Problems with church planting: Planting in the wrong season

In most church planting strategies. Failing churches are expected to fail, leading to the needless waste of untold amounts of resources. Not to mention alienating potential customers through negative shopping experiences. This pessimistic approach to failing churches is apparently borne of the desire to avoid the hard conversations that might otherwise save some businesses from failing1. Then again, since the SBC consists of loosely affiliated churches2 I suppose the tactic is wholly in line with the overall church polity. After all, not many individual businesses concern themselves with assisting other businesses in a purely altruistic fashion3.

Proverbs tells us that everything has a season. And church planting is no different. However, rather than seeing this as a season for planting (which carries with it the idea of a net gain) I would argue that this is the perfect season for tending to fields which have become weak, sickly, and unproductive. Rather than planting new businesses or crops while allowing others to fail, we should be making the wiser investment decision4 to patch up failing churches. That may mean that we need to revisit SBC polity and seriously ask ourselves whether it is time to change the governmental structure of the SBC or, as a less invasive option, produce material designed to help failing churches adapt to current market conditions.

Regardless of how we go about attempting to salvage failing churches, the tactic of writing them off and allowing the resources they contain (which includes people, our brothers in Christ) is needlessly wasteful. And it is actually a variation of the broken window fallacy to assume that more churches is the same as church growth.

In my next post I will explore the problem of excess supply.

  1. A corollary can be drawn here with how the Great Commission Resurgence task force refused to tackle the serious issue of duplication of services and duties between internal organizations such as the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board. []
  2. Decentralized, voluntary collaboration is the hallmark of the SBC. At least it was until recently. Now the trend is to more centralized power and a much more ridged hierarchy. In the past the SBC used to operate from the bottom up, and while that is still how the convention works on paper, in practice the SBC has increasingly become more and more centralized. A hallmark of this trend is the emphasis placed on key positions of leadership and the marked weakening of local associations and churches. []
  3. Contrast this with the account in Acts of Paul collecting money from a diverse group of congregations to bring a gift of money to the persecuted church in Jerusalem. []
  4. Even secular businesses understand that it is far cheaper to keep an existing customer from leaving than it is to gain a new customer. []

3 responses to “Problems with church planting: Planting in the wrong season

  1. Interesting series. I do think Christians often get it backwards with church plantings. Seems like a more organic approach of like-minded Christians starting a new church then growing is much better than the "if you build it, they will come" approach.

    One of my favorite ministries is International Cooperating Ministries. They build churches for existing communities of believers around the world, and often in persecuted areas. The existing church (the people, not the building) commit to help start more churches in a web approach, but the people always come before the buildings. The founders of the charity pay all overhead costs so 100% of donations go to the supplies for the building.

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  3. Wes
    I think you are right on. We seem to be in a rush to end health fellowships that are doing God's work in order to start some a new start up. We had a church that was reaching hundreds of people in ministry each week. Changing live and hearts to reach out to God. We had three people who were planning to go to Calvin Seminary that were from other denominational backgrounds. Yet the Denomination wanted it closed. None of the former members now attend a CRC church. This is growth?

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