Statistically, church planting is a suicide mission. Church planting books and conferences often observe that 80% of new church plants fail within the first four years (though this data has not been carefully sourced). A controlled statistical study by Ed Stetzer showed that out of 1000 churches planted between 2000 and 2005, only 68% remained viable after four years.
A number of factors contribute to this failure rate, but denominations and church-planting agencies often compound the problem by throwing money and opportunity at any young Christian leader with a dream and an entrepreneurial spirit. In our own city I have witnessed numerous church planters come and go, burning through hundreds of thousands of dollars while trying vainly to hold together a core team by the sheer power of their charisma.
From the outset, the Acts 29 Network has had a different model. We have held firmly to the biblical criteria for eldership given in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. No man can be approved to plant an Acts 29 church unless he is an exceptional man in every way: a strong husband and father, a sound theologian, a gifted leader and preacher, and a proven start-from-scratch entrepreneur. While others are looking for better methods, we are looking for better men.
And the numbers seem to indicate that God is blessing this approach:
- From 2006 to 2009 Acts 29 assessed 414 potential church planters and approved 240 (58%) to go forward as Acts 29 Candidates. (Candidates must gather a core of 40 people before moving to Full Member status). Two hundred of those men are now Full Members who are active in church planting; the rest didn’t make it through the candidate phase.
- Of church planters who are assessed, approved, and progress to Full Member status, the viability rate within Acts 29 is 98.4%.
- Acts 29 currently has 204 Full Members and 85 men in candidate phase (including our own Will Walker), for a total of 289 churches affiliated.
- With over 40% of applicants rejected, you’d think that aspiring church planters would be going elsewhere. But the exact opposite is happening: in 2009, Acts 29 had 470 new applicants – an average of 39 per month. God is raising up an army of men who want someone to shoot straight with them. They want to know if they’ve got the right gifting, calling, and experience to plant churches – and they’re coming to us because they know we tell the truth.
The purpose of this post isn’t to brag about Acts 29, but to celebrate what God seems to be doing. And to make the point that when we follow the Bible’s instructions for church leadership, surprisingly… it works. Please pray for God to continue raising up qualified church planters who will plant gospel-centered churches all over the world – so that people might meet Jesus, cities and cultures might be transformed, and God might be glorified!