Jesus called us to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” [Mark 6:15] and to “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” [Matthew 28:19-20a].
The first church in Jerusalem grew huge until persecution hit, and was then dispersed throughout the country and region of the Middle East – ultimately causing churches to be planted wherever the persecuted believers could find enough of a safe harbor to make those disciples when they got to them.
One of the churches I visited a few times when I lived in NC, Antioch Community Church in Elon, has a policy of never outgrowing their usefulness: when they hit a certain size, they intentionally plant a church in an area from which some chunk of their members are traveling from so that they can better reach underserved communities.
The church I was a member of in NC while I lived there had a practice of working on church plants – but not because they had been growing, but because a community far enough away needed a new church.
The church I belong to now has thousands of members – and there are many other churches in the Lexington area that are of similar size, or are even substantially bigger. While size is not inherently a Bad Thing, why is there such a huge focus on growing existing churches and getting people to “come here” rather than US going there?
There seems to be a false sense of priorities (at the least) when the focus of a church is to grow and get more believers and get bigger without any looking into the surrounding region and seeing what is lacking there.
Some of the major benefits of new churches match those exciting opportunities of start-up businesses – there’s a sense of urgency, drive, and fire that tends to be missing in large, established churches: the chance to identify more people who could and should be serving as deacons, pastors, teachers, disciplers, etc; the opportunity to help influence a community or region for the better; no “baggage” of an existing established church; and many many more.
For some reason, most American believers seem to think that churches can only be planted where there is no gospel witness… or at least no gospel witness of the “correct” type (Southern Baptist, Methodist, Charismatic, etc etc) – in places like Mozambique, Vanuatu, Montenegro, and the like.
Why do we think churches cannot (or should not) be planted next to (or even in) our homes?
Better yet, why are those of us in these huge churches not going out on our own and doing what Jesus told us to do?