Sunday, February 24, 2008

Church Planting Strategy

  1. Is Christ-centered in its emphasis on seeing Him made incarnate in every cluster of 500 to 1,000 people in the world;
  2. Is built on the comprehensive plan of God who is not willing that any should perish;
  3. Focuses on the systematic occupation of the land;
  4. Takes advantage of the practical and emotional values of a whole-country approach;
  5. Releases the incredible power of information;
  6. Delivers a prophetic message to the Church;
  7. Harnesses the vast energies inherent in working towards a measurable, time-bound goal;
  8. Emphasizes the "best method under heaven;"
  9. Helps the body of Christ function effectively as a body;
  10. Releases the great potential of denominations;
  11. Encourages parachurch organizations to function truly "alongside" the Church;
  12. Provides a frame of reference for national and worldwide strategy for the discipling of the nations.

Church Planting For a Greater Harvest

In his book, "Church planting for a greater harvest", Peter Wagner makes this observation, "Without exception, the growing denominations have been those that stress church planting." Many denominations talk about church growth and has intentions to plant churches, but that is as far as it goes. They have neither a plan nor strategy and are often too proud to ask for help.

In South Africa, noticeable events have taken place, which I believe will impact this nation greatly. Dr. Isak Burger, Moderator of the Apostolic Faith Mission, is busy mobilizing his denomination to formulate a growth plan through church planting and they are by no means a declining denomination! A recent case study on this denomination is included in this publication.

The Baptist Union also has a definite vision. The Cell Church Movement in South Africa, led by Pastor Harold Weitsz, is now writing church planting into their materials and has asked DAWN Africa to help them in this regard. But these are growing groups. What about those in decline? You can do what the Church of England in the UK did. They embarked on a DAWN project and after a 20-year decline they are now showing tremendous growth.

Church Planting Model

[Click on image to enlarge it.]

Do you have a church planting vision?

Show me a denomination in decline and I will show you a denomination without a church planting vision. Show me a country where the Christian population is stagnant or in decline and I will show you the denominations within it, with no church planting vision. It stands to reason. Yet, there are now numerous countries that show major evangelical growth since the denominations and church groups settled on a specific national church planting goal. Examples of these are the Philippines, China, Brazil (in fact most of Latin America) Ghana and Zimbabwe. In every continent of the world there are church planting movements breaking through the barriers of evil resistance, bringing the glory of the Lord, the incarnate presence of Christ into their communities.

Do you smell like fish?

Jesus came to Earth to gather a planet full of fish. He knew fish. He loved fish. His passion was fish. Hang with fish and you will pick up their odor. When was the last time you heard someone compliment another with a ‘You smell of fish’ remark…

He was not a technique person. His only plan was
  • find fish
  • hang with fish
  • love fish
  • accept fish
  • heal fish… (you get the idea…)

The Advantages of Church Planting

Few people realize that planting new churches has always been more effective than adding on, or building new facilities for an existing church. Consider these points, drawn from Dawn Ministries:
  • New churches grow faster than old ones.
  • Church planting can give new life and vitality to your church.
  • More types of churches are needed.
  • Church planting develops new leadership.
  • Church planting is the best method of evangelism in a nation.
  • New churches can stimulate existing churches.
  • Church planting will bring a new awareness and compassion for the lost.
  • Church planting often re-emphasizes the principle of sowing and reaping.
  • Church planting will bring a world vision to your church.

Is Church Planting The Key?

Simply put, it’s a proven and much better strategy to start new churches than to expect established ones to be able to penetrate their their communities anymore than they already have.

How much have existing churches grown in the last 30 years? Sure, there have been some surges of growth in different churches, but the net result has not increased.

That’s why church planting is so important. Local church leaders must be actively praying and looking for families and individuals in nearby towns who are open to starting a new work, most often in their living room.

Whatever you may have thought about the church in America before, I hope you at least pause long enough to pray for it. The Bride of Christ must make herself ready for her Groom. It is far past time for us all to be content and happy with status quo. We must vigorously pursue the glory of Christ by proclaiming his love to our neighborhoods and the nations.

Perhaps you would be willing to begin praying about starting a new work? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

Church Planting Observations

  • Church planters often resort to “business models” and demographic studies to determine where to plant their church.
  • After such studies are made, inevitably a growing suburb of a large urban area is selected.
  • Few churches in the rural South have ever intentionally started another church. (There have been many unintentional church starts; we call them splits.)
  • Even churches reknown for their focus on planting other churches tend to use an event model, even though the church of origin most likely did not start that way. You hear of “Launch Sundays” and the like, but there is no space shuttle, only a church-in-a-box, complete with musicians and in some cases, fully-supported, multiple staffs.
  • Our current church culture encourages new churches to be “up and running” as soon as possible, and as a result, seems to discourage a bivocational model for church planters.
  • There is an unhealthy preoccupation with numbers, buildings, and programs.

The Need For Church Planting in North America

  1. There are 195,000,000 non-churched people in America, making America one of the top four unchurched nations in the world.
  2. In spite of the rise of megachurches, no county in America that we know of has a greater church population than it did 10 years ago.
  3. During the last 10 years, combined communicant church membership of all Protestant denominations declined by 9.5% while the national population increased during the same time by 11.4%.
  4. Each year 3500-4000 churches close their doors forever, while only as many as 1500 new churches are planted.
  5. There are now nearly 60% fewer churches per 10,000 persons in American than there were in 1920. (1920 - 27 churches for every 10K Americans, 1950 - 17 churches for every 10K Americans, 1996 - 11 churches for every 10K Americans).
  6. Today, of approximately 350,000 churches in America, four out of five are either plateaued or declining.
  7. One American denomination recently found that 80% of its new converts came in churches that were less than two years old.
  8. “The single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planting new churches.” - Peter Wagner

Church-Planting Movements Need Four Things to be Successful

  1. A Common Ideology - Our mission is the "Great Commission." This movement was built on that mission. Have we remained a movement, or have we become institutionalized? Do we still have a vision for reproductive? Has every pastor been challenged to be about the biblical (2 Timothy 2:2) vision of reproducing? Have we truly focused on reproducing: Leaders (it takes leaders to reproduce small groups), Artists (it takes artists to reproduce large gatherings), small groups, congregations (celebration services), campuses, and churches? Do we provide equipping and accountability to reproduce? While the church must be about helping people find their way back to God and developing Christ-followers who celebrate, connect, and contribute, what will draw us together and move us forward is our vision for reproducing.
  2. Apostolic Leadership - I had a seminary professor very hip on this idea. I claim no expertise on defining or identifying contemporary apostolic leadership, but I do know what Scripture teaches. Ephesians 4:11-12 says, “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up . . .” Apostolic leadership is at the heart of new movements of God. Movements require the kind of leadership that is willing to pick up and start all over again ... again and again, the kind of leadership that values the edge over the center, the new over the established. It’s the kind of leadership that inspires people to do what only God can do through them. I know it is not easy, believe me. Not all old established churches are willing to make the transition. But, we are praying and seeking God for those kind of leaders.
  3. A Reproducing Network - In order to accomplish this New Testament mandate, the church structure may have to become more of a network. In other words, strong churches helping weak churches, large churches reproducing themselves by starting a new mission in the next town and mothering that new mission or those new missions for the long term - a cluster of churches led by the mother church. These clusters would be led by lead pastors from churches that have a history of reproducing as well as a vision for continuing to reproduce. These networks might follow basic principles of small group multiplication. Each Apostolic Network Leader would identify an apprentice who he equips and eventually releases to launch a new network. These networks also provide peer coaching, the opportunity and accountability for reproducing congregations, campuses, and new churches.
  4. Regular Gatherings - Leaders must gather more often. It may not be an expensive gathering, but leaders must reconnect. These gatherings must be a great opportunity to be reminded of why we’re in this together, what God is up to, and how we can continue to catalyze this movement of reproducing churches. These gatherings must provide the relational glue that holds us together and gives everyone a glimpse of what God is doing and how each of us is contributing to something much more that we ever imagined possible.