Does your town need
another new church? A lot of people think so.
It’s true that most people won’t attend any church in
your town this week. But that’s not because there’s no room for
them in your churches. On the contrary, open capacity has never
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But over-supply will not stop the church planters.
They’re on their way to add even more capacity. They’ll tell
you that studies show that new churches have a better track record
of attracting the unchurched-and any churched folks who are ready
to move their membership to something shinier.
This phenomenon is not new. But it is generating new
interest among a new generation of entrepreneurial church planters.
The current crop seems to come in two varieties.
THE BIGS. The first group
admires and desires to emulate other recent church planters who
have entered a community, rented space for worship in a school,
gathered a burgeoning crowd, built a big building, went
“multi-site,” and became a celebrity pastor.
THE SMALLS. The second group
seeks to re-define church as we know it. They’re devoted to
building one-to-one relationships and forming small gatherings of
people wherever people want to gather and talk about life and
faith. No praise band. No pulpit (or stool).
The first group tends to be markedly homogenous.
observation was made recently by David
Murrow, author of Why Men Hate Going to Church. He
cited several reasons, in fact, why he’s not too excited about this
approach to church planting:
1. “Everyone’s planting the same
church.” Same worship formula of about half praise
music, half preaching-led by a “young, informally dressed man.”
2. “Church planting is very
expensive.” Murrow cited one denomination’s average
spend of $125,000 to $175,000 per year per new church. (And most
will fail within two years.)
3. “Church planting is labor
intensive.” Staff and volunteers set up and tear down
truckloads of stage gear, chairs and equipment every week-leading
to burnout and neglect of relational time.
4. “Church plants are built on . . . one
overworked man.” The church will live or die on his
character and his ability to “captivate an audience with his
Murrow concluded with a couple of questions: “Is there
a better way to establish new congregations?” And, “Is there a
better way to organize Christians and grow disciples than church
These are the very questions being asked by the other
group of planters. They’re taking a decidedly different path, with
a much different envisioned outcome. These pioneers include people
like Tillie Burgin, who I described in an
earlier post. She and her team have started
and nurture 329 little congregations that meet in apartment
complexes, community centers, houses, and parks.
And there’s Barbara Huisman in Iowa, who worked with
her denomination to start a ministry that would not duplicate what
every other church is doing on Sunday. She started a Lifetree
Cafe ministry in a storefront location on
the rough side of town. Lifetree’s weekly guided conversations
bring together an array of townspeople who have now formed three
additional creative ministry outreaches.
Another Lifetree, in Reading, Pennsylvania, offers its
weekly episodes in a local pub. The volunteer director, a local
policeman, reaches those who he says would never get near a regular
Casey Franklin, a church leader in Colorado organizes
gatherings of like-minded people through the online service
Meetup.com. He forms friendships-that inevitably eventually lead to
spiritual conversations-with those who turn out randomly for his
groups titled “South Denver Social Club” and “The Church of
And this week, Steve Hewitt of American Church
Magazine, launched an organization to
support what he calls “micro churches”-any grouping of Christ
followers (“two or more”) who get together, anywhere, to pray for
one another, encourage one another, or disciple one another. Hewitt
explains that the majority of professed Christians now no longer
attend a regular church. But they are indeed the church, “when two
or more gather in my name.”
So, what do you think? Does your town need a new