3700 U.S. churches closed in the most recent year studied (2017), and over 4000 were started. More churches started than closed… all the while the culture grew more secular. We live in interesting (and challenging) times.
by Arnobio Morelix, Inc. Magazine, 4/2/19.
2. SALT LAKE CITY
“How Evangelistically Effective is Church Planting?”
by Jeff Christopherson, Christianity Today 8/20/18
In 2002 pastor and author Tim Keller published a brief article entitled “Why Plant Churches” that has since become a staple regarding the necessity of church planting. In it, he writes, “The vigorous, continual planting of new congregations is the single most crucial strategy for 1) the numerical growth of the Body of Christ in any city, and 2) the continual corporate renewal and revival of the existing churches in a city.”
His words echo the oft-quoted claim by C. Peter Wagner in his book Church Planting for a Greater Harvest: “The single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planting new churches.” Dramatic population increases, the rise of the “nones,” and pervasive church closures would seem to validate this claim, but is it true?
The answer is: It depends.
Church planting is evangelistically effective only to the degree that it is evangelistically focused from the beginning.
From my observation, church planters come in two sizes:
1) Those who plant churches “FOR” evangelism,and
2) Those who plant churches “FROM” evangelism.
At first glance, it might seem like an incidental distinction – but when it comes to evangelistic effectiveness, it is anything but. The former, with an eye toward speedier sustainability, throw everything at gathering a strong launch team, typically comprised of the “already churched.”
While this group is usually easier to congregationalize, this association comes with some complications that are difficult to overcome. The ease with which the planter convinces churchgoers to join his ‘better thing’ often correlates with the ease with which they will become discontented and initiate another hunt for a more suitable replacement at some point in the future.It is a rare planter that can keep his original “churched” launch team beyond two years.
Further, this population often has very few meaningful relationships outside of their evangelical subculture and are skeptical that personal evangelism is achievable amid the darkness that surrounds them. Disciple-making finds very few passionate advocates.
Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2018/august/how-evangelistically-effective-is-church-planting.html
by Samuel Stebbens and Evan Comen, USA Today, 6/13/18.
…Quality of life is subjective, and difficult to measure. Still, there is a wide range of quantifiable factors that can impact quality of life in a given area. Affordability, safety, job market strength, quality of education, infrastructure, average commute times, air quality, and the presence of cultural attractions are just a few examples of factors that can influence overall quality of life.
24/7 Wall St. created an index with measures in eight categories — crime, economy, education, environment, health, housing, infrastructure, and leisure — to identify the 50 worst cities to live in. Not confined to a single region, the worst cities span the country from the South to the Midwest and from New England to the Pacific coast.
by Michael Fries, LifeWay, 4/16/18.
… We’re partnering with a local church to plant an autonomous congregation in our city, and we’re also planting additional campuses of our own church. In doing so, we’ve had to develop ways to pinpoint where to plant in our city.
1. KNOW THE SOCIAL MAKEUP OF YOUR COMMUNITY.
Learning about your community is simple. While it’s possible to spend a fair amount of money for detailed demographic reports, you can also learn valuable information while spending next to nothing.
Begin with the U.S. Census Bureau website. Use its free tools to identify what is happening in the immediate areas around your church and in the larger area that makes up your community.
2. KNOW THE RELIGIOUS MAKEUP OF YOUR COMMUNITY.
… TheARDA.com is a useful tool that allows you to research the religious affiliation of your area based on city name, zip code and other search parameters.
3. MAP THE MEMBERS OF YOUR CHURCH.
Missiologist Keelan Cook has made mapping a fairly simple process. His mapping tool uses Google Maps to let you quickly identify the geographic makeup of your congregation. You can access his tool at bit.ly/keelancook.
Once you have uploaded your membership database into the tool, it will produce a digital map that will allow you to identify your members’ areas of concentration.
4. MAP THE CHURCHES IN YOUR COMMUNITY.
It may require a bit more time to accomplish this task, as you will need to enter the addresses of every local church into a database. Then you can upload them into the tool mentioned above and produce a digital map pinpointing every church in your community.
Too often churches overlook this step. They simply look to identify pockets of need without carefully considering who else might already be working in those areas.
5. IDENTIFY GROWTH AREAS.
The final step is setting priorities based on growth projections.
Population movement is significant in evaluating the need for a church plant. Expanding areas need more churches, and congregations in those areas have greater potential to grow.
If migration patterns and growth areas are not easy to identify, this information can often be found by contacting your city manager or chamber of commerce.
These steps will help you develop a database of target areas and a methodology of church planting. But the value of studying your community goes beyond knowing where you should plant a church and what kind of church to plant.
Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: In my coaching and mentoring of church planters, I have found them increasingly open to going to hard-hit urban and rural areas. This map shows that some of the most needy areas are in rural Appalachia. One of my former students (who shadowed me for a year to learn consulting) Jay Wise, pastors a church in the middle of the red zone. Read this article to understand more … so you can pray for Jay and consider supporting ministers who labor in these challenging environments.
“Death maps show where despair is killing Americans“ by Maggie Fox, NBC News, 3/14/18.
Researchers have mapped out deaths from alcohol, drugs and violence across the U.S. and found troubling patterns of despair that have worsened in recent years.
While deaths from alcohol abuse, suicide and violence are down, they are more than outweighed by a gigantic 600 percent increase in drug overdose deaths, the team at the University of Washington found.
Their county-by-county breakdown of mortality data going back to 1980 paints an extremely detailed picture of where society is failing the most Americans.
“Every county experienced an increase in deaths from drug use disorders, but that burden of drug use overdoses was particularly acute in certain communities,” Laura Dwyer-Lindgren and colleagues wrote in their report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Death rates from drug abuse have increased by more than 600 percent since 1980, county-level data from the University of Washington shows. University Of Washingtonh
Drug deaths cluster in Appalachia. A map showing the rate of increase is even more dramatic, showing hot spots of worsening drug overdoses in Appalachia, Ohio, Indiana, Oklahoma, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
Read more at … https://www.nbcnews.com/news/amp/ncna856231?__twitter_impression=true
By Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., Jan. 15, 2006. This is an excerpt of the chapter on this innovative church plant I wrote for the Abingdon Press book titled: Inside the organic church: Learning from 12 emerging congregations.
Chapter 2: Sol Café, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
We’re a “coffee-stop,” an “information booth” along a spiritual highway.
“Worship leading is … ‘curating” (providing opportunities for engagement and free association). – Sally Morgenthaler, worship leader and consultant
It looked like any other Internet café, with little indication a church gathering was about to take place. Feeling adrift, I made my way to the coffee bar. “I guess I’m the church greeter,” began Winston, the barista. “I usually don’t act so forward but you looked lost.” As a church growth consultant, I visit worship gatherings every weekend. But he was right, an unobtrusive beginning to this worship gathering had disoriented me. I didn’t know the bewilderment was so obvious.
“We usually don’t tell people a worship gathering is starting,” continued Winston. “We just let them get comfortable, have a coffee, and engage in conversation. Then the worship unfolds slowly … at an unhurried pace. We want to usher people into a spiritual encounter, we don’t want to announce ‘Hey, its worship time: in or out!’”
I wondered out loud if people get offended once they discover a worship gathering is unfolding. “Rarely,” replied Winston. “Most of the time people like the music, the unhurried atmosphere, patrons sharing their stories. It is a great way to do church, and it impacts people who have never been to church. They are slowly led into a church experience. It’s not dropped on them all at once.”
True to the forecast, the evening progressed deliberately forward, but at a leisured pace. People laughed, talked, introduced themselves, and generally turned this Internet café into an extended family. Instrumental music was played at first, but soon some people were singing along. Over time more joined in, and even reticent attendees soon sang. At first the songs had a reflective timbre, but as the evening progressed so did the songs’ Christian content, until finally I noticed many visitors were reflective and pensive. This unhurried evening would eventually culminate with a short interactive sermon.
The gathering that evening was warm and sociable. “And we get even better attendance when its colder,” reflected Matt Thompson one of the leaders. “Edmonton is cold in the winter,” he continued “and the Sole Café provides a warm cup of coffee, good conversations, and time to reflect on life.” Though usually frigid in January, this day in Edmonton Alberta resembled a spring afternoon. Yet good weather did not seem to deter a good turn out at the Sol Café.[i]
Church: Sol Café
Leaders: Debbie and Rob Toews (now employed as the director of a Christian retreat center), Jacqueline and Winston Pei, Anika and Steve Martin, Matt Thompson, Dave Wakulchyk.
Location: Whyte Ave., an urban neighborhood in Edmonton, Alberta.
Affiliation: Christian and Missionary Alliance of Canada
Target Audience: college/postmodern thinkers, metropolitan residents, urban artists, immigrant families, blue collar families, people in their twenties into late-thirties.
A Fusion of Rhythms:
The Rhythm of Place
“We wanted to create an atmosphere where people could come and just sit around,” reflected Rob Toews, the founding pastor. Jokingly he continued, “a pub was another option, but we didn’t think the CMA[ii] was ready for that.”
Sol Café had begun in the basement of a nearby Christian and Missionary Alliance Church. However, the leaders felt that the catacombs of a local church would not adequately impact the postmodern thinkers in the neighborhood. “The church facility was a safe bet. It was available, and it wasn’t costly,” continued Rob. “But it also wasn’t very effective.”
Rob and another leader used a large portion of the denominational support to purchase a local Internet café. During the week they ran it as a business. Rob worked 2-3 shifts a week, selling coffee and conversing. Eddie Gibbs describes such risk taking as a characteristic of the organic church, where, “uncertainty becomes an occasion for growth, not a cause of paralysis. It is a church prepared to take risks, which learns from its failures and mistakes.”[iii]
As Gibbs forecast, mistakes followed risks. “The café was supposed to support the church, but the finances to support the staff weren’t there,” recounted Rob. “And the people we were reaching were too young or too underprivileged to make significant contributions. But the location was excellent for our mission … just not for our finances.[iv]
And, find more examples of innovative and cost-effective church planing models here: https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2018/02/07/church-planting-cost-effective-alternatives-to-the-customary-planting-strategies/
[i] Sol Café’s leaders appropriated their name from the book “A Cup of Coffee at the Soul Café” by Leonard I. Sweet and Denise Marie Siino (New York: Broadman & Holman, 1998). They also modified to fit the bilingual culture of Canada.
[ii] Christian and Missionary Alliance of Canada, the denominational affiliation of the Sol Café congregation.
[iii] Eddie Gibbs, Church Next: Quantum Changes in How We Do Ministry, (Downers Grove, Ill.: 2000), p. 235.
[iv] Subsequently, Rob Toews had to take a fulltime job at a Christian retreat center. “I think we will survive, but it will be difficult,” observed Rob. “We are on our own now. No support from the denomination, which can be a good thing. It will make us learn and adapt.”
And click here to download a flier from the Sol Cafe explaining a bit about their ethos and genesis: thesolcafe.