Do we really need more churches?
That was the question posed to me when I was working to establish a new church in my hometown of Buffalo, NY, several years ago. At the time, Buffalo was the 8th most post-Christian city in the nation, according to Barna. Yet many Christians wondered why we were attempting to start a new church when so many older established congregations were dying and shutting their doors.
“Why should we invest time, energy, people, and money into starting a new church instead of directing those resources to growing the churches that already exist?” they’d ask. That’s a great question to wrestle with if you’re thinking about planting a church. So I ask you, why do we plant new churches when it’s hard enough to grow the ones we already have?
For me there are several reasons why we plant new churches, and one is because it’s easier to give birth than to raise the dead. Churches are living organisms. They have life spans.
None of the churches that the apostle Paul planted still exist today. However, their influence is still felt because they planted churches that planted churches that ultimately planted yours.
Think about this: chances are, the church you’re leading today will one day no longer exist. Either Jesus will return first or eventually it will die. However, if you make disciples and send them out to plant new churches, your church’s influence will continue to impact the world long after your church is gone.
Do we really need more churches? Yes, if we want to reach future generations for Christ, we need new churches.
I could build a case for why we plant new churches by sharing stories about people who have been reached through new churches. Or I could make my case by sharing data about the increasing number of people in the United States that aren’t connected to a local church. Instead, I’m going to ground my reasoning for why we should start more churches in Scripture. (For more reasons, read Tim Keller’s blog post Church Planting Is What We Do or Peter Wagner’s book Church Planting For A Greater Harvest).
Turn to the very first page of the Bible, and you can see God’s heart for multiplication.
Here we see church planting as the natural overflow of God’s original mandate to mankind. When God created Adam and Eve, what did he command them to do? He commanded them to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and rule over it. God had created mankind to be his image bearers–his representatives–to take his image and glory all throughout the earth.
While the fall of Genesis 3 tarnished our relationship with God and frustrated our ability to reflect God’s glory, God’s didn’t revoke our mission to fill the earth and rule over it. In fact, as the biblical narrative continues, mankind scatters and fills the earth–that is until Genesis 11. That’s when some leaders began to think, “Wouldn’t it be better if instead of scattering and distributing our resources far and wide, we instead pooled all our resources and built a great city and tower?”
Sound like any church leaders you know? Sound like you sometimes?
Yes, even though God had commanded humanity to fill the earth, they decided to build and amass all their resources instead of scattering and filling the earth.
As God’s word makes clear, God didn’t take kindly to the Tower of Babel and those who built it. Not at all. Instead of affirming them for their vision and engineering skills, he scolds and scatters them. He confuses their language, so they can no longer work together, but are forced to go their separate ways, once again filling the earth instead of accumulating their resources all in one place.
Turn in Scripture to the New Testament, and we see this same thing happen in the earliest years of the church. Jesus, through his death and resurrection, has just provided the means for creating a new humanity. He’s laid the foundation for his church.
Then right before he assumes his heavenly throne he tells his followers, “Go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:18-20).
In Act 1:8 he offers them this strategy for spreading his good news, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” What is Jesus is telling his disciples to do? He’s telling them to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth.
This seems like a pretty clear directive to me. Yet how do the disciples respond to it? Not very well. That’s what the next article is about.