A Time to Plant - Ecc. 3:2
Over the last six years our denominational leaders have made the launching of new churches a major emphasis. It is exciting to realize that in this time period we have either planted or revitalized 30 churches. This has been a co-operative effort involving denominational leaders, pastors, laity and Ohio Christian University. It is obvious that the Lord is blessing this effort in a wonderful way.
I want to thank our church planters who have poured their hearts and souls into reaching the lost by planting and revitalizing existing churches. I want to thank you who have given generous sums of money to make this all possible. As of today, all of these churches are doing well and showing great potential.
I am aware that some of our churches and laity have not yet caught the vision for these Church Extension projects. I have heard a variety of reasons for this reluctance. Some of the reasons seem to be rather selfish, lack of knowledge or because of some church planting failures. In this brief article I cannot give you all the reasons why we must continue to plant churches, but I will list several.
It is a proven fact that the best way to reach unsaved and unchurched people is by starting a new church. This is sufficient in and of itself to inspire us to continue starting churches.
The United States is the largest mission field in the Western Hemisphere. Only China and India have more non-Christians than we have in the US and Canada. If just half of the non church goers in the US wanted to go to church this Sunday there would not be enough seats in the existing churches for them.
Currently, there are approximately 360,000 churches in the United States. Every year 4000 of them are closing. While only around 1300 new churches are being launched each year. The result is, there are fewer opportunities in the U.S. for people to hear the gospel than ever before. We must become more aggressive in starting new churches just to take the place of those who are closing their doors.
It is far more than a slogan that, "Lost people matter to God and they should matter to us." This is a biblically based truth that should compel us to take the gospel to all people.
Here is an undeniable reality for our denomination. More than half of our churches did not add one member last year on a profession of faith. The majority of the people added to our membership rolls were already Christians transferring from other churches. Percentage wise our new churches are receiving more members through conversion than many of our older churches. These statistics would be true of nearly all denominations in the United States.
In many of our established churches, we have people and young adults with leadership potential. The best and possibly the only way they will have the opportunity to develop that potential is by becoming involved in a new church.
A few churches have succeeded in becoming a multi-cultural or multi-racial congregation. However, these churches are far and few between. One of the things I learned while serving in world missions was that to reach a particular people group a strategy must be developed to specifically reach that group. Most unsaved and unchurched people are best reached by a group of believers that are like them. For example, the same language, location, profession, income and educational levels. If a strategy is not developed to reach them, the gospel can be all around them but it will go right over their heads.
This is one of the reasons we are starting Hispanic and West Indian churches. It is one of the reasons new and young churches will always be needed. We must expand this effort if we are to be effective in our modern world.
Over these next few weeks your church will be taking a Church Extension offering. I want to urge you to give a generous offering for this great cause. We are just getting started. There is much to be done if we are to reach the lost and dying all around us.
Your involvement is urgently needed!