Church planting has been in vogue for the better part of the last decade. This has been partly aided by many success stories of men who parachuted into a city, started a church in his living room, and saw attendance explode almost overnight. These stories are known by enough people that it feels like this is the norm in church planting. Every man who thinks about planting a church thinks that they will move to town, put up a couple of signs, and see hundreds walk through the door on the first Sunday. These men are convinced that their preaching is going to be the most compelling thing that people have ever heard, that their “worship experience” is going to wow people in a way that has never happened, and that the community is going to flock to their new church in droves.
These stories are the exception and not the rule. I know more men who have had to close their churches than I do men who have seen the kind of growth that gets them invited to speak at conferences. Everyone hears that this might be the case, but no one thinks that it is going to be them.
We need more churches in the United States. We need a lot more churches in the United States. Millions of people don’t know Jesus and millions more claim to, but have no connection to a local church. In many places in our nation, there are not enough churches to reach the people in their cities. Therefore we need an influx of new churches who are going to engage their communities with the Gospel and who will plant more churches who will do the same.
A change has to happen in our thinking for this kind of thing to happen though. We do not need a generation of church planters who want to be the next big thing. That will do nothing to make a dent in the number of people in our culture who don’t know Jesus. When numerical success is your benchmark, you will sacrifice your principles and build your ministry on all the wrong things to achieve your goal. Churches built on hype, great music, and a magnetic personality may reach some lost people, but for the most part they simply pull Christians from other churches.
The task which lies before us calls for an army of church planters who are content with no one knowing their name except the people in their community and the people they shepherd. We need church planters who have complete confidence in the Bible as God’s word and the power of God’s Spirit to save people through the simple proclamation of the Gospel message. The millions of lost people in our midst calls for men who are willing to move into neighborhoods and plant their lives so that they might see a Gospel witness flourish there.
This type of man is needed because the work is not easy. The hours are long, the demands are high, and the temptations are many. Yet this is all worth it. Seeing people come to know Christ and grow in their faith is exhilarating. Watching God save people and then call them to go plant churches too in an inestimable privilege. But, if our desire is numerical success and the desire to be known, it is unlikely that we will stick with it long enough to see these things happen. My prayer today is that God will continue to call out many new planters, and that these men will be willing to be anonymous so that Jesus might be made known.