Why Do People Plant Churches? Common Answers

Why Do People Plant Churches? Common Answers March 6, 2012

I am currently sitting under Juliet Kilpin and Stuart Murray in a Church Planting course.  Excellent stuff! We are focusing on the realities created by Post-Christendom, which is clear in the UK and starting to bubble up in urban centers across North America. (PS – GET IN ON SOME CHURCH PLANT TRAINING THIS SATURDAY VIA THE WEB. INFO HERE!)

Yesterday, we chatted a bit about common reasons that the need for church planting emerges in various situations.  None of these are “good” or “bad” but represent some common reasons why folks decide to plant a church.  I should also say that they don’t include the obvious issues (preach the gospel, etc.) as that is already assumed.  So, here is the list.

Reasons for Planting Churches Today

–       To replace churches that have closed, leaving some areas under-churched

–       To replace ineffective churches that are not engaged in mission to their community

–       To penetrate society more effectively, planting churches closer to where people live

–       To respond to population increases and demographic changes

–       To relocate and redistribute Christians more strategically across society

–       To release space in over-full buildings

–       To provide new opportunities for service and leadership

–       To release tension and head off damaging splits in churches

–       To provide a wider range of churches and more options for connecting with people

–       To offer opportunities to experiment and help the church adapt to a changing culture

–       To enable targeted and specialized churches to be formed

–       To act as a catalyst for denominations

What reasons here on this list have you seen in action?  Are any descriptions here ones that make you uncomfortable?  What reasons on this list do you resonate with most?

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  • Crispin

    Interesting list here.  I am about 2 years into planting a church called Northshore Vineyard across the lake from New Orleans.  Part of my desire to plant was that I really loved the church I was a part of in New Orleans where I served as the worship pastor for 7 years.  I particularly loved the way the church engaged the community and connected with those outside the faith.  It seemed to me that there just weren’t too many churches that I knew of that were able to do that very well.  So part of the driving force for me was I had participated in a good thing and wanted to see more of that happen.

    2 and half years into church planting I am really beginning to see why church plants are crucial to the life of the church at large.  You list touches on a few of these areas.  Church plants work great fro releasing people into leadership and ministry because folks have to step up and help out if the church is going to be sustainable.  I am amazed at the folks who are a part of my church that were in large churches for years without ever taking much of a leadership role.  These people are truly gifted leaders but in a larger church had no opportunity in part because the larger churches didn’t need them to lead.  

    I also think that church plants can connect with a local community in a fresh way than more established churches because a church plant by its very nature is having to think through things in fresh ways.  

    There is also something very exciting about paring mission and community together that seems to happen more naturally in a church plant than in larger more established churches.  Community tends to form more naturally because the church is very small but it is also gathered around mission which helps to keep it from becoming inward.  

    These are just a few thoughts on the subject.  

  • Mike Ward

    This is agreat post. It’s something I’ve thought about, and I’m glad to see that those who plant churches think about it too.

    There’s something curious about going to a place where Christians already are and instead of joining a church starting a church.

    I’m not saying this is wrong, but it is something that needs some thought.

  • Wally

    Great list, again noting that it is not labeled good or bad, just reasons. With a team, I planted a church 4 years ago, but it feels as if we replanted 3 different times in those 4 years. We are in the city, very  much an urban plant, which was driven by a mission to serve and connect with the community in the city. As we began we had many people drift in from the suburban church, sister churches in our denomination largely, because it seemed really impacting and rich with mission, and then most of them bolted when the reality of the grit, weight and tension of it all became evident. There seems to be an appealing piece within mission, but the reality of church planting, and even more so, urban church planting that is tense. I would say  it is ministry BETWEEN the lines of the sexiness of the powerful transformation stories and the process in which that happens. For every drug addict who experiences life fresh and new, who has gone from death to life, is the person who continues to reel in destruction and ruin, and how much heart, blood and tears that continue to be given to that person, because all life is precious. That takes a lot of human resource, and I have found few interested in that kind of sowing. We need more planters, and yet we need more people sharing the between the lines stories so that new plants are being planted in real reality 🙂 Makes sense? Those above reasons are not good or bad, but they better be pure, I would say.  

  • Ricky Bowen

    I think another issue that should be considered is a church plant done by a guy who is jaded. That is, his “negative” experience in an existing church underneath what he deems “poor leadership” have led him to plant a church. Lots of things are a catalyst for planting and many are good. However, there is the reality of guys entering this world out of a spirit of pride and not because God has called them and then confirmed that they are, indeed, to plant a church. I suppose we would all like to think that every church planter has a clear conscience and has clear motives. My experience with a few church planters that I know, certainly not all of them, tell me otherwise.

    • Wally

      I strongly agree Ricky,, we cannot have churches that are built on what someone is against. I have seen, up close, how divisive that can be in the larger church body, as well as in the community where the church centers. 

      • This was my first thought too. Anymore, when a conflict happens, the damaged party can just start their own congregation. There needs to be an effort to reconcile before we just plant a church because of a disagreement.

    • Crispin

      Had I planted a church 10 years ago I would have been that jaded church planting guy.  I had had some really bad experiences with church and had even considered just dropping out  of organized church altogether.  Thankfully I had some mentors along the way that helped me walk through some of those issues and eventually I found myself in a healthier experience of church.  There are definitely a lot of churches that get started that way.  But I also believe that most church planters go through serious times of disillusionment with church and ministry at some point before they plant.  After all, if things are always comfortable few will even desire to do something new.  I think the challenge is walking would be church planters through their angst and helping them to grow and mature before sending them out.  

  • Bruce

    I once worked with a mission in the Philippines that planted churches. The prevailing modus operandi among the locals was to build or rent a building and install a sound system, then compete with the neighboring churches for tithes-paying members via feeding programs and baptisms. The most successful pastors were those best at acquiring rice from the NGO’s and distributing it. Here in the U.S., the MO seems to be to become  a ‎501c3, then get a building, and etc.
    I became cynical. Both miss the point.
    I have now come to believe that house churches are the key. Like-minded Christians should simply find a place to gather for prayer, worship, and teaching. Social improvement among the members and then among the neighbors will naturally follow, also evangelism. Use larger buildings for special events, but keep the congregations as small as possible and full-time pastors as few as possible. Associations of these little churches are highly desirable for the sake of maintaining good doctrine and for cooperating and pooling resources for social programs.

  • Richie

    People shouldn’t plant churches. Apostles should. http://www.richielewis.com