphurs, Planting Growing Churches (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 14.
- Ralph Moore, Starting a New Church (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2002), 23.
- Olson, 146.
David has ministry experience in a variety of contexts. After lecturing overseas at a Bible college in Kenya. He served as the associate editor of The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Crossway, 2001). He also was one of the pastors at Harvest Bible Chapel, where he founded a training center for church planting. Since 2010, David has been the senior pastor of the Village Church of Barrington. A graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, he is currently finishing a doctorate at Phoenix Seminary. He combines a passion for the in-depth study of Scripture with a shepherd’s heart. David and his wife, Helen, have three grown sons. The Jones family gives glory to God for his calling and provision.