Another Church . . . Really?

Does Atlanta really need another church?

The short answer … absolutely!

As you drive through the metro Atlanta area it seems like there’s literally a church on every corner. There couldn’t possibly be a need for YET ANOTHER one added to the glut, could there?

Actually, there is a great need for MANY new churches in Atlanta. Here’s why:[1]

-New churches best reach the unchurched.

Studies show that the average new church gains most of its new members (60%-80%) from the ranks of people who are not attending any church, while churches over 10 years old gain 80%-90% of new members by transfer from other congregations. This means that the average new congregation will bring six to eight times more new people into the Body of Christ than an older congregation of the same size.

-Jesus’ essential call was to plant churches.

Virtually all the great evangelistic challenges in the New Testament are basically calls to plant churches, not simply to share the faith.

The Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) is not just a call to “make disciples” but also to “baptize.” In Acts and elsewhere, it is clear that baptism is to be practiced within a worshipping community with accountability and boundaries (Acts 2:41-47).

-The only way to be sure we’re creating permanent new Christians is to plant new churches.

Much traditional evangelism aims to get a “decision” for Christ, but many times these “decisions” disappear and never result in a changed life. We see it all the time. Why? Because many of these “decisions” are not being made in the context of an on-going, worshipping, shepherding community – a church! Nothing else – not crusades, outreach programs, or para-church ministries – can be sure of leading people into a vital, saving faith like a local church. Leading missiologist C. Peter Wagner says, “Planting new churches is the most effective evangelistic methodology known under heaven.”

-Younger adults are disproportionately found in new congregations.

Why? Because traditions of older churches (time of worship, length of service, emotional responsiveness, sermon topics, leadership style, emotional atmosphere, etc.) reflect the sensibilities of leaders from older generations who have the influence and the resources to influence the life of the church.

-New congregations better reach new residents.

Why? In long-established churches, it may require tenure of ten years or more before you are allowed into places of leadership and influence. In a new church, however, new residents tend to have equal leadership opportunities and influence with long-time area residents.

New congregations better reach new social groups.

New congregations empower new people much more readily than older churches. This means church planting is not only for “foreign religions” or “pagan” countries that we are trying to see come to Christ. Christian countries will have to maintain vigorous, extensive church planting simply to stay Christian.

Eye-Opening Statistics [2]

-Between 50 and 75 churches in America close their doors every week.

-More than 80% of the churches in America have plateaued or are declining.

-In the US, there are over 200 million unchurched people, making it the third largest mission field in the world.

-Since 1991, the number of US adults who do not attend church has doubled.

-Eight million US twenty somethings will not attend church by the time they are thirty.

Eye-Opening Perspective [3]

In 1820 there was a church for every 875 Americans. From 1860-1906, Protestants planted a new church for every population increase of 350. By 1900, we had one church for every 430 people. In 1906, one-third of all congregations in the country were less than 25 years old. As a result, the percentage of the US population involved in the life of the church rose steadily. For example, in 1776, 17% of the US population was “religious adherents,” but that rose to 53% by 1916. After WW1, however, church planting plummeted. Once the country was covered by established towns with established churches, there was resistance from those churches to any new church moving into “our neighborhood.”

Statistics show that most churches reach their peak size during the first 25 years and then plateau or shrink. In general, older churches have a hard time reaching new residents, new generations, new social groups and unchurched people. As these groups increase in a community, the original churches reach a smaller and smaller segment of their town, and the percentage of unchurched people increases. Nevertheless, older churches often fear competition from new churches and often oppose them. Mainline churches, with their centralized governance, have most adamantly opposed church plants, and as a result have shrunk the most.

Church attendance overall in the US today is shrinking. This cannot be reversed in any other way other that the way it originally had been so remarkably increasing – by planting new churches. It is unlikely that we can ever plant a church for every 500 people again, which resulted in over 50% of the population becoming churched Christians, but we sure can try!

[1] Keller, Tim. Redeemer Church Planting Manual. New
York, Redeemer Presbyterian church. PP 29-32

[2] Barna Research,

[3] Keller, Tim. Redeemer Church Planting Manual. New
York, Redeemer Presbyterian church. PP 29-32

Grace Community – Gospel Born, Mission Driven Community Bound

How will it get started?

What’s the Plan?

This is the ever present question surrounding the planting of Grace Community here in Northeast Atlanta. What is the plan, John?

The first step in the plan is to pray. This is the premier step in discerning the will of God as opposed to the will of man, even my most considered plans for launching a church. Unless the Lord builds Grace Community, my efforts and those of other men will surely be in vain.

The next step is to meet people and build relationships. The old way of doing church was to open a franchise. Demographics suggest that there is a need for a church generally and our flavor specifically. So we build a building or these days rent space in a strip center. We open for corporate gatherings. Those that were raised Anglican look for an Anglican church. Likewise for Methodists, Lutherans, and Baptists look for the corner church with their flavor.

And in many ways we continue to operate the same way, out of an aging and failing model. Churches attempt to draw a crowd to a flavor. Traditional, contemporary, formal, casual, liturgical, and free form – these are many of the ways in which we describe church. Distinctions are made in the way we worship, what happens when we gather the assembly. The distinctions in worship assume we all believe the same thing about the Lordship of Jesus Christ. That may not be an assumption we should take for granted.

Regardless, using a flavor to create a crowd (or church) makes something other than the main thing the main thing. How we worship is what unites a people (call it church or community) fashioned in this way. By design, what should be universal in scope is reduced to something very specific, and that something is fleeting. As Dean Inge said, he who marries the spirit of the age finds himself soon widowed. Flavors change. I once love chocolate ice cream. Then it was praline almond crunch. Now, when I allow myself to indulge, it is chocolate chip cookie dough or better yet, Cherry Garcia. Tastes change.

Church growth or planting should be rooted in the eternal, the one who was, and who is, and who is to come. The Body can only be built out of members who have a deep relationship with Jesus. The Body is first and foremost the assembly of people who have been called out of the world and into a relationship with Him. Believers are then drawn into a relationship with each other. We are the called out people undivided by race, gender, socioeconomic class and certainly undivided by flavor.

Don’t get me wrong. I have a personal preference for worship. This is unavoidable and perhaps should not be avoided at all. But our relationships with Jesus and with each other should transcend flavors. “I don’t like the kneeling.” “I really don’t care for the drums.” “I think the music is too loud.” I think the band members should wear khakis not jeans.” “I” and my flavor become central to the equation as opposed to Jesus and our fellowship in Him. Unfortunately I’ve experienced this often throughout the years.

The Apostle Paul helps us here. In the opening verses of Romans 12 Paul is revealing what our response to the great mercies of God should be. To offer ourselves as living sacrifices, this is our reasonable worship. Living daily as a sacrifice is a 24/7 (read “universal”) proposition and can never be captured by finite flavors.

As a planter the Lord has put it upon my heart to keep the main thing the main thing, or first things first. While the Lord will dictate where Grace Community goes, I imagine one day that one of the called out people, a people He has forged beginning with a life-giving relationship with Him, will suggest all the called out people gather corporately to worship. If so, we will have been followers, individually and together, before we pursued a means of corporately expressing that we are fans.

So pray and build relationships. That is the initial plan. Remembering all the while, that while we plant and water, it is God Himself who gives the growth.

So What Can You Do?


More than we could ever understand, we need many, many people to pray for the birth of Grace Community.  We believe the spiritual realm is real and that our enemy is not happy about new churches being planted. Our lead pastor and our eventual launch team will have to endure many attacks and much spiritual warfare, so please pray.  Pray for the Richardson.  Pray for our children.  Pray for the formation of our launch team.  Pray for Atlanta and specifically the Brookhaven area.  Pray that we could build relationships that will open up doors for the gospel.  Pray for our neighbors and neighborhoods, that people would be sensitive to the Lord’s calling.  Pray that, despite our current economic climate, God would raise up generous individuals and organizations who will give financially.


Maybe you should consider joining us on this wild ride of planting a new church.  Do you have hopes of living for something greater than yourself? Are you a dreamer, a builder, a risk taker?  Pray. Pray and ask God if Grace Community is where he wants to use you to reach your world.


Our goal is for Grace Community to be completely self-sustaining by the end of our second year.  Presently we are funded through a gracious grant from the Church of Jesus Our Shepherd and the fundraising efforts of our lead pastor.

Presently gifts will go toward salaries and benefits and will eventually cover administrative costs, staffing strategic leaders, promotional resources, and facility rental once we launch. As the community comes to stand on its own, its financial planning should include generous giving for outreach and mission.

We’re looking for individuals and churches to consider prayerfully joining us as financial partners. Some have the resources to give boldly and consistently throughout our first year, others can only commit at this time to a one-time gift.  In the life of a young, mission church plant, every dollar truly makes a difference.

To give, make checks payable to:

Jesus Our Shepherd Kingdom Project

For Grace Community

C/o Bill DeBardeleben

1003 Rockbridge Road

Stone Mountain, GA 30087



Categories Latest News | Tags: | Posted on September 20, 2011

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