A Revolution in Church Planting

I've been thinking a lot about church planting lately.

I found the following on the following on the NCEA's (Northern California Evangelistic Association) website:

"For the last 12 years NCEA has specialized in starting "shoestring budget" churches. The average cost has been $52,000, ranging from a low of $6,000 for our second largest church, to approximately $100,000 for others."

Those numbers were written in 1997. In the 8 years since then, I would assume that the prices of planting a church have gone even higher. Those numbers aren't feasible to have the drastic church planting that our nation needs. Here is my proposed solution.

We need to stop two misconceptions in church planting.

The first one has pretty much been done away with, but in the 1950s and 60s it was the norm. Church planting organizations or denominations would come into town and plant a church by building a building. The theory was that if you came into town, had a clergyman, and built a house of worship, then the people would come and you would have a church. It seemed to work for that time period, but it's time has gone the way of the hula hoop. Imagine the cost of planting a church if we still kept that model.

Despite the fact that we have done away with the most expensive item in that church planting model, we have still clung onto one high cost, the paid pastor or minister. It is the second misconception that we need a paid pastor in order to plant a church. Living out this misconception just isn't feasible if we are going to see a rapid springing up of new churches. It is to our generation of church planters what the building was to the generation before us. It is an albatross that needs to be thrown out.

I propose an alternative. We plant churches without buildings or paid pastors. We start training up teams of laymen to go and plant churches rather than an individual paid pastor. The job of a church planting organization or denomination would change to a training headquarters for lay church planting rather than a money funneling agency for a few church plants. Teams across the state would rise up and receive the training necessary to plant a church in their neighboring communities or wherever they feel called.

The problem with church planting agencies being an organization whose main purpose is to funnel money to church plants is that many church plants fail to really take root and grow. If you've funnelled a lot of money into that church, then you have, for all intents and purposes, wasted a lot of God's resources on something that will never bear fruit. Despite the good intentions of such organizations and the people that head them, they have failed too many times. It really isn't their fault; it is the system they are working in.

With lay-led church planting, you can have failures and the financial cost would not be all that burdensome to the kingdom. I would presume that percentage of failures would also go down if this new model was adopted because the church is already there from the beginning. A building doesn't make a church. A paid pastor doesn't make a church. But a group of people does. They can't fail if they handle their conflicts appropriately and don't take on too many expenditures because they already are a healthy church from the initial training sessions.

Then after the plant has taken root and their finances are stable, the church can then proceed to hire a paid pastor and build a building if they are called to such. They could become a network of house churches. The key is to be sensitive to what God is calling them to.

One of the key things this model would change in the life of a church plant is that from the beginning they would not be too financially strapped to be a loving light in the community they live in and to the needy around the world. Too often we create churches that are too financially strapped to do the main work of the church, love God and love our neighbors. From the beginning, a church plant would be working with the offerings of the church planting team without any regular expenditures. They would have all of their money to be loving with, which I think should be the priority of a church's finances anyway.

All I'm proposing is flipping the order of importance in church planting around a little bit. The important thing in a church is not a paid minister or a building; it is the people of the church. This church planting model recognizes this and puts the emphasis on it. I firmly believe that we would see a church revolution in America if this model would be implemented. It wouldn't take long to spread the word of God across this land like what happened on the frontier when people started planting churches in their houses. Sometimes the kingdom is limited by our misconceptions and traditions.

Watch out for potholes.