Did you know that as churches age, they become far less able to make new disciples? According to statistics provided by Dr. F. Belton Joyner, it takes 72 people (on average) to make 1 new disciple in congregations that are 10 years old or older. 72:1! For congregations between 5-10 years old, the number jumps up to 17 people per new disciple; And for 1-2 year old congregations, the ratio is 2 people for one new disciple! It seems that George Hunter was on to something when he said that the most efficient way to make new disciples is to plant new congregations!
Combine this with the reality that there are fewer churches per people in the United States than 100 years ago and we have a problem. According to Hunter, there were approximately 27 churches for every 10,000 people in 1900 compared with 12 churches for every 10,000 people today. The number is even less in our cities, where currently 85% of the population resides.
So the church today seems to be at a crossroads. I don’t think the answer is to sit around and lick our wounds, reminiscing about the glory days. Instead, we should be focusing our efforts on proactive measures to build bridges to those who are living far from God. As Mike Slaughter suggests, “…if we are not giving birth to new churches, we will become irrelevant to the next generations.”
What I sense in the church today is that there is a grass-roots effort to return to this missional mindset. It seems that God is raising up new leaders with a passion for reaching the unchurched by starting new movements and planting new churches. Jesus told us that His church would prevail, and we know that it will, so my prayer is that God will continue to fan the flames of passion to see the church thrive into the next generations! Will you join me?