How Effective is Church Planting to Evangelism?

Green sprout growing out from soil in the morning light

In 2002, pastor and author Tim Keller published a brief article entitled “Why Plant Churches” that has since become a staple regarding the necessity of church planting. In it, he writes, “The vigorous, continual planting of new congregations is the single most crucial strategy for 1) the numerical growth of the Body of Christ in any city, and 2) the continual corporate renewal and revival of the existing churches in a city.”

His words echo the oft-quoted claim by C. Peter Wagner in his book Church Planting for a Greater Harvest: “The single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planting new churches.” Dramatic population increases, the rise of the “nones,” and pervasive church closures would seem to validate this claim, but is it true?

The answer is: It depends.

Church planting is evangelistically effective only to the degree that it is evangelistically focused from the beginning.

From my observation, church planters come in two sizes:

1) Those who plant churches “FOR” evangelism,and

2) Those who plant churches “FROM” evangelism.

At first glance, it might seem like an incidental distinction – but when it comes to evangelistic effectiveness, it is anything but. The former, with an eye toward speedier sustainability, throw everything at gathering a strong launch team, typically comprised of the “already churched.”

While this group is usually easier to congregationalize, this association comes with some complications that are difficult to overcome. The ease with which the planter convinces churchgoers to join his ‘better thing’ often correlates with the ease with which they will become discontented and initiate another hunt for a more suitable replacement at some point in the future. It is a rare planter that can keep his original “churched” launch team beyond two years.

Further, this population often has very few meaningful relationships outside of their evangelical subculture and are skeptical that personal evangelism is achievable amid the darkness that surrounds them. Disciple-making finds very few passionate advocates.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today, Jeff Christopherson