Last summer, I was blessed to train 19 church leaders in a method that could start churches on a shoestring. Within 90 days, they had planted a biker church and a Hispanic church. Of the group trained, the majority were rank and file church members. And that was done intentionally.
Should everyone be a disciple-maker? Yes! How many should be church planters? I do believe in funding career missionaries to be church planters. But there will never be enough. I’ve done surveys of every county in Missouri and Ohio to try to see how many people are not claimed by any religious organization and how many church planters are needed. In both Midwest states, at least half of the people are unclaimed and at least 75% are not born again. This puts their population into the millions of those who are not engaging any evangelical church.
Most church plants do make it and grow. Some 68% succeed in a Survivability Study that Stetzer and Conner did in 2007 among nine sending agencies in the U.S. And, of those who did get a church planted, the average attendance after three years was just 73 people. From the church plants that I’ve been part of, less than 5% were newly born-again and baptized. You have to be intentional to start evangelistic churches.
Career missionary church planters are called of God to go out and it’s great that they are financially supported. And by talking with a fundraising group in Atlanta, Generis recommends that there needs to be at least $250,000 to $367,000 for three years to cover the pastor’s salary, part-time worship leader’s salary, and to rent a meeting facility. That would require billions of dollars in places like Missouri and Ohio to provide new churches for all those who are unclaimed.
Jesus knew that those hearing his Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-20) would not think any sower would lose three-fourths of his seed on the path, rocks, and thorns. The sower knew his field and had cultivated it, so those listening to Jesus would resonate with the climax of the story: “But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold” (Mark 4:20 ESV).
If funded church planting professionals are the 30, then bi-vocational planters are the 60, and I believe that church members are the “hundredfold,” in church planting. Look around you and do the math. If you’ve got 30 church planters, are there 60 bi-vocational planters, and 100 church members actively planting churches?
Missionary training for church members is available. Workers in the Harvest is now a day-long training course, a book, a Facebook page (HarvestWorkers) and a Bible study. I’d love to hear from you to schedule interested church members exploring God’s call to engaging lost people in obedience!