Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Why Church Planting is Not Working in America

My friend Billy Mitchell said this on his twitter account, "Sow the gospel reap a church; sow a church and reap an institution."

I know you most of you may not be a "church planter," but I think there are principles we can all gain about starting a movement.

This is my 3rd plant since 2005. I served as an associate/youth pastor in the previous two in GA. I am the lead pastor at The Well. The first two church plants do not exist today. Only 10% of church plants in America actually make it.

Common questions and phrases to and from church planters:
  • "So, when are you going to launch?"
  • "Who is your mother church and how are they supporting you?"
  • "What type of church are you going to start?"
  • "Do you have a building yet?"
  • "How many are you running?"
  • "I am planting a church."
Now, please understand, I am not advocating a model for starting a church. I am in the midst of building a strong core team in Port Saint Lucie. I don't know which route we will go. We can do the "Launch Strategy" where you build everything toward one big Sunday launch or we can do the "Slow Growth Strategy" where you take a handful of people and "grow up."

Here is what every church planter must keep at the forefront of his or her philosophy (and as a matter of fact, every Christian, leader or pastor)-
  • The Call Does Not Change: We are called to make disciples. This means developing people to their fullest potential. How are you personally (one on one) intentionally developing people in your ministry? Your focus may be to gather a group to do a launch and have a big crowd there. It is not wrong to have a big launch, but what is the underlying focus? Crowds or Development?
  • Your Attendance is not a Reflection of Your Impact: "How many are you running?" This question does not hold a lot of weight unless you follow it up by, "What is your plan for developing all these people into disciples?" What is your plan to impact the community? Do the community leaders view this as impact?
  • The Focus Should Not Be on a Building: Right now we are meeting on Sunday nights at 6pm at Another Church Building. We are not holding to the "sacred" Sunday morning hour or having our own personal building, but we are sticking to the first call- "make disciples." I heard one pastor say, "I will never use people to build a building, but I will forever use a building to build people." Don't let all your resources be sucked up by a building.
  • Take Care of the People and They will Take Care of the Ministry: Take time to write thank you cards to those who serve. This little bit of time and money is like filling your people's gas tank up. Put something specific that they have done. Encourage people specifically and privately.

Finally, listen to the voice of God. There are so many avenues and things I want to do right now, but God is speaking to me and guiding me. He sees next year, I cannot see it yet. He sees people who have not come yet and He is preparing us for those people.

Church planting is not working in America because we are not set on starting a movement where people are developed and deployed, but rather we are starting institutions with different names and programs. Paul told the Philippians that they were his hope and crown of rejoicing. He had developed them in Christ.

Church planters in the early church would use all their resources to sow the gospel and develop people. Our strategy in America is to sow all of our resources in a launch and develop programs.

So, why is only 10% of church plants successful in America?

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