You may think of church planting as a need in villages or regions where no church exists. Starting new churches is also a high priority in cities that have churches. Many church leaders want to grow their existing church, but most churches stop growing. Why?
Please consider these 12 compelling reasons for birthing a new community of disciples.
#1 New fellowships reach lost people better
That in itself is enough reason to begin a new fellowship. Reaching the lost is our calling as disciples of Jesus who said, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10) Many Christian leaders have come to the conclusion that the best way to reach the world for Christ is to start new churches. C. Peter Wagner, author of Church Planting for a Greater Harvest, says, “The single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planting new churches.” Ralph Moore writes in his book, Starting a New Church, “One American denomination recently found that 80% of its converts came to Christ in churches less than 2 years old.”
#2 New fellowships think externally
The age of a church is a significant factor in whether it is growing or declining. After a church is three-years old it is half as effective in reaching people for Christ as it was in the first three years. Once a church is fifteen-years old, it becomes one third as effective. Why? “New churches think externally. They are more focused on reaching new people because evangelism is their primary purpose… The older and larger a church becomes, the more time and resources the leaders must give to their members.” Visitors are welcomed and valued in a new fellowship, and they may meet others who are also new.
#3 Mother churches are fulfilled
Many churches are limited by the capacity of buildings, parking, leadership, vision or other resources. The best way for a church like this to grow is to start something new. Some churches fear they will lose leaders or members, but it is actually very fulfilling for the mother church to give birth to a new fellowship. Sending out our best people makes room to grow new leaders in the mother church and maintain a heart for the lost.
#4 New fellowships present truth better to each new generation
Making disciples in the next generation is a challenge, especially for us as parents. Each generation produces its own culture, so communicating with that generation has the same missiological challenges that a missionary would face in taking the gospel to another people. Just as you would not try to market the same music and movies to the next generation, we need churches that fit the culture. Jesus said that new wine requires new wineskins. Do you want to reach students? A new fellowship that involves students as leaders can better adapt to that segment of society. “New churches can better meet the needs of each new generation by presenting biblical truth in the cultural context that best reaches those people”, says Ralph Moore. He ought to know, the fellowship that he started with 12 people in California has become a movement of over 700 churches.
#5 New fellowships move the gospel over cultural and social barriers
Not only does multiplication help in reaching a new generation, it can help in reaching any segment of society. Why? Because the new fellowship can focus on that challenge. Do you want to reach business leaders or bikers or teachers or farmers? Challenge these people to launch a fellowship oriented to their subculture. When these people own the vision the new fellowship will naturally fit their families and friends. The smaller target will help reach that segment of society more effectively.
Social barriers are real. For the church to grow faster in new social or ethnic groups we need new fellowships. We are all more comfortable with people who think like us. Having lots of new fellowships simplifies communicating the gospel in a city of many types of people. We want Christ to fill each part of society.
#6 People are more open to change in new fellowships
Can a church steeped in traditions credibly challenge someone to forsake their past and follow Christ? Can we ask people to radically change their lives if we ourselves are staying in our comfort zone and holding on to tradition? Growth comes through change, struggle, and pain. New fellowships are very familiar with that diet.
Just as it took a certain type of person to settle the Wild West, new churches need pioneers. New fellowships can handle change, moves, and overwhelming odds because they are led by and attract pioneers. This also explains why a new fellowship is in the best position to start another fellowship, because it is full of pioneers!
#7 People are more involved and committed in new fellowships
Each of us longs for significance. People come to a church, leave a church, or change churches based on whether they can contribute to the life of the church in a significant way. “The more involved a person becomes in the work of the congregation, the more important the congregation becomes in his life. It logically follows, therefore, that a congregation which offers people many opportunities for involvement would be more successful in attracting and keeping converts than would a congregation which offers few opportunities for involvement. In general, the larger the congregation the lower the involvement level. Why does the involvement level tend to decrease as size increases? The problem with the larger congregations is that they have not been able to increase the number of task assignments fast enough to keep pace with their expanding membership.” Each of us wants to be useful and needed. Ephesians 4:7-12 teaches that gifts were given to each of us, and that the role of pastors and teachers is to equip the saints to use those gifts to build up the body of Christ. Serving is a form of worship. No task is menial in itself if it is done to the glory of God.
#8 Multiplication creates a need for leaders and develops leaders
When churches grow big, you need experienced leaders to lead them well. Where should these leaders get experience? New fellowships provide new opportunities for new leaders to grow and develop along with a community. New leaders need room to make mistakes, that is how we learn. God can use even our mistakes for His glory. This all builds loyalty and a sense of family as the fellowship goes through struggles together with its leaders. Just as pioneering attracts pioneers, a vision for multiplication and this need for leadership attracts and grows real leaders. Multiplying fellowships are greenhouses for leaders.
Where will we find the leaders? From the Lord of the harvest. In Luke 10 Jesus sent out 72 disciples in pairs to prepare the way for Himself. Notice that his first instruction begins with an observation, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” Then Jesus commanded them to pray to the Lord of the harvest because the workers are few. Later we see that these laborers were found in the harvest. The Owner of the harvest will provide the laborers. It is of great value to Him, so He will not let it rot in the field.
#9 Reproduction is a sign of maturity and health
Rick Warren, the pastor who began Saddleback Church, now a congregation of 20,000, points out in his book Purpose Driven Church that reproduction is taught in the biology of every living thing on earth. “The primary characteristic of biological maturity is the ability to reproduce. I believe the same is true for the church, which the Bible refers to as a ‘body’. The mark of a truly mature church is that it has babies: It starts other churches.” Ralph Moore puts it this way, “the true fruit of an apple tree is an orchard.”
If you are thinking, “Our church is not large enough or strong enough to give up people to start a new church.” Ask yourself, “When will our church ever be large enough?” Warren exhorts, “You do not have to be a large church to start new congregations. Saddleback Church started our first daughter church when our church was just a year old. Each year since then we’ve started at least one new daughter church… By our fifteenth anniversary we had started twenty-five other churches.”
#10 A shared location makes better use of limited resources
Often an existing church with a building can have multiple fellowships enjoying that location during the week. Land and buildings are big investments. Consider renting out your church building to another congregation, or renting from someone else. Many public buildings are also available to rent for a few hours. By building relationships with the city or school district to share a location we are seen as a partner in the community.
#11 New locations serve communities better
Just as location is a key factor in real estate, location can be a good reason to birth a fellowship. Often dynamic churches will draw people from far away. Some people travel to maintain relationships or because they are serving in some capacity. When members travel for an hour or more to attend a worship service, this travel becomes a key factor limiting their involvement. If we help them start a new missional fellowship close to their home they could get more involved and feel more responsible for that fellowship. This would allow them to invite neighbors and friends which is difficult for them if their church is far away. Consider birthing a fellowship where your people live.
#12 New fellowships build community.
New fellowships need lots of help and have many opportunities to serve together and build relationships. A simple task like setting up chairs or welcoming people can be a discipleship opportunity. A large existing church has many people who are not involved in serving, which sets a different example and expectation. Newcomers may quickly learn to be consumers not participants. (Hebrews 5:12, 10:24)
How do we start?
There are a number of ways to begin a new fellowship. Any individual or team can start a new fellowship in a home as we see in the New Testament. In this case consider how this fellowship will be connected to other fellowships and churches. Could you build trust and unity with other fellowships through special events?
A church may offer multiple services in one building where each service has a target audience with its own worship style. This may be one way to multiply, lower startup costs, and deal with generational differences. Could each service be a fellowship with its own identity? Will members of these fellowships find identity there and feel responsible for its health and growth? As you plan, look again at the reasons for multiplying and consider if the form of church you have in mind leverages these strengths.
Starting a new fellowship will face opposition, not only from the enemy but maybe even from existing churches. Some pastors in the area may try to protect what they see as their territory and say, “A new fellowship will take believers from existing churches and cause division.” “We cannot even fill our existing churches, why start new ones?” Not everyone will understand or support this initiative. Accept this, work hard to communicate clearly regarding your motives and plans, and work with those who share your vision.
Ending a Church Community
Is it ever right for a church to end? In a word, Yes. Leaders retire, people move, grow old, and the things that brought them together change. These situations present the question: Should we keep meeting like this? If the Lord leads you to end your fellowship, those shepherding the group should see that each disciple is able to find a new fellowship or church home. If this is a church with a building or other resources, perhaps another congregation would be interested in launching a new fellowship using those resources. The church is a gathering of disciples who make disciples. As we follow the Lord the needs of a group of disciples will change, we want our form to fit those needs.
Discuss multiplication possibilities:
What advantages might we find in starting a new fellowship?
What obstacles would we face?
What target audience do we care about?
What type of people do some of us have natural connections with?
What target audiences have potential in our city?
Who in our congregation lives far?
Where are there new homes or schools being built?
Who else might want to start something new?
Where could we learn more about how to start a fellowship?
Other helpful resources:
Planting Healthy Churches that Reproduce http://www.aibi.org/topical/phrcout.pdf
Copyright 2015 (revised November 11, 2015)
Global Church Movements – CCCI
Eastern Europe and Russia
 Wagner, C. Peter, Church Planting for a Greater Harvest: A Comprehensive Guide (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1991), 11.
 Moore, Ralph, Starting a New Church: The Church Planter’s Guide to Success. (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 2002), 23-29.
 Malphurs, Aubrey, Planting Growing Churches for the 21st Century: A Comprehensive Guide for New Churches and Those Desiring Renewal. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2004) 44.
 Sylvia, Ron. Starting New Churches on Purpose: Strategies for the 21st Century. (Lake Forest, Calif.: Purpose Driven Publishing, 2006), 22.
 Moore, Ralph. Starting a New Church: The Church Planter’s Guide to Success. (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 2002).
 Yeakley, Flavil Ray. Why Churches Grow. (Christian Communications, 1986). 40-42.
 Warren, Rick. The Purpose Driven Church. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan). 180-181.
 Moore, Starting a New Church: The Church Planter’s Guide to Success, 255.
 Warren, Purpose Driven Church, 181.