Ten years ago, Community Christian Church (Naperville, Illinois) started a new campus for the first time. Our weekly outreach has grown from 700 people at that location to over 5,000 in nine locations today.
Five years ago, we planted our first new church and went on to form our NewThing Network (newthing.org). Our network outreach has grown from 2,500 people in one church to more than 12,000 people in 21 churches and three networks today.
I believe Community Christian Church and our NewThing Network will develop over 100 campuses and churches with a combined weekly outreach of over 30,000 in the next three years. How? Through the reproduction of new sites and new churches.
I've become convinced over the last decade that the future of the church is the new. Our hope for accomplishing the mission of Jesus is in starting new groups, new sites, new churches, and even new networks. What kind of new groups? Any kind that bands together Christ followers carrying out the mission of Jesus. I don't care if the groups use video teaching or in-person teaching; if they are attractional, missional, or "misstractional"—;as long as they are new churches filled with people loving God and loving His world. Let me say it again, the future of the church and the hope of accomplishing the mission of Jesus is found in the new.
When I say the future is in the new, I feel like the famous bank robber "Slick" Willie Sutton who had a penchant for stating the obvious. He said he robbed banks "Because that is where the money is." It just seems obvious to me the future is in the new!
Recent research confirms that the future of the church is in the new. Dave Olson, director of the American Church Research Project (TheAmericanChurch.org), has done groundbreaking research from over 200,000 churches in the United States. Olson found that churches started from 1800 to 1969 showed an average negative growth rate from 2004 to 2005. Churches started from 1970 to 1989 on average plateaued at less than one percent positive growth. Churches started in the 1990s grew on average more than two percent, and churches started after 1999 grew by a remarkable average of nine percent from 2004 to 2005. If the mission of Jesus is to expand and include all people in God's redemptive work, it is obvious our best future is in the new.
Olson's research revealed these additional discoveries:
- In the first 10 years, new churches grow 23 times faster than churches over 10 years old.
- New churches have three to four times the number of conversions as do established churches.
- The development of new sites is a common denominator among 9 of the 10 fastest growing churches in the United States.
The brutal fact is that a local church, like any living organism, has a life expectancy. Once a church has lived a full life, it will die. So the vision of every church should be legacy, not longevity. And the best way to leave a legacy is to invest in the new. Here is how every church can invest in the new:
- Develop new churches and new sites.
Almost any church of any size can help start a new church. One partnership model has four churches contributing $17,000 each, every year for three years. This provides the capital to plant a high-impact church or site. We've also seen many examples of new, missional churches started without cost by a passionate leader.
- Develop new leaders.
More young leaders than ever before are interested in starting new churches and new sites. Encourage them. Support them. Get them into leadership residencies where they can learn how to start new churches or sites.
More than anything, I want to see the mission of Jesus fulfilled. If you are interested in the future of the church and seeing the mission of Jesus fulfilled, then focus on the new!
Dave Ferguson is Lead Pastor at Community Christian Church in Naperville, Illinois, and Movement Leader for the NewThing Network (NewThing.org).
Copyright © 2008 by the author or Christianity Today/Your Church magazine.
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