Ed Stetzer: Three Church Planting Trends That Need to Die

I’ve seen lots of great church planting practices, and many not-so-great ones. Too many churches open and then close too often because, instead of looking to God, they were looking to themselves.

Ed Stetzer: Three Church Planting Trends That Need To Die

Over the years, I’ve seen lots of great church planting practices, and many not-so-great ones. Too many churches open and then close too often because, instead of looking to God, they were looking to themselves. Even more unfortunate is that many church plants continue to exist but are like an enclave for the small community of people who attend. It’s like the community couldn’t care less that the church exists.

We must always ask ourselves: What difference does my church plant make in this community and in the world?

It’s a significant question that will take lots of prayer and good planning. As you consider this, let me share three church planting trends that need to die if we are to begin and sustain church plants that glorify God and keep us on mission with him.

1. Communicating (implicitly or explicitly) that all other churches are really bad and ours is the best.

I have seen this a lot over the years. For example, a mailer may go out and the messaging says something like, “Here are the top 10 reasons church is boring…but ours is awesome!” When we devalue other members of the body of Christ to lift up the uniqueness of our congregation, it’s a net loss for the kingdom.

We must aim for a spirit of humility that allows other churches to thrive while God grows ours at his own pace.

2. Offering a completely weekend-centric ministry.

There’s a well-known pastor who says it’s all about the weekend. My belief is that if it’s all about the weekend, then it’s probably all about the pastor. And if it’s all about the pastor, then it’s a broken system and a broken church plant.

Weekend-driven church planting produces weekend-driven congregations, which ultimately produce events, not congregations and communities.

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We must aim instead to be a community of people who walk together Sunday through Saturday and who see each day as an opportunity to worship God and draw others into his kingdom.

3. Planting churches simply to meet the niche needs of Christians.

We don’t plant churches to be “the most contemporary church in town” or “the most charismatic church in town” or “the most Reformed in town.”

Instead, we must plant churches with one end goal in mind: to help us be on mission to show and share the love of Jesus with those who don’t know him. Sure, our churches can have their own style in terms of worship, preaching and practices, but these must not determine how and why we plant churches.

We must aim to plant churches for the glory of God and the good of the community, not to meet our own needs.

So as you consider planting a church, consider why you are doing it and seek to avoid the above pitfalls. And if you have already planted a church, continue to check yourself as to how you are communicating, how often you meet and the spirit in which you serve God and others.



This article first appeared in Outreach Magazine, and is used by permission.

Read more from Ed Stetzer »

Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham distinguished chair of church, mission and evangelism at Wheaton College and the Wheaton Grad School, where he also oversees the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism.

Ed Stetzer
Ed Stetzer is President of LifeWay Research and LifeWay’s Missiologist in Residence. He has trained pastors and church planters on five continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Ed is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine and Catalyst Monthly, serves on the advisory council of Sermon Central and Christianity Today's Building Church Leaders, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN.
  • Jeffrey Altman

    I agree, but feel the last point needs discussion. The needs of those within a church seemed to get ignored in favor of meeting needs of those outside the Church. It seems to me that evangelistic efforts and discipleship need not be opposing realities in the Body. We are all broken people. Church planting efforts begin, not with the healthiest, most disciples folk around, but often with needy folk. What seems missing in this scenario is the need to meet the needs or two kinds of people in church planting. Those on the inside and those on the outside. For those on the inside, discipleship is prime. Not only learning how engage the unchurched, but learning things like deep prayer, what Dallas Willard calls “gentle apologetics,” and the pursuit of holiness. These things are essential for believers’ health. Otherwise we bring people into our fellowship of brokenness and wonder why our plant doesn’t prosper.