While it appears that there is a church on every corner, that is far from the reality. While there may be church buildings, they are occupied by fewer and fewer Christians. The percentage of the American population that participates in a weekly worship gathering has been declining for years. In 1990, 20.4% of the American population could be found worshipping in any kind of Christian church on any given weekend. By 2000 that number had dropped to 18.7%. In 2005 it was 17.5% and in 2010 it is expected to be 16.2%. Furthermore, while the majority of Churches in America are comprised of white suburbanites, urban African Americans and Hispanics, the U.S. population is quickly becoming far more culturally diverse. Traditional churches are no longer a cultural fit for a rapidly growing segment of American society.
Beyond statistical reasons for planting new churches, church planting has been fundamental to the expansion of the Kingdom of God since the Apostles and early Christians scattered throughout the Roman Empire. Furthermore, our God is a missionary god. He has come to us in many ways, most significantly in Jesus Christ. And just before returning to heaven, Jesus declared in John 20:21, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Christians are a sent people. They were sent into the nooks & crannies of the Roman empire and they are sent into the emerging communities, the revitalizing urban neighborhoods, the university campuses and the places where new populations are appearing all over North America.
Sometimes we say that church planting is like riding a rollercoaster; exhilarating AND terrifying! Church planting is not for the faint-of-heart or for those who are looking for a comfortable ministry of maintenance. Church planting is for the visionary leader who always believes the church’s best days are yet to come. It is for the apostolic leader whose heart beats wildly for those in our world disconnected from God. Church planting is for those among us who can see more clearly than most others unbelievers coming to Christ. Church planting is being a Kingdom farmer; planting and waiting, watering and waiting…until God makes it grow. It requires great vision and great patience.
Yes and No. Anyone can plant a church if he or she is called and empowered by God. One of Mission Alive’s roles is to help the individual discern if he/she is being called and gifted to plant churches. However, not everyone is called or gifted to plant churches. Not everyone has the apostolic impulse to ‘go’ and build new foundations. Mission Alive helps individuals, couples and teams discern their calling and potential and then equips them both theologically and strategically to be as effective as possible
Church planting is not a ministry someone should do solo. Church planters working with Mission Alive are surrounded by several levels of support. Each Mission Alive church planter has a coach, a spiritual director and a Partnering Team. The church planting coach helps the church planter discern God’s direction and develop intentional ways of following God’s leading for the church plant. The spiritual director helps the church planter focus on his/her own spiritual growth. Mission Alive Partnering Teams work with the church planter to provide leadership for the church plant until leadership is developed so that the church planter is not left without help and resources.
Mission Alive church planters are supported in a number of ways. Some Mission Alive church planters are funded like cross-cultural missionaries. They have a partnering church that supplies a percentage of their salary and/or working fund and they raise the remaining amounts needed. Other Mission Alive church planters work bi-vocationally. That is, their income is provided by some other job/career while they lead the church plant. Some Mission Alive church planters receive some support from a partnering church and/or individuals and work other jobs to supplement their income.