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?
“We serve our community because we love our community,” proclaimed the flyer from the new church in town. And in a matter of months they definitely gained a reputation for serving the community well. They painted a school, collected shoes for the homeless, picked up trash after community events and cut up trees that blew over in a storm. It was impressive. And three years later, their church disbanded. That was not so impressive.
Recently I wrote about the need to eliminate unnecessary structure so churches and ministry organizations can focus on accomplishing their mission more effectively. This requires a lot of prayer and discernment to know what to eliminate and what to keep. Tightening up the mission is critical to a ministry’s success. But is it possible to over-tighten one’s ministry focus so that it becomes too narrow? I believe it is.
“Everyone has to have a job,” a church growth guru told our group. Throughout the three-hour seminar, he repeated these instructions in many different ways: everyone in the church should have a position of some sort, even if it is only serving on a committee. In his opinion, would make everyone feel valued and help them take ownership in the church. It sounded like a great idea. It wasn’t.
Approximately 50% of BCNE churches in Greater Boston are ethnic churches. And God is at work among them. In fact, some of the largest churches in Boston happen to be Asian, African-American and Haitian! Very impressively, most of the pioneers who planted these churches did so without the benefits of special training, financial support or church partnerships that many church planters receive today. Ethnic churches in Greater Boston are robust, and continue to multiply. I love attending the worship gatherings and enjoy having fellowship with the gifted pastors who lead these churches. Yet there is a unique, life-or-death challenge that virtually every ethnic church pastor faces: the challenge of reaching second-generation Americans.
Over the years as I’ve helped churches make connections with mission teams and partners, I’ve worked with many churches that had difficulty finding partners. They’re not impossible to partner with, as nothing is impossible for God (Luke 18:27), but they do have extra challenges. I would encourage pastors and churches seeking to go on mission, to work through these challenges with sensitivity and the power of Christ. Sometimes these churches are the ones who are most in need of partners!
Before church planting was a part of my life, discipleship pathway was not in my vocabulary. But now, 18 months in, I’m thoroughly convinced that discipleship pathway is the way forward, and the very thing that God will use to take our church to the next level of growth. Here are three reasons why I think this.
Where we are in New England, there are so many churches that have abandoned the Gospel and faithfulness to the Scripture. Many of these churches have become nothing more than buildings that are a tribute to a past that was once so influenced by the Truth. Like King Josiah, can we see godly pastors lead them back to faithfulness?