If you are reading this, you are most likely involved in an established church. Maybe your are thriving, but probably not—depending on the denomination, we are talking about 70% of churches are plateaued or declining. But, maybe the title did not scare you away, so let’s jump right in.
Here are six reasons for established churches to plant churches.
First, people need Jesus.
Christianity Today says church planting has replaced crusade evangelism as the preferred evangelistic method for evangelicals in North America today. That’s not all good, but it certainly seems true. And, might I add, that makes a difference—that church planting has been successful in establishing new churches.
Yes, I am encouraged that church planting is now a thing. Of course, I want us to both plant and revitalize, so we need revitalization to also be a thing.
However, it’s difficult to deny the fact that church plants reach more lost people with the good news, and since people need Jesus we need a whole lot more church planting. So, part of your church mission strategy should be church planting locally and globally.
That’s why we plant churches that plant churches that plant churches.
So, established churches need to be revitalized, but they also need to be involved in planting.
Second, it’s the New Testament pattern.
In the biblical record, we constantly see churches sending people to other churches, starting churches, and checking on how churches are doing. Today, we have too many churches checking on churches but too few churches working together to send people out to plant. That’s what a heart set on multiplication does. That’s what Great Commission churches do.
When the apostles and disciples heard the Great Commission, we might consider what they did in response. They did not just evangelize. They congregationalized.
When the disciples heard the Great Commission, they planted churches. So should we.
When the (relatively) established church at Antioch heard from the Holy Spirit, they sent out Barnabas and Saul to plant churches. So should we.
Third, for any movement to thrive it has to plant churches.
If a denomination has 100 churches, it needs to plant three each year just to break even. Don’t miss that three percent is that break-even point—it needs to plant five each year to grow, 10 each year to thrive.
That means our churches need to be actively and consistently training and sending out planters. If established churches took this seriously and recognized their responsibility to be a part of a church multiplication movement, we would see a huge shift in North America for the sake of the Gospel.
A movement simply can’t get to health and growth without established churches being on the team that is planting churches.
Fourth, we need to plant churches because planting churches actually can help your church.
The established church is blessed by planting churches. Jeff Farmer, who was a student at New Orleans Seminary (and formerly on our team), studied several dozen churches of all sizes that were planting churches and compared them with several dozen churches that were not planting churches.
Churches that were planting churches—similar sizes, similar backgrounds—were healthier than those that did not. It wasn’t merely that the churches were already healthy and then planted, but I believe that, in many cases, the act of planting itself helped these churches become more healthy. It was a product of planting.
I am not saying that every dysfunctional, unhealthy church needs to plant. Not at all.
However, planting can benefit a plateaued church. When a church is planted and your people start hearing the amazing stories where three or eight people were baptized on Sunday, it causes them to realize that what God does in church plants He also can do in established churches. It develops a missional passion and a holy desire to trust the Lord and work toward the same end. They get to ride the tide the church plant rides.
Established churches need to plant churches so they can be challenged by their own church plants.
Fifth, planting churches is required to reach North America with the good news of Jesus Christ.
It’s going to take thousands upon thousands of more churches to accomplish this. That’s not only because of geography, but also because of culture—that’s part of having a missiological lens that leads to church planting among different kinds of people.
Your context isn’t one culture. It’s not like one flat pancake, where you look out and only see what you see up close—a context like yours. It’s more like a waffle with divots, and in those divots are people with certain customs and cultures.
You can live right next to them, yet they are radically different than you. Jesus is calling us to go into all of those divots of the waffles to evangelize and plant churches. You might be right next door, an established church living out and on mission in one divot, when a different kind of people (linguistically, culturally, generationally, or more) is right next door, ready for a new church planting.
Established churches should plant churches because we need all kinds of churches to reach the all kinds of people living in those divots.
Sixth, we need some skin in the game.
Denominational giving toward church planting isn’t enough.
Our church gives significantly (10% of our local tithes and offerings) to denominational church planting (and many other things) though our denominations cooperative giving plan. We believe in financially supporting church planting that way, but that’s not enough. We need additional some skin in the game. We need to put our own sweat and tears into the process. We need partnerships or we will become a cul-de-sac on the Great Commission highway.
Planting a church is like having kids. It’s bloody, messy, there’s a lot of yelling, but then a beautiful thing is born and you forget about all the problems and you want to do it again. I think if you’ll get engaged in church planting directly—not solely through giving to the denomination or network, as good as that can be—then you’ll see some beautiful church babies born in your own house. Then you’ll want to do it again and again.
Established churches need to plant churches so they can experience the blessing of having ecclesiological babies!
Continuing the Metaphor
No one thinks they are fully ready to have a child. But then you have one, and it is a great blessing. Too often, established churches think they will plant when they are “ready” when they are big enough or when they have more money, but “ready” never comes. If you will just go and have a baby—go plant a church—you will blessed in ways you never imagined, and you will wonder why you waited so long.
Let’s plant churches that plant churches that plant churches. Let’s trust God to do the things that God likes. God likes to surprise people who have faith in Him.
Let’s surprise the world by seeing a church multiplication movement birthed that sweeps across this country as churches choose to sacrifice.
Let’s give and let’s go.
Let’s plant churches that plant churches that plant churches.