I am asked frequently why pastors are starting new churches when we have so many already. They are on almost every corner (at least in the Southeast US). I did not realize pastors intentionally planted churches with no resources in the beginning until around the time I went to college. Where I grew up, most new churches were splits. Some still are, but there are still those brave souls who step out in faith with a call from God and little support. So back to the question – why new churches?
Many existing churches have long forgotten their mission. I constantly encounter churches who meet weekly. They’re good at meeting but poor at ministering. Their pastors spend more time pacifying than reaching beyond the walls. These churches were once thriving, but not they are a mere fraction of what they once were. Why should a community have a fancy building where people gather weekly to accomplish absolutely nothing of eternal significance when someone who understands what the Bible concept is of a church can come and start a new one that is on mission?
Many dont want to just attend a church; they want to be the church. The gatherings are great. They love the worship music, the time with other believers, and the preaching. But that isn’t enough! They want to go outside the walls and reach the same kind of messy people Jesus pursued. Many churches cannot be revitalized to see this mission. Another reason to start a new one. The mission is clear from the beginning. Those who aren’t on board don’t have to be a part of it.
There are many who still need to know the truth, but many existing churches won’t them as they are. This is a sad reality. I have people tell me, “Matthew, I would go to church if I knew I wouldn’t be judged because I don’t play the hypocrite like everybody else does.” These people go as they are and the church won’t love them. That is abominable! If existing churches won’t do this (as much as I know many pastors try to train them to do so), this is another great reason for a new church to arise.
There are unreached people groups. Our country is becoming more diverse, yet many existing churches won’t recognize that and choose to continue being a “cracker-only” church (no one but whites allowed). I met a fellow pastor who is Vietnamese. He lives in an area where there is a heavy Vietnamese population, and he serves as one of the staff pastors. These groups must be targeted with the gospel and reached in a relevant way for their culture.
Many churches still worship the denominational sacred cows, while many today are fine with being in a denominational church that focus on Jesus and not all the denominational entities. When I pastored, I didn’t do so well in this area. I saw so many things as pointless, but many in the church were taught that everyone was supposed to do that to be a good person within that denomination. “Let’s set a big goal for this annual offering so we can get some glory from the denomination at the local, state, or national level” was the attitude. Millennials, especially, aren’t interested in that. The same goes for traditions that are only understood by people who have been in that local church for the last 50 years. Millennials will go somewhere that seems less corny.
Finally, there are still portions of the United States without a gospel witness. If no one starts a new church, people will more than likely never hear that Jesus saves and will go to hell. I don’t like the thought of that, and no one else should either.
We do need new churches. Pastors are making attempts to revitalize plateaued and declining churches, but the efforts are often in vain. Many existing churches are infected with problems and will one day close their doors. We need healthy, vibrant churches where people can grow and be loved.