Church Planting – Fulfilling the Great Commission or Adding to Your Bottom Line?

By | June 30, 2013


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Matthew 28:18-20

18″ And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.””

Matthew 24:14

14″And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”


I am uncomfortable with what I perceive as a growing trend among the Evangelical churches in the United States.  It seems they are losing the priority of sending missionaries to all nations to make disciples, instead choosing to send out a “church plant” to another city, or even another suburb in the same metropolis,  in the gospel saturated USA. Sure there are already numerous churches in that city, but none of them just like yours.  It seems we treat our churches like fast food franchises – sure there is already a Burger King and McDonald’s on the strip, but nobody makes a burger like Wendy’s, so they add their restaurant to the mix.  There is always room for one more fast food joint, and there are enough consumer bucks out there to support them all.

It seems so “missional” and “intentional” and, dare I say, comfortable to plant a church in up-scale suburbia rather then Yemen or Egypt or India or Afghanistan, or almost any other country.



The USA has an overabundance of churches, many of them with plenty of empty seats.  Is it really the best use of our resources to plant yet another church in a city just because it doesn’t have a church which holds the exact same views as yours?  Sure it’s comfortable and we can then check the box that we are involved in missions, but are we really?  I wonder if we are really interested in building Christ’s kingdom or, rather, more interested in increasing the bottom line of our denomination?  Perhaps you as an individual member could fight this trend by  challenging the leadership of your local church to think globally, think of reaching the un-churched, think of being wise stewards of the money Christ has entrusted you with.

In “Eating Sacred Cows: A Closer Look at Tithing” author Graeme Carle of New Zealand speaks to this issue:

“The big difference between then and now is that today most ministers and missionaries are allied with and work for a particular denomination or organisation, drawing wages from it, and the saints therefore no longer give directly to the individual but rather to the denomination or organisation. In some cases this works well, where the organisation exists for the support of the workers. Unfortunately, most of the organisations develop a life of their own, as do most bureaucracies, and the funds, instead of supporting more and more workers, are diverted into more and more facilities, or maintaing and improving them for the organisation itself.

In New Zealand where our denominations all insist on their own buildings, we have in some places several small groups of believers, each rattling around in their own large building, and not fully realising the incredible waste of limited resources. I once briefly worked with a man whose congregation was meeting in the “youth hall” because it wasn’t worth heating the main building for the small number coming. The hall was new but there were no youth and in the town there were several other small groups representing the other denominations also meeting in large buildings, so we talked about it. His sad reply was that although he wanted to work more with the other churches in town, his denominational headquarters wanted to keep their flag flying there so he had to maintain the facilities no matter what else happened, and the other groups were in the same situation. The youth hall had been built because of a bequest, not because of a need, the youth of the town already using nearby facilities!

Many ministers see this sort of thing happening but don’t know the way out; this is a large area which is outside the scope of this study, but I believe it is in many cases tithing that keeps the whole silly business going. If you and I were more careful to give more specifically to supply the income of the ministers and missionaries rather than giving to corporate schemes, many foolish or wasteful building projects would never get started.

…Those of us who are leaders in churches need to re-evaluate whether we have been drawing the attention of our congregations to the needs as God sees them or whether instead, to the needs as we have seen them in our own work. We need to release, teach, and encourage our churches more into being led by the Spirit of God Himself in all areas, especially in giving. This requires of us more faith than if we subject our people to what is really just another taxation system, and we do of course run the risk that some of our plans and programs may be revealed as our will rather than His, but after all:
“Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build it” (Psalm 127:1)”


I illustrate my point by including the map above of churches in the Louisville, KY area.  This area has a rich gospel tradition which includes Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. According to my Google search there are 3,447 churches in Louisville.  Apparently the selection was not quite enough as C.J. Mahaney felt a pressing need to personally plant another church in the city!  His choice of this city may not have been altogether altruistic, but that is a story worthy of its own blog post!

Here is a good book which could help you broaden your horizons as it relates to missions:

2014-07-05 The Call to Missions