Church Planting and the Great Commission

This article appeared in GO WEST! Issue 2 Volume 3.

Consider these facts:


First, younger adults have always been disproportionately found in newer congregations. Long-established congregations develop traditions (such as time of worship, length of service, level of emotional responsiveness, sermon topics, leadership style, emotional atmosphere, and thousands of other tiny customs and mores) that reflect the sensibilities of long time leaders from the older generations who have the influence and money to control church life. The automatic maintenance of such habits does not reach younger generations effectively.friends

Second, new residents are almost always reached better by new congregations. Older congregations may require tenure of ten years before someone is allowed into places of leadership and influence, but in a new church, new residents tend to have equal power with long time area residents.

Third, new sociocultural groups in a community are always reached better by new congregations. For example, if new white-collar commuters move into an area where the older residents were farmers, it is likely that a new church will be more receptive to the myriad needs of the new residents, while the older churches will continue to be oriented to the original social group. Also, new racial groups in a community are best reached by a new church that is intentionally multiethnic from the start. For example, if an all-Anglo neighborhood becomes 33 percent Hispanic, a new, deliberately biracial church will be far more likely to create “cultural space” for newcomers than will an older church in town.

friends2Finally, brand-new immigrant groups nearly always can be reached only by churches ministering in their own language. If we wait for a new group to become assimilated into the local culture, we will wait for years without reaching out to its members. Note: Often a new congregation for a new people group can be planted within the overall structure of an existing church. It may be a new Sunday service at another time, or a new network of house churches that are connected to a larger, already existing congregation. Although it may not technically be a new independent congregation, it serves the same function.

In summary, new congregations empower new people and new peoples much more quickly and readily than can older churches. Thus they always have and always will reach them with greater facility than long-established bodies can. This means not only that we need church planting so that frontier regions or un-evangelized countries can become Christian, but also that Christian countries will have to maintain vigorous, extensive church planting simply to stay Christian!

Tune in to the next issue of GO WEST! on February 25 for more on this important topic. This series of articles is composed of Timothy Keller’s paper Why Plant Churches. Copyright © 2002 by Timothy Keller, © 2009 by Redeemer City to City.

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