In January the Regional Pastors of the Church of God had our annual retreat and focused on church multiplication. Our guest trainer was Dr. Ed Stetzer (www.edstetzer.com) who is, among other things, a staunch advocate of church multiplication. The time with Dr. Stetzer was both informative and disconcerting.
We learned that…
- Planting new churches is the most effective evangelistic strategy because new churches reach more people who are far from God than established churches.
- Unless there is a change in the current trend, 50 years (or less) from now the majority of people in the U.S. will self-identify as non-Christian. Currently, 75% self-identify as Christian.
- The views of devout Christians are increasingly in the minority, yet being a Christian in the U.S. is still regarded as being socially desirable.
- Until 2014 more churches closed each year (approx. 3,700) than were started. Though more congregations are being started today (4,000 in 2014) than closed, there are still not enough congregations to reach people who are still receptive or somewhat receptive to being a Christ follower. This is partly because most established churches are not very effective in reaching people who are far from God. New churches or new campuses are much more effective in the area of evangelism. So if we escalate the number of church multiplications, we are more likely to increase the number of Christ followers.
- For a movement or church tribe to remain stable, it has to plant 3% new churches each year because it will lose 3% each year. If a movement or tribe is going to grow and thrive, it has to plant over 4% new churches each year. Therefore, church multiplication is pivotal to our future.
- Church planting was very much a part of the Church of God culture in the late 1800s. Some of our early church plants were actually born pregnant – i.e. born ready to multiply. However, now the Church of God is way behind in the area of church multiplication. As a result, our influence and impact is also declining.
Our time with Dr. Stetzer was disconcerting because we realized that we (The Church of God) needed to significantly increase the number of churches we are planting and the number of congregations that are multiplying campuses. We also need to – in the words of Dr. Rod Stafford, Pastor of Fairfax Community Church – “reclaim” churches that are stuck or dying. God has given us a mission of making disciples. That means winning people to a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ and discipling them into the likeness of Christ is not an option. And one of the most effective ways of making disciples is multiplying churches!
Late last fall, before the annual Regional Pastor Retreat, several regional pastors and large church pastors met in Phoenix to talk about working together on a church multiplication initiative. Those who gathered were already aware that making disciples by planting new churches, established churches starting new campuses, and reclaiming churches that are no longer thriving was an extremely important imperative that must receive our best efforts. And, frankly, we knew we could do better than we are. People need Jesus and communities need thriving congregations. While the Church of God is involved in multiplication, we are losing more congregations each year than we are planting and a number of congregations are struggling to survive. We must make a concerted effort to increase our multiplication efforts if we are going to be good stewards of the Great Commission and impact our communities and world for Christ!
The conclusion of this informal gathering was for like-minded large church pastors and regional pastors to work together to increase our multiplication effort. The decision was to share this desire with regional pastors in January and large church pastors at their annual roundtable in February to see who was interested in joining us in this historic initiative. Though this effort is not sponsored by either the regional pastor organization or the large church pastor roundtable, many of us have chosen to work together in order to increase our effectiveness in church multiplication.
In early April a recently formed steering committee (Rod Stafford, Marty Grubbs, Geremy Dixon, David Colp, Matt Anderson, Steve Rennick, Don Doe, Ken Love and Doug Talley) of large church pastors and regional pastors will meet to determine next steps. The intent is not to create a church multiplication organization but to raise capital to provide grants for church planting efforts. This initiative will help fund church plants, campuses, and reclamations that congregations and regional/state ministries are sponsoring or will sponsor. Criteria will be established to guide the grant-making process and expectations will be identified. The steering committee will not direct or manage church multiplications (that will be the responsibility of multiplying churches and regional/state ministries) but will come along side them in an attempt to increase the number of multiplications and increase their effectiveness.
I am excited to report that Indiana Ministries is very involved in and committed to this multiplication initiative! We will be investing financial resources and energy into this historic endeavor. To our knowledge this is the first time in our Movement’s history that large church pastors and regional pastors have partnered like this for any Kingdom cause, much less one that is so critical. A FAQ (see here) was developed by Rod Stafford, one of the initiative’s catalysts. The participation of individuals and churches of all sizes is welcomed! Please be praying for the effectiveness of this endeavor.
If you have additional questions, feel free to give me a call. We are committed to dreaming a big dream and making a huge Kingdom impact!