Thursday, November 19, 2009


Planting Fast-growing Churches is the title of a book written by Stephen Gray. He is the Director of National Missions for General Baptists. He is also a former church planter. Dr. Gray sent questionnaires to 336 recent church plants in 5 denominations. The criteria for churches in this study: 1. At least 3 years old, but no older than 6 years; 2. Had to be led by a first-time church planter; 3. The new church must have been started in a city of at least 30,000 people. He separated the churches into two categories: Fast-growing and Struggling. A fast-growing church reached an average attendance of at least 200 and was financially self-supporting by 3 years from its public launch. Only 7% of the 2285 churches that qualified for this study were fast-growing. All other church plants were labeled struggling.

Here are some of the conclusions that the author reached from this study:


· Churches that received no additional startup money didn’t grow as fast as those that could get some help. But churches that received over $50,000 in additional funds (after salary) did worse than churches that received less than $50,000. Dr. Gray was concerned that new churches that received too much money or received support for too long could develop a welfare mentality.
· A significantly higher percentage of fast-growing churches taught financial stewardship within the first 6 months.
· Churches that gave a greater percentage of their income to outside causes did better.


· The new church should have between 25 and 50 adults prior to launch.
· Both small groups and preview services should be used to build the core group.
· Many fast-growing churches had preview services every other week instead of once a month.


· 97% of fast-growing churches had a children’s ministry, while only 42% of struggling churches did.
· 92% of fast-growing churches offered 3 or more ministries at their opening. The most common ministries were worship, children, and teen.

This book was interesting to me. But that doesn’t mean that I have to agree with every conclusion. I would like to know more about the fast-growing churches. In what region of the country were they located? Did they have significant number of other members of their denomination or a mother church help them? Were some of these statistics the cause or the result?

However, this book can help us think about what we need to do to have faster-growing churches. It would especially be good for new church planters who haven’t had their first service.

I’ll end this with a quote from chapter 1:
“Church planting will make you feel alive, and it can push you to the brink of insanity. It will give you a new sense of God’s presence and convince you that Satan is alive and well. You will celebrate the birth of a new church will unearthly joy, and experience betrayal from friends and family in ways you never thought possible. As a church planter, you will experience high highs and low lows. It’s dangerous and dramatic. As they say on television – kids, don’t try this at home.”

Thursday, November 12, 2009



The “Nones” are people who claim no religious affiliation. According to an article in The Week magazine from November 6, 2009, a study by Trinity College found their numbers are increasing. In 1990, 8 % of Americans claimed no religious affiliation, while in a recent survey that number has climbed to 15%. Their numbers are higher in the Northeast and the Pacific Northwest. Nones also have a higher percentage among younger people.

Ravi Zacharias in Jesus Among Other Gods says,
“Philosophically, you can believe anything, so long as you do not claim it to be true.
Morally you can practice anything, so long as you do not claim that it is a ‘better’ way.
Religiously, you can hold to anything, so long as you do not bring Jesus Christ in to it.”

Another survey by the National Opinion Research Center says that regular church attendance has fallen in the US. In 1971, 41% of the population attended church regularly, while in 2002 the number had dropped to 31%. Denominational loyalty has also eroded with churchgoers shopping around. Southern Baptist researcher Brad Waggoner says, “There’s no simple answer why people are so restless.” Since younger people tend to be more nonreligious, some are concerned this may be a growing trend in America. Trinity demographer Ariela Keysar says secularism in the US may one day rival the famed religious indifference of Europeans. “We’re not there,” she says, “but we’re going in that direction.”


A slim majority of the Nones believe in God and a third say they pray weekly or daily. Fewer than 10% call themselves atheists. Even though over 3 million people in America claim to be atheists, that number is only 1% of our population. This, in spite of an almost all out war by evolutionists and atheists in books, curriculum, TV shows, etc.

A lot of these people leaving organized religion are leaving liberal, unbelieving churches and the Catholic church. Erwin Lutzer says the persecution in China during the Cultural Revolution wiped out theological liberalism. Maybe the Catholic church’s scandals and the liberal church’s lack of answers is starting to do that here.

It has looked tough before. Spreading the gospel in the first century Roman empire looked daunting. In the 1800’s infidel Robert Ingersoll claimed that “churches are dying out all over the land.” A 1966 cover of Time magazine asked, “Is God Dead?” In each case, the church of God preached the truth and endured.

The devil would like us to be discouraged and overwhelmed so that we would quit before we got started. God is alive and well. He is working in America and in your town. Let us be realistic and admit we have a challenge in America. Let us also remember that people still have needs that only God can answer.