Drive down Cypress Lakes Drive or McGregor Blvd in Fort Myers, and no doubt you will pass by no less than 50 Christian Churches. Methodist, Baptist, Catholic, Presbyterian, Non-Denominationals; they are all represented. So why go through the effort of planting another church in what would appear to be an already saturated area?
The planting of a new church, or spiritual community, has shown time and time again to be the best strategy for growth within the Body of Christ in any city.
For the last five years (when I first felt the initial call to plant a church) I’ve been making the argument to myself that we simply don’t need another church in Fort Myers. My arguments went something like this …
We already have way too many churches in the area.
Let’s put our effort into fixing the church we’re a part of now. (consequentially, I no longer think they need to be fixed)
Maybe we should be consolidating churches instead of planting more and more new ones. (I still think the consolidation idea is a good one)
And while these arguments seem to make common sense, they rest on several wrong assumptions. As communities change, a planted church can often better respond to new demographics and new generations of people.
Of all the research I’ve done, and continue to do, this short six-page article by Tim Keller, written to his Redeemer Presbyterian church in NYC, summarized all the thoughts and ideas best.
If you don’t have time to read the entire article linked above, here are just a few of the ideas presented.
It is a great mistake to think that we have to choose between church planting and church renewal. Strange as it may seem, the planting of new churches in a city is one of the very best ways to revitalize many older churches in the vicinity and renew the whole body of Christ. Why?
First, the new churches bring new ideas to the whole body. There is no better way to teach older congregations about new skills and methods for reaching new people groups than by planting new churches. It is the new churches that will have freedom to be innovative and they become the ‘Research and Development’ department for the whole body in the city.
Second, new churches are one of the best ways to surface creative, strong leaders for the whole body. New congregations attract a higher percentage of venturesome people who value creativity, risk, innovation and future orientation. Many of these men and women would never be attracted or compelled into significant ministry apart from the appearance of these new bodies.
Third, the new churches challenge other churches to self-examination. The “success” of new churches often challenges older congregations in general to evaluate themselves in substantial ways. Sometimes it is only in contrast with a new church that older churches can finally define their own vision, specialties, and identity.
Fourth, the new church may be an ‘evangelistic feeder’ for a whole community. The new church often produces many converts who end up in older churches for a variety of reasons. Ordinarily, the new churches of a city produce new people not only for themselves, but for the older bodies as well.