New churches needed to combat 'evangelistic deficit' in United States

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)--Why does the Southern Baptist Convention need to start even more churches than the 43,000-plus now on the books?

David Meacham, senior strategist for church planting with the North American Mission Board, says it's because Christian denominations -– especially the 16-million-member SBC -- regard planting new churches as the single most effective way to evangelize.

New churches, Meacham said, simply do a better job of reaching more people for Christ than long-established churches.

"A three-year-old church is only half as effective in reaching people for the Lord as it was in its early days," Meacham noted. "And once a church is 15 years old, it becomes only one-third as effective."

Reflecting the overall current deficit in new church planting, Meacham cited a 10-year study of 300,000 Christian churches in America by Dave Olson, director of church planting for the Evangelical Covenant Church. The research indicated that 3,200 churches close their doors each year in America, while only 3,600 churches are started.

"That resulted in a net gain of 4,600 churches between 1990 and 2000," Meacham said. "But to have kept pace with population growth during that decade, a net gain of some 39,000 new churches were needed."

Stated another way, Meacham said during the past 10 years, the overall membership of Protestant denominations in America has declined 9.5 percent, while the national population as increased by 11 percent.

To emphasize the need for Southern Baptist churches to plant new churches throughout North America, Meacham said the SBC has designated Sunday, March 30, or any future Sunday, as "On Mission Together: Planting New Congregations Sunday."

"By dedicating a special day to focus on planting new churches, we hoped it would inspire and motivate existing churches and individual members to recognize their communities as mission fields and to be used by God to start new churches," Meacham said.

According to NAMB statistics, there were 29 churches for every 10,000 Americans in 1900; 17 churches for every 10,000 Americans in 1950; 12 churches for every 10,000 in 2000; and only 11 churches for every 10,000 in 2004.

"Clearly, we are losing ground with each passing year," Meacham said. "We have a growing evangelistic deficit in America that will best be answered by starting new churches.

"Newly planted churches also speak the language of the next generation. New churches are often led by younger pastors who know the subtleties of the culture. What they lack in experience, they make up for with a pioneering spirit."

Meacham said a package of "Planting New Congregations Sunday" promotional materials for churches is available online from NAMB, including posters, clip art, sermon outlines, PowerPoint presentations, videos and extensive information on church planting. The package is free and downloadable at http://www.churchplantingvillage.net


Mickey Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board. For questions or to obtain assistance in holding a "Planting New Congregations Sunday" –- if not on March 30, some other Sunday during the year -- call Shelby Bork at 770-410-6223 at the North American Mission Board or e-mail discoverchurchplanting@namb.net.

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