Bring It Back - A Grassroots GCR: Every Church, a Church Planting Church
By Tim Brister
Essentially, a commitment to the Great Commission inherently requires a passion for church planting. Christ gave this commission to the local church, and yet less than 15% of churches have owned it to the point of actively being involved in planting churches. The question that must be asked then is why 85% of churches in North America are not engaged in the Great Commission to the point of making disciple-making disciples who form into church planting churches? Here is a list of few possible reasons that come to mind:
• church leaders have thought it better to outsource the work of church planting to denominations or parachurch ministries
• the philosophy of ministry embraced by bulky programs and maintenance methodology have prevented churches from reproducing
• the church growth movement has led churches to focus on building their own kingdom rather than the kingdom of Christ
• a professionalized view of ministry has left the work to a few people in the church while the majority have become passive consumers
• the Great Commission has become measured by church attendance and conversion rather than disciple-making and sending
• in order to plant churches you need to live in a certain location and have a large enough budget to make it happen
Surely there are other contributing factors that could be added to this list, but it could be argued that the challenge is not merely missiological but cultural and ecclesiological. For churches to transition to becoming church planting outposts for the kingdom of God, a new way of thinking needs to be cultivated.
For Baptists, there are several things that work in our favor in becoming church planting churches. We believe in local church autonomy, meaning that churches are able to govern themselves and make decisions quickly without having to gain approval from a controlling authority. Baptists also hold to the priesthood of all believers (at least theoretically) such that ever member in the local church has the privilege and responsibility of being on mission and discharging the gifts and abilities given to them by God. Baptists also believe in local and global evangelization, that there is an urgency and priority of taking the gospel to those who have never heard of Jesus and being faithful stewards of it in our own neighboring contexts.
According to NAMB research, 78% of churches in the Southern Baptist Convention are comprised with less than 500 people with a median average of 209 members. On the other hand, Stetzer points out that megachurches represent 0.4% of the total Protestant church population.” Given these realities, then, if there will be a Great Commission Resurgence among Baptists, it will mean taking the 78% of churches under 500 people and encouraging, assisting, and equipping them to become church planting churches. Here is a startling statistic from Stetzer:
“Churches that are 200 or less in attendance are four times more likely to plant a church than churches of 1000 or more in attendance while churches between 200-500 in attendance are twice as likely to plant a church than their larger counterparts.”Let’s put this together:
1. The local church is the most natural context for church planting.
2. The Great Commission was given by Christ to the Church.
3. The full and mature expression of the Great Commission is evidenced in church planting.
4. 85% of churches are not actively engaged in church planting.
5. Nearly 80% of churches today are less than 500 people in size.
6. These small churches are at least twice as likely to plant than large churches.
PLNTD exists to encourage churches of all sizes to embrace the Great Commission through church planting, especially smaller churches. It makes sense that the most natural context for church planting (local church) is the most effective means for advancing the Great Commission. It also makes sense that smaller churches are more successful and effective in reproducing themselves. And yet 85% of churches have not embraced the vision of being church planting churches. If we expect only megachurches to be the only churches, not only are relegating church planting to 0.4% of all churches, we are neglecting the 78% of churches who are twice as likely to reproduce than they are.
Church planting is possible no matter what size your church or where you are located. PLNTD wants to help your church seize the opportunity today to embrace God’s mission by becoming a sending outpost for Great Commission Christians. We encourage you to join the discussion. Connect with other churches and future church planters, and let us labor together to see kingdom advance through planting gospel-centered churches for the glory of God!
1 Ed Stetzer and Dave Travis, “Who Starts New Churches?” State of Church Planting USA (Leadership Network, 2007), 5.
2 According to the Hartford Institute of Religious Research, 94% of all churches in the United States have less than 500 people in attendance, 59% with less than 100. For more information, see http://hirr.hartsem.edu/research/fastfacts/fast_facts.html#sizecong.
3 Phillip B. Jones, “Analysis of Southern Baptist Churches by Size of Church” North American Mission Board Research Report (November 1998).
4 Ed Stetzer and Warren Bird, Viral Churches: Helping Church Planters Become Movement Makers (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2010), 59. Later in the book, they add, “Our caution about big churches is that the more they grow, the more likely they are to grow by addition rather than multiplication. It is never easy to give up the people rather than multiply. The larger a church becomes the greater the temptation becomes to take on a sedentary position to movemental Christianity. The larger the church, the less able it is to multiply itself—unless its leaders continually make heroes of small replicable groups, teams, or classes. In reality, a church grows bigger by doing small better” (141).
5 Ed Stetzer and Dave Travis, “Who Starts New Churches?” 6."