What’s the greatest hindrance to effective church planting?
You might expect to get varied answers to this question from church planting theorists, strategists, and practitioners, but among those consistently participating in this conversation one comment bubbles to the top almost every time: A scarcity of prepared leaders.
This wasn’t true in the not-too-distant past. As networks and denominations fanned the fires of church planting fervor, the early adopters were quick to launch out and start new churches. There was once a substantial pond of would-be church planters from which to fish, and numerous groups threw their lines in the water and caught strings of quality leaders.
For example, Chris Railey, Senior Director of Leadership and Church Development for the Assemblies of God, reports that they planted 406 churches three years ago and the North American Mission Board’s Send Network saw a similar rise in church planting in 2014, with 985 new church planted.
So, what’s the problem?
To many, all looked good. But there was a problem that most didn’t foresee over the horizon. It soon became obvious that ready-made, pre-prepared church planters were becoming a difficult fish to catch. The pool of church planters was becoming fished out and no one was stocking the pond.
The years that followed were met with diminishing or plateaued results among even the most aggressive denominations or networks.
No amount of altered strategy or focused resourcing can make up for a lack of pre-prepared leaders to plant the churches that North America so desperately needs.
Which prompts the question: How many churches do we need? Currently, there are approximately 4,000 churches being planted across North America by all evangelical groups. At the same time, somewhere around 3,700 churches close their doors for good each year, leaving a net addition of approximately 300 churches annually across North America.
Most missiologists estimate that we need at least twice as many new churches started each year simply to keep up with the increases in population between now and 2050. One thing is certain: We’ll never hit those numbers while our strategy remains fishing from a fishless pond.
How do we get there?
The future will hinge on the vitality and multiplication prowess of the average local church. For us to evangelize the lost and plant healthy churches we must return to the centrality of the local church in our church planting endeavors.
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SOURCE: Christianity Today, Jeff Christopherson