Monday, May 17, 2010

Why 80% of New Church Plants Fail (Part 1)

Church planters are a rare breed. No one in their right mind would ever choose to do it; especially in this day and age. It must be a calling. The church planter must have a call from God.

No one wants their church plant to fail, but most do. Current statistics state that new church plants have about an 80% failure rate. The reasons are many, but here are five that I have observed:

1. The Church is Planted Out of Conflict Rather Than a Divine Calling from God. What some people call a “new church” is often a spilt born out of spite. When a group of angry people – who have never been happy anywhere they’ve ever attended before - get together and start a church, that isn’t necessarily a call from God. And usually within two or three years it goes belly up. But before it does, it gets really, really bad. The same negativity and bitterness that was the motivation for starting the church in the first place eventually reemerges and destroys it from within. Let me be clear – when bitterness, anger, and discontent are the root of a church plant, then that church is in deep trouble right from the very beginning. It will only produce fruit from its poisonous root.

2. The Pastor Has No Desire to Fulfill the Great Commission. A church plant cannot be built by transferees from other churches or by sheep stealing. That is a recipe for frustration, and eventually disaster. It must be built by targeting the lost with the gospel (the unchurched and the irreligious) and turning them into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. That’s called evangelism and discipleship. If the pastor of the church plant is more interested in feeding the already fed than he is in reaching the lost (i.e., scattered sheep who have no shepherd), then he is doomed to failure. Guaranteed.

3. The Pastor Lacks Courage and Allows the Vision and/or Mission to Get Hijacked In Order to Keep Everyone Happy. There will always be people who have an opinion about the direction of the church and believe that things ought to be done differently; and they won't mind expressing that opinion either. Every church planter will be tested in this – right from the very beginning within the first six moths, all the way through the first decade. Some heavyweight personality (whose giving represents a big portion of the budget) will begin to list his/her demands and threaten to pull out if those demands are not met. People will take pot shots at you, People will misquote you, and will take what you say out of contex. Some will even lie about you. And you are not going to be liked by everyone. To face all of this takes courage. If you lack courage, the church will be hijacked and you will not make it. This is not a time to lead with diplomacy or majority vote. It’s time to be decisive and stand up to these church bully’s.

4. The People Possess a Small-Church Mentality. Another mistake common among church plants is a small-church mentality that permeates the entire community of faith. Just about everything they do – announcements, recognizing people, demeanor, social get-togethers, and levels of quality – is done as a little church, in little church style. This may seem laid-back and cozy at first, but it breeds a small-church mentality that prevents growth because it becomes ingrained as part of the church's culture (DNA); ultimately becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. If it survives past the five-year mark, it's likely to still be running under 75 people.

5. It’s Just Plain Hard Work and the Pastor & His Wife Are Not Prepared For It. The bottom line is that planting a church is hard work and requires great personal sacrifice in every area of the church planters’ life… in ways you can’t even imagine.

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