I recently attended the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Birmingham, Alabama. On Tuesday, Dr. Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, gave his report, emphasizing once again that church plants are more effective in evangelism than established churches. (The report said there were 12.4 attendees for every baptism in a church plant, while there were 19.8 attendees for every baptism in an established church, a 63% greater effectiveness.) This is not new information, as every study done on this since at least 1990 has reported the same results. The question is, why?
I watched my Facebook feed with some humor this past week as several individuals reminded their readers: “Pretend it’s Easter. Come back this Sunday. Jesus is still alive!”
Yes, Jesus is still alive, and this reality should make a difference in how the Easter worshipers in our communities approach the following Sunday … and the ones after that. But it should impact our lives as Christ-followers, too.
In Christian circles today, church planting remains a popular ministry option. It’s not hard to find a multitude of church planting resources. Books, seminars, podcasts, websites, even entire mission agencies, exist to help church planters succeed. A large majority of these resources imply, if not explicitly declare, that the end game for a church planter is to plant a church as God has directed him. But such a goal falls far short of God’s desire.
Christmas is upon us, and right now, my wife and I find ourselves collecting gifts for those we love. Often the hardest part of gift-giving for us is figuring out the most appropriate gift for family members and friends. The goal—at least for us—is to give something meaningful to the recipient, but a gift that also reflects a bit of who we are. That combination makes the gift special and enjoyable for everyone involved, and sometimes unique enough to be memorable in some way.
Several years ago, I attended a training workshop in which noted author Alan Hirsch said the following, “Your system is perfectly designed for the results that you are getting.” This statement has challenged me in the years since, for a variety of reasons. It has caused me to spend more time evaluating my programs and processes to see if they are functioning effectively. It has forced me to think about the results I hope to see happen. And perhaps, most importantly, it has provoked me to ask why we do what we do, the purpose and reason behind our efforts.
I have long been passionate about our region of the country. From my first missions experience here forty years ago while a college student from the South to my current position of service in church planting, those who are a part of our family of churches in this region have always recognized the difference New England represents. It is a place of spiritual heritage in our land. It is a place of cultural influence across the nation. And it is a place of significant impact upon every life touched by our economy and our education.