Have you ever thought about that question?
If your answer is, “Because it’s a good church and I like it,” that’s decent. But a better answer would be, “Because I am passionate about seeing Jesus exalted in my culture, and that means I must be a part of planting new churches. To do anything else is to fiddle while Rome burns.”
Sometimes we slip into thinking that church planting has to do with “starting something new and hip and cool.” Sometimes I slip into thinking that. Thankfully, when I do, God usually brings me around by way of the facts. When I worked in politics, we used to say, “The numbers don’t lie.” Here are the numbers regarding church in America:
- About 3,500 churches close their doors each year
- Nationally, the population grew 13.2% between 1990 and 2000, but new churches were only planted at a 5% rate
- The churches that are “growing” are predominantly the megachurches, and most of their growth is not coming from the unchurched, but from Christians who are leaving smaller churches to move to larger ones
- The United States remains the fourth largest mission field in the world
If anyone asks you, “Why are you helping to plant a new church? Aren’t there enough already?” now you have an answer. Statistically the answer is plainly, NO!! May God renew in all of us not just a calling to Coram Deo, but a calling to church planting in general. May He use our humble efforts as a small part of His means to exalt His name by re-contextualizing the gospel of Jesus Christ for a post-Christian, post-church culture.
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I think politicians and marketers often use numbers to convey whatever idea they want to.
3500 churches close their doors each year. How many open their doors? What kind of churches close? What kind open? Maybe bad ones are closing and good ones are opening. You can’t tell from this statistic.
Nationally, the population grew 13.2% between 1990 and 2000, but new churches were only planted at a 5% rate. Okay, new churches were planted at a 5% rate, but how many saw growth? Does growth mean square footage, members, spiritual growth…..?
The churches that are “growing” are predominantly the megachurches, and most of their growth is not coming from the unchurched, but from Christians who are leaving smaller churches to move to larger ones. This is not necessarily good or bad. I would say it’s good that some growth is coming from the unchurched. I suppose all churches started as smaller. I don’t know what the definition of a megachurch is. Are there any megachurches in Omaha, or are we talking more like Rick Warren size?
The United States remains the fourth largest mission field in the world. I don’t know how the mission fields are divided up. Honestly, I didn’t even know they were defined. I wonder if it’s by nation, people group, couldn’t be continent… anyway apparently the U.S. is the 4th largest one and “remains” at that rank….. since last year, last decade, last month? I don’t know.
Nick… I love your skepticism. You remind me of me. I hate statistics.
But I gotta tell ya: I’ve been checking these stats a hundred different ways for the last 3 years, and they all point to the same reality: the church is losing ground in America. All of these stats use “church” in its broadest sense – including bad ones and good ones. Sure, maybe it’s the bad ones that are closing… but unless new, GOOD ones are planted, the church as a whole continues to lose ground.
The whole point is that the church is in decline. Put the stats together: if 3500 churches close each year, that means we would have to plant 3500 new churches just to stay even! Then, if you add a 13% population growth rate on top of that, we have to plant thousands more just to keep growing at the same rate as the population. I’m not aware of any statistic that shows the church as a whole keeping pace with the population growth.
But hey, check the numbers yourself. The Internet is a vast resource!!