New Wins New

During discussion of Resolution 1-02 “To Encourage Congregational Support for Planting New Churches” at our recent district convention, a delegate asked if any documentation exists that supports the assertion that new churches “win” new people for Christ faster and more efficiently than do established churches. Indeed, such documentation does exist!

The following lengthy quotation comes from a paper published by Rev. Dr. Tim Keller in 2002 entitled: Why Plant Churches? 

Keller states:

Dozens of denominational studies have confirmed that the average new church gains most of its new members (60-80%) from the ranks of people who are not attending any worshipping body, while churches over 15 years of age gain 80-90% of new members by transfer from other congregations. This means that the average new congregation will bring 6-8 times more new people into the life of the Body of Christ than an older congregation of the same size.

So though established congregations provide many things that newer churches often cannot, older churches in general will never be able to match the effectiveness of new bodies in reaching people for the kingdom. Why would this be? As a congregation ages, powerful  internal institutional pressures lead it to allocate most of its resources and energy toward the concerns of its members and constituents, rather than toward those outside its walls. This is natural and to a great degree desirable. Older congregations therefore have a stability and steadiness that many people thrive on and need. This does not mean that established churches cannot win new people. In fact, many non-Christians will only be reached by churches with long roots in the community and the trappings of stability and respectability.

However, new congregations, in general, are forced to focus on the needs of its non-members, simply in order to get off the ground. So many of its leaders have come very recently from the ranks of the un-churched, that the congregation is far more sensitive to the concerns of the non-believer. Also, in the first two years of our Christian walk, we have far more close, face-to-face relationships with non-Christians than we do later. Thus a congregation filled with people fresh from the ranks of the un-churched will have the power to invite and attract many more non-believers into the events and life of the church than will the members of the typical established body.

What does this mean practically? If we want to reach our city—should we try to renew older congregations to make them more evangelistic, or should we plant lots of new churches? But that question is surely a false either-or dichotomy. We should do both! Nevertheless, all we have been saying proves that, despite the occasional exceptions, the only wide-scale way to bring in lots of new Christians to the Body of Christ in a permanent way is to plant new churches.

“It is a great mistake,” Keller goes on, “to think that we have to choose between church planting and church renewal. Strange as it may seem, the planting of new churches in a city is one of the very best ways to revitalize many older churches in the vicinity and renew the whole body of Christ.”

It is with this reality in mind that your Missions Floor Committee put forth Resolution 1-02 “To Encourage Congregational Support for Planting New Churches” at our convention this summer, and 77.5% of our district voted in favor of it! We want to plant new churches that win new people for Christ!

The way that we will do this together is through the “New Church Incubator.”

The New Church Incubator is the Minnesota South District’s mechanism and methodology for matching the right church planter with the right church planting plan in the right church planting place and giving that newly planted congregation the greatest possible chance for becoming, in four years, a self-sustaining congregation of The Minnesota South District of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

The New Church Incubator brings together an assessed and qualified new church planter with a committed calling (mother) congregation, and provides them both with the necessary training, coaching, direction, and resources they need in order to plant a healthy new church.

The New Church Incubator is a collaboration of the Minnesota South District, the Church Planting Consortium, and church planting (mother) congregations all working together to plant new Minnesota South District congregations.

The Church Planting Consortium is a volunteer group of congregations, individuals, circuits, and/or businesses that are cooperating with the Minnesota South District in an effort to fund the planting of strong/healthy new congregations on a regular and consistent basis.

Church Planting Consortium participants are responsible for remitting $5,000 per year for a minimum of 4 years ($20,000). This is “new money” and is above and beyond those funds that would normally be remitted to the Minnesota South District.

The initial size of the Church Planting Consortium is 15 participants, all of which are donating $5,000 per year for at least 4 years for a total of $75,000 per year. As time goes by and new church planting opportunities multiply, more congregations, circuits, individuals, and/or businesses will want to join, and will be invited to participate in the Consortium.

Essentially, we, as district composed of like-minded congregations, will be partnering together by “crowd-sourcing” and “crowd-funding” the start of new churches.  We will share in the cost of planting new congregations. We will share in the risk of planting new congregations. And, as always happens when God’s people step out in faith in order to be actively engaged in His mission, we will share in the blessing that comes with planting new congregations. For, as Tim Keller points out above, the planting of new churches “is one of the very best ways to revitalize many older churches in the vicinity and renew the whole body of Christ.”