Occasionally, a small, struggling church will ask me why so many denominations spend so much money to start a new church when they have numerous small churches that could use those resources. Their theory is that if they had access to that money they could do many more things that would enable them to grow. Unfortunately, that is not a valid theory.
For one thing, many of these struggling are sitting on more resources than they need. I've been told more than once by a person in some of these churches that they have savings of over $100,000. These monies are often in CDs or some other savings instrument and marked as Building Fund. These churches ensure that these funds can't be spent on ministry or anything else by designating that they can be spent only on the building or to build a new building. Of course, their sanctuary may seat 100 people now with an average attendance of 15 so it's unlikely that they will need to build anything soon.
At the same time, these are often the churches that become upset that the denomination won't give them some of the money the denomination is spending on starting a new church. Their anger grows even greater if they view the new church as competition in "their" area.
I receive publications from various denominational groups, and one of those publications is the Baptist Bible Tribune that comes from the Baptist Bible Fellowship. In the current issue a writer begins a series on "15 Reasons Why We Need to Plant Churches." He begins by reminding us of the Great Commission given to us by Jesus Christ and then showing us how badly we are failing to fulfill this mandate.
Eighty-five percent (or more) of our churches in the US are plateaued or declining. I believe the vast majority of these churches are declining. Many of these churches have completed their life cycles, and it may not be possible to revitalize these churches regardless of how many resources are poured into them. The writer, John Gross, points out that of the 15 percent of churches that are growing, only one percent of that growth is conversion growth. The rest is transfer growth.
Studies tell us that only 18.7 percent of Americans attend church on a given Sunday. In the past 13 years there has been a 92 percent increase in the number of unchurched persons in the US. By any measure, the present churches are failing badly to fulfill the Great Commission.
We have known for some time that new churches reach new people. The article tells the story of one new church that began with eight people. Five years later it had seen over 5,600 first-time guests. Over 2,700 have been saved and nearly 450 baptized. The church is averaging almost 400 people on Sunday. Certainly every new church will not experience such growth, but some do, and some exceed this church's experience.
That is why we must plant new churches. Our mandate is not to maintain congregations that refuse to be engaged in ministry but to reach people for Christ and help them grow as disciples. I believe any church that is willing to pay the price to be revitalized should be, but it is poor stewardship on the part of denominational bodies to pour resources into organizations and institutions that prefer their dysfunction over ministry. It is far better to direct those resources to new ministries that will engage men and women with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.