By David Dummitt
Not long ago, when you talked to church leaders about church planting, eyes would glaze over and conversation topics would awkwardly shift. I’m excited to live in a time when this is changing. Organizations like NewThing, Stadia, Passion for Planting, Orchard Group, and others demonstrate that more and more churches are passionate about planting even more churches around the globe.
Whether you lead a congregation of 50, 500, or 5,000, your engagement in church planting is critical to the mission that Jesus gave us to be and make disciples. Multiplication is a charge for each one of us, regardless of budgets or head counts.
Here are five reasons why church planting should matter to you:
1. New Churches Best Reach the Unchurched
My friend and fellow church planter Patrick O’Connell said it well: “In all the places where Christianity is thriving, church planting is a priority.” Research shows the average new church gains most of its new members (60 to 80 percent) from people who are not attending any church. Additional statistics show new churches baptize 75 percent more people than churches 10 years old or older.
Not only do new churches attract more unchurched people, they also attract a higher percentage of venturesome people who value creativity, risk, and innovation, and who are futuristic. This allows new churches to plant with a church-planting mind-set and to draw vision-minded individuals who can help propel the mission forward with new ideas, innovation, drive, and passion.
2. The Law of Life and Reproduction
The dictionary defines life as “the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death.” Your church, however big or small, is meant to be a living thing. Living things grow. Living things reproduce. Church planting is not one of the things a church does—it’s part of the identity of a living church.
When we no longer reproduce and we fail to reach more people with the gospel, our mission stops moving forward.
The United Nations reports it took thousands of years for the world population to grow to 1 billion (that happened in about 1800), but only about 200 years more for a sevenfold increase to about 7.5 billion people. We are not planting nearly enough churches to keep up with this level of growth!
In contrast to this population boom, the United States is experiencing an overall decline in church attendance. According to Barna Research:
• 48 percent of all American adults are considered “post-Christian,” defined as a person who lacks Christian identity, belief, and practice.
• In just two years, the percentage of Americans who qualify as “post-Christian” rose by 7 percentage points, from 37 percent in 2013 to 44 percent in 2015.
• Overall church attendance dropped from 43 percent in 2004 to 36 percent in 2014.
The need for gospel-preaching, people-loving, outreach-focused churches is real. We’ve got work to do!
4. Church Planting Keeps Us Humble and Dependent on God
As you lead your church, you may at times feel tempted to make stability the goal: stable budget, stable management. Sometimes you just want to feel like you’ve got a handle on things. But the truth is, if you are not constantly looking to God to come through, your dreams aren’t big enough. An even greater goal than stability is living a life full of God-size dreams.
Church planting is not comfortable. It challenges us to pray big prayers, take big risks, and depend on God with everything we’ve got. When we are focused on who God is, and the enormity of the mission at hand, we are humbled. None of us has all the answers, but we know the One who does, and I’m sure we can all agree that lives being transformed by the gospel of Jesus are worth every prayer, minute, and dollar invested in planting more churches.
5. Here Versus There, and the Economy of God
Two years ago at 2|42 Community Church, we had a sharp, talented, high-character guy named Travis Whittaker as a leadership resident on staff. Four times during his 18-month residency, Travis came to me to discuss the possibility of planting a 2|42 campus or planting an entirely new church.
Travis felt called by God to plant a church in his hometown, which, by the way, is 15 minutes down the road from 2|42. I was uncomfortable: What if he took our people? What if he took big givers? I wanted to focus on “here,” but it became clear to me over time that God’s next step for Travis was to launch Mile City Church “there.” So, our staff followed God right alongside of Travis. We gave him opportunities to teach and talk about his church from the 2|42 stage, and we gave Travis $100,000 to get started.
Mile City Church launched last year, and 400 people were at her first Easter service. I had been worried that 2|42 would be negatively impacted by investing in a church plant right down the road. But since Mile City launched, we have grown by 1,500 people!
Churches helping other churches plant more churches is a winning game plan for all of us. We don’t have to be afraid of investing in kingdom growth. We must not be so focused on our own castles that we lose sight of the kingdom. When we focus on “there,” the “here” will take care of itself.
Jesus commanded each of his disciples to go and make more disciples. Our mission is the same, and church planting is the vehicle. Each one of us has a place at the church planting table, no matter the size or budget of the church we lead. Let’s trust God for bigger things, and let’s move forward with a multiplication mind-set; the need is real, and the charge is ours.
David Dummitt is the lead pastor and planter of 2|42 Community Church, Brighton, Michigan, one of the largest and fastest-growing churches in the country. He is also on the lead team of NewThing Network, a catalyst for reproducing churches worldwide. Connect with him at facebook.com/DavidDummitt.