Mike McDaniel is the Director of The Summit Network, the church planting center at the Summit and one of the main contributors here at the SJI blog.
I’m looking forward to the day that you’ll be able to ask any random person at the Summit why we put so much focus on church planting, and they’ll look at you like you’re crazy just for suggesting otherwise. I have a dream that nobody at the Summit will be able to sit in a pew (shout-out to my West Clubbers) or an over-sized chair without considering being a part of a Summit campus or church plant.
But until that day comes (and it is coming), we’re going to keep sounding the church planting horn until you get it, or you get so tired of hearing it that you decide to go plant a church just to get away from all the noise.
So here it is. Here, in a nutshell, are the reasons why we think church planting is the best thing since sliced bread, and why we want to plant 1000 churches in the next 40 years:
Special shout-out to Tim Keller who put us on to a lot of these ideas.
1. The Biblical Mandate
Church Planting is THE most effective means of fulfilling the Great Commission. Matthew 28:18 calls us to “make disciples…baptizing…and teaching.” This is more than just evangelism; it is incorporation into a covenant community. As Keller puts it, “the only way to truly be sure that you are creating permanent new Christians is to plant new churches.” This also happens to have been the Apostle Paul’s strategy, who planted churches in every city that he visited. And if it’s good enough for Paul, it’s good enough for us.
2. The Gospel Need
Only 17.5% of Americans attend church on any given weekend. In 1900, there were 28 churches for every 10,000 Americans. In 2004, there were only 11 for every 10,000. It’s estimated that just to keep pace with population growth, we need to increase the rate we are planting churches tenfold. If we want to see our cities reached with the gospel, we need to fill them with gospel-centered churches. Internationally, there are over 3400 unreached unengaged people groups (UUPGs) in the world. These are people who have local church, no access to the Gospel in their culture.
3. Strategic Advantage
According to Keller, “new churches best reach new generations, new residents, and new people groups.” New churches best reach new generations because older, more established churches tend to get stuck on methods and traditions that are no longer effective. New churches best reach new residents because it’s easier to get involved. New churches best reach new people groups because they can be contextualized more easily. Studies have shown that new churches reach the ‘unchurched’ 6-8 times better than older congregations.
The bottom line is, we believe planting churches is one of the main ways we can love our world, because THE best thing for every community is a church that can both proclaim and demonstrate the gospel of Jesus.