July 15, 2007

Planting Missional Churches - (CH 1) The Basics Of Church Planting

A few weeks ago, as I began to think about the task God has called me to, and began asking folks about what resources I should utilize in preparing to launch a church, Tony Kummer over at Said At Southern said "read and listen to everything Ed Stetzer says or writes".

I visited Ed's website, but hadn't really come across any of his books. I'm in a Christian bookstore the other day and looking on the shelf and low and behold, look what I see before me, like manna from heaven. I purchased it with a gift card I had been given about a month or so ago, and for the next little while on The Jonah Syndrome, I'll share my journey through this book.

Chapter 1 - as you may expect - covers the basics and justification for planting missional churches. A wealth of information in here. Hopefully, I can share the highlights and organize the information.

CHURCH PLANTING GOAL - To reach people: And not only are you a church planter, but you are also a missionary as well. And you can be a missionary without ever leaving your Zip code.

Ed then covers five things that today's church planter should be:

  1. Missional - The posture --the way in church we approach people in culture
  2. Incarnational - Emphasizes the importance of relationships in effective church planting. It's not about establishing a location for worship, it's about establishing a basis for coming together in the first place.
  3. Theological - Relevance to the culture should never clash with the power of Gospel
  4. Ecclesiological - The Biblical ideal and model of church does matter and is the goal of church planting
  5. Spiritual - The church planter has to be Christ-centered and transformed by the power of the Gospel. A newcomer needs to leave the church being amazed by the awesome God the church planter serves, not what a cool preacher the church has.
The book then launches into its statistical justification as it explores the five most common objections to church planting.

OBJECTION 1 - Large Church Mentality (MYTH: Bigger established churches reach more people than new churches do)

Unfortunately, the statistics don't support the myth. Consider the following stats:

--Churches less than 3 years old = 10 new converts a year / 100 church members
--Churches less than 15 but greater than 5 years old = 5 new converts a year / 100 church members
--Churches greater than 15 years old = 3 new converts per 100 church members per year

Ed argues, contrary to many para-church ministries, that the most effective method of evangelism is not sports ministry, not VBS, not anything like that. The most effective method of evangelism is church planting.

OBJECTION 2 - Parish-Church Mindset (MYTH: One denominational church in an area should be enough - ala Catholics, Presbyterians, etc)

Once again, unfortunately the statistics don't support the myth. Consider the following:

-In 1900 - 28 churches per 10,000 Americans
-In 1950 - 17 churches per 10,000 Americans
-In 2000 - 12 churches per 10,000 Americans
-In 2004 - 11 churches per 10,000 Americans

Think about this: In the year 1900, there were 212,000 churches. In the last 100 years, we have grown the number of churches by almost 50% to almost 350,000. Unfortunately, the population in America has grown by ALMOST 400%. We're not keeping up with the population boom. We're losing ground....FAST!

OBJECTION 3 - Professional Church Syndrome (MYTH: We have to have seminary trained pastors in our churches)

Unfortunately, once again, statistics and reality don't match the myth. If we rely on seminary trained people to plant new churches, with the rates of men and women leaving the ministry every year, we'll never keep up. Not even close. Also, by 2015, 50% of the world's population will live in burgeoning urban centers. Consider the following stats:

- 40% of US residents live in "multi-housing" communities (ie: Apartments) = 100 Million People
- 5% of those folks have a connection to a church = 5 Million People

That means 95 Million people in urban centers and multi-housing communities have no connection to a church. And when was the last time you saw a massive pouring of "seminary trained"pastors wanting and willing to go live in apartments to start a church and reach people. Not going to happen.

Now I'm glad that the author doesn't dismiss education, in fact Ed believes in it very much, but his stance is we can't rely solely on seminary grads to plant all the new churches that are going to be needed.

OBJECTION 4 - Rescue The Perishing Syndrome (MYTH: We should be focusing on revitalizing dying churches instead of planting new ones)
Essentially, Ed argues here that it is both/and not either/or. However, when was the last time you saw a dying church "radically" change their ways and become missional in their community. Doesn't happen that often. There are examples but they are few and far between. Relying on "revitalization" just isn't going to get the job done on the large scale for which it's needed.

OBJECTION 5 - Already Reached Syndrome (MYTH: North America has already been reached)
Finally, and for the last time, statistics just don't support the myth. You be the judge:

- 120 Million secular undiscipled people in the US
- The US is the largest mission field in the Western Hemisphere
- The US is the 5th largest mission field in the world
- 80% - 85% of churches are on the downside of their lifecycle
- % of Christians in the US dropped 9% from 1990 - 2001
- 3,500 to 4,000 churches CLOSE EVERY YEAR

You can't evaluate those stats very closely and make the case that our work here in the US is already done. To be honest, that's just stupid. And so many people look over the seas when they won't look across the street. You're in a huge mission field. And God birthed you there for a reason. Why do you think that is?

All in all, a great opening salvo. The next 28 chapters should be just as impactful.

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