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Another Church . . . Really?

Does Atlanta really need another church?

The short answer is … 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 pooulation involved in the life of the church rose steadily. For example, in 1776, 17% of the US population were “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

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