Article By: Jimmy Steele
The new numbers are in . . .
LifeWay Research and NewChurches.com recently published their 2015 report entitled The State of Church Planting in the U.S. Within, there is much to be grateful for. Many churches are reaching the lost, more resources and attention are being given to church planting, church planting has become a celebrated and anticipated destination for ministry leaders, and it is becoming a priority for many denominations, networks, and local churches (p.3).
However, while the numbers offer encouragement, they also expose many serious concerns as well. If the gospel of Jesus Christ is going to advance to the ends of the earth, these concerns must be addressed. Here are few of the most glaring issues:
- 2/3 of the churches planted have a majority of already churched attendees.
This means that only 34% of churches have a majority of people attending who did not leave a previous church to attend the plant.
- Most churches are being planted in areas with the most churches.
“At the top of the list is the South. Already the most church saturated region in the United States, in our survey, Southern churches accounted for 43% of all new churches surveyed” (p.4). Furthermore, the least reached area of the U.S.—the Northeast (which is 2.5x more densely populated than any other area)—accounted for only 11% of church plants.
- Only 13% of church plants are majority foreign born and only 4% are majority second generation immigrants.
Just take a moment and consider these numbers in light of the immigration debate that swirls in the media!
Here a resource to help you think more critically about this issues: People’s Next Door Project.
- African-American and Hispanic led church plants are represented at a significantly lower rate than their population within the US.
If the other statistics are considered “red flags,” this could be described as a bright red Mack truck approaching in oncoming traffic! The study actually provides no real statistics explaining how inconsistent the numbers really are. All that is given is that white pastors outsize their percentage of American population by 10-15% (p.6).
Here at Southeastern, one way we are trying to change these numbers is through our center for Kingdom Diversity at Southeastern.
The momentum behind the church planting movement is staggering, especially considering the last ten years. Praise God for the new churches that are being planted all throughout North American. However, as these numbers demonstrate, there is no room for “pats on the back” in relation to Kingdom work. Instead, immediate attention must be given to empowering minorities, filling pews (or middle school and YMCA chairs) with unreached peoples, and focusing more attention on those areas in North America less saturated with the gospel.