3 Reasons to Plant New Churches (And Not Just Grow Existing Ones)
I believe in Church Growth! There is nothing more exciting that spending time in a growing, vibrant local church. I remember the excitement I felt a few years ago, when attending some large church growth and cell group conferences. Any thing that brings people to Christ and causes Christ’s Kingdom to increase should thrill the heart of every believer.
However, I have come to believe that the most important focus for the advance of God’s Kingdom is not growing existing local churches into bigger local churches, but rather is multiplying many new local churches. In both strategies people are saved. But in Multiplying New Local Churches there are advantages for the forward movement of the Kingdom that go beyond the possibilities of Church Growth. To take a thought from Jim Collins….Growing Churches is Good…..Multiplying Churches is Great!
Make no mistake, we want the new churches to grow as well. We are delighted to see that churches that have been planted in the Honduras Church Planting Movement see people discipled and baptized. But it is most important that they multiply.
Here are 3 reasons why.
1. Ultimately, if we don’t multiply new churches, the work will come to an end. Merely growing existing churches will become a dead end. Multiplying new churches will be an open door to the future and to completing the great commission.
Just as a human being is born, grows up, lives, and then dies, so do all living things, including living organizations like a church. It does not matter how much development a person puts into his or her body, eventually that body will die. It may have more longevity and may be very productive in what it does, but it will come to an end. The only way for the impact to go beyond the life span is through multiplication, or having children.
Recently while in Honduras at a Church Planting Movement equipping event, a good friend from the USA was with me. In the session where we were comparing Elephant and Rabbit churches (a common metaphor that was coined by Wolfgang Simson) my friend leaned over to me and whispered that rabbits have a short life span. I agreed, but told him that was not the point we were making at the time. However, as I have thought about it, I could have replied that yes, rabbits have a shorter life span…..but as a matter of fact Elephants die too! In fact 100 percent of all Elephants Die!
Every local church that the Apostle Paul planted has either died, ceased to exist, or gone into error. Stop and think about that. There is not a single exception to this. All local churches have a life span. But the movement of multiplication of churches that the Apostle Paul was instrumental in starting continues to this day and cannot be stopped!
2. Multiplying churches is effective in making disciples, not just making converts. Here is a component that distinguishes church planting movements. They are really disciple making movements. For this reason many Church Planting Movement practitioners are now using DMM instead to tag the kinds of movements being spawned. (In spite of that, I still use the Church Planting language…in fact I use both labels….I don’t want to lose the church planting focus…..when disciples are made they form into groups that are the Biblical definition of a church. We make disciples and Christ builds His Church).
I don’t want to paint with too broad a brush here. I realize that many church growth theorists and practitioners are focused strongly on discipleship. But there is the danger, both in theory and in fact many times, that church growth focuses on Evangelism and Addition of people to the local numbers and attendance, yet many of our church programs don’t focus much on forming Obedient to Scripture disciples. (There may or may not be a focus on obedience, but often it is obedience to leaders or obedience to institutional rules….trends that can distort discipleship).
3. Multiplying Churches brings Glory to God and Advance to God’s Kingdom. The focus is on finishing the Great Commission. Church Growth cannot do this, but Church Multiplication can. There are really 2 concepts here: a. Church Multiplication will actually succeed in reaching all peoples in the world. No local church, no matter how big, will do that, but multiplication of local groups of disciples in many cultural forms will. b. The Glory, the credit for church multiplication is not as easily sidetracked to a person, a religious group, or an organization, as is the numerical growth of a local church or organization. If you doubt this, try this experiment. Name 5 mega church pastors or prominent evangelists: How many can you name! Name 5 CPM catalysts: How many can you name!
Let me return to the beginning of this blog. My purpose is not to denigrate church growth practitioners. In fact CPM looks back to the key founders of the Church Growth Movement as the pioneers who have unearthed many of the CPM principles. (As a matter of fact, Donald McGavran, the father of the Church Growth Movement was originally advocating Church Multiplication. He primarily meant the Growth of the Universal Church through Church Multiplication as his definition of Church Growth. It was only later, as his influence began to be felt in the USA that his principles became focused on local church size enhancement rather than multiplication. My reading of McGavran’s book “Understanding Church Growth” stimulated me personally toward Church Multiplication and Planting when I first encountered it in 1993-1994.) Praise God for every Growing Church that is making Disciples for Jesus! The purpose of this blog is to be an advocate for Church Multiplication.