Why Churches Must Plant Churches That Plant Churches

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Published in December 2015 Church Planter Magazine

“Why would I want to do that?”

That was the answer that I received when I asked a pastor if his church would support church planting.

Did he really just say that? Let me try this again, but this time I’ll rephrase it.

“Why wouldn’t your church want to be involved in the Great Commission?”

Now he had the same look that I had—confused. Bewildered. As if someone just stolen his lunch money. I was sort of in shock, but not really—I’m beginning to get used to this type of answer.

I won’t go into detail about how he justified his church’s involvement in the Great Commission by sending money to missionaries, feeding the homeless, and sending Christmas boxes (all good, by the way).

A Gospel Passion

The Apostle Paul proclaimed, “For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16b)

People ask me, “Why are you so passionate about church planting?” I reply, “It is not church planting that I am passionate about, but the gospel.”

To be a disciple of Christ means, to desire to be more like Christ. Churches that plant churches that plant churches epitomize disciple-making and gospel-centered fruit.

In the beginning of this year, I founded a collaborative initiative here in Richmond called, Planting RVA (RVA stands for Richmond, VA). My goal is to see Richmond saturated with the gospel. With 121 countries, Richmond is ripe for the harvest—a diverse, cultural, and beautiful area, but one that desperately needs more churches planted. Richmond was one of the only cities on the eastern seaboard that was not affected by the Great Awakening—a spiritually darkened city.

With an original intention for a multipronged approach of house church movements, comprehensive and traditional church plants, satellite campuses, and revitalizations, it was an uphill battle from the get-go. I found that dozens of pastors were willing to talk about it, but very few were willing to get their hands dirty—to break up any fallow ground.

And so, my passion is not necessarily for churches, but for the gospel. Churches that plant churches that plant churches are gospel saturated. Their intention is outwardly revealed—to make Jesus known, to bring glory to God, and to make disciples. Church multiplication is the result of disciple-making, which is the command of the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20).

The Harvest Is Ripe

Jesus declared, “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. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road” (Luke 10:2-4).

This verse is sometimes misconstrued. Some pastors will exegete this passage as a call to prayer, but the context is Jesus sending out His disciples. He sends them out with nothing, other than His authority. Jesus was indeed telling these disciples to pray, but He ordered them to “Go.”

When I rephrased this to my pastor friend, he didn’t understand that intrinsically church planters are disciple makers. This is why I am so passionate about planting churches that plant churches—it is fulfilling Christ’s command. We cannot plant churches without making disciples—it’s nearly impossible (unless you pay people or draw them in with false benefits, but that won’t last).

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Living in Reality

The current model of Western Christianity is broken. I’ve written about this many times and will share it with you. Western Christianity is hemorrhaging! Seventy percent (70%) of the U.S. population reports a connection with Jesus Christ, yet according to David Olson, on any given Sunday less than 17.5% of the population actually attends an orthodox worship service.[1] This number includes Roman Catholicism.

Even though Olson’s statistics display 17.5%, Doug Murren, of the Murren Group, declared that number to be too high and suggested Olson’s 2008 numbers were lagging behind. Murren’s ghastly number of 12% is staggering![2] Furthermore, Murren’s research indicated “20% of people leave their church every year, which would require a visitor rate of at least 30% of a church’s size per year, just to grow.”[3]

Once again, Olson declared that American Christianity would need to plant 2,900 new churches a year, just to keep up with the current pace of population.[4] However, with over 7,000 churches closing each year, and only 4,000 opening, an article in Outreach Magazine noted “15,000 new churches [are needed] every year to keep up with population.”[5]

The Barna Group assessed that “more than one-third of America’s adults are essentially secular in belief and practice.”[6] With a population of roughly two hundred forty million Americans, “one hundred seventy million of them (71%), either consider themselves as having no religious affiliation at all or Christian in name only.”[7] As JR Woodward observed, “Functional Christendom has given way to a ‘spiritual,’ secular and pluralist society where a growing number view the church with suspicion and some with downright disdain.”[8]

And so, with 80 to 85 percent of churches in America either plateauing or in decline, there is an urgent call for church revitalization and planting.[9] For this reason, the church must re-engage the church planting apostolic call of the missio Dei. The Western world is officially a mission field and is in dire need of apostolic movement.

If these numbers do not cause you to see the vital need for church planting then nothing will—but perhaps you’re among the complacent crowd? My call to you today is not for you to get up on the soapbox and scream out for revival, but to begin revival within your own heart. Start living the life of Christ on mission within your home, neighborhood, and community—get engaged in the Great Commission by making disciples and helping plant churches that plant churches.

If evangelicalism is to re-engage the Western culture it will not be with political agendas, but with a true apostolic movement, where Christ is Lord and the Church is sent.

If you’d like to be a part of Planting RVA, either as a church planter or a supporting church, please feel free to email me pastor@oakhallbc.org

[1] David T. Olson, The American Church in Crisis: Groundbreaking Research Based On a National Database of Over 200,000 Churches (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 181.

[2] Doug Murren, “De-Churching or Re-Gathering,” themurrengroup.com, March, 2015.

[3] Ibid, 5.

[4] Ibid, 181.

[5] Rebecca Barnes and Linda Lowry, “Special Report: The American Church in Crisis,” Outreach Magazine, June 2006, 1, accessed October 16, 2015, http://www.simplechurchathome.com/PDF&PowerPoint/AmericanChurchCrisis.pdf.

[6] George Barna and David Kinnaman, Churchless: Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2014), 16.

[7] Aubrey Malphurs, Planting Growing Churches For the 21st Century: A Comprehensive Guide for New Churches and Those Desiring Renewal, 3rd Ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004), 12.

[8] JR Woodward, Creating a Missional Culture: Equipping the Church for the Sake of the World (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2012), 30.

[9] Aubrey Malphurs, Look Before You Lead: How to Discern and Shape Your Church Culture (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2013), 200.

One thought on “Why Churches Must Plant Churches That Plant Churches

  1. I do not live in Richmond, but am currently reading Wendy McCaig’s book From the Sanctuary to the Streets. She is the founder of Embrace Richmond. Are you familiar with her organization? I’m only about halfway through her book, but I feel a great kinship with her pull to carry the gospel to those on the lowest rung of society’s social and economic strata. Currently, I lead a children’s ministry in a Hispanic church plant in a migrant community and my husband has spent years leading bible study in the local jail. I very much agree with your call that we need to be making disciples. I would add that the harvest might be most ripe among those we tend to forget. We’ve rarely seen the gospel received with as much power among the affluent middle class as we see it received among the desperate. Purpose, as did Jesus, we would do well to start at the “bottom” with our disciple-making and work our way up.

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