September 19, 2017

The Need to Reseed

Bruce McAlister

An alert homeowner who maintains a beautiful lawn knows the need to periodically overseed or reseed. Thinning grass or bare patches of dirt reveal the need for more seed. In a similar way, an evaluation of the American church situation reveals our urgent need to reseed the nation with many more Bible-believing churches. Broadly speaking, America currently has about 10,000 Fundamental churches. The vast majority of these are independent Baptist churches, but Bible churches also constitute a significant number of churches in Fundamentalism. Most of these 10,000 churches were planted during the twentieth century battles with liberalism and New Evangelicalism for the purity of the Christian faith. While there are sound, Biblical churches in many American cities and towns, especially in the eastern United States, there is still much to be done to fulfill the Great Commission, even here in our homeland.

Golden Day of Opportunity

We live in a day of phenomenal opportunity. Though facing considerable challenges on every front, we still live in a land of religious freedom. We live amidst people who claim a strong religious interest. Gallup polls report that 80% of people believe in a personal God and approximately 40% of Americans attend church each week. Who will reach these people? Our Fundamental colleges are teeming with young people desiring to serve God. God is stirring the hearts of our leaders toward Himself and one another in seasons of prayer, and He is raising up a vibrant generation of missionaries, evangelists, church planters, pastors, and youth pastors. Churches are seeing people saved and called to serve. Summer camps are filled with young people who are dedicating their lives to Christ. We dare not fail to recognize God’s many blessings or squander the opportunities and resources that He has given.

God’s Instrument in the Great Commission

Church planting is God’s method of spreading the gospel and establishing a community-based discipling agency. The book of Acts demonstrates repeatedly that as the apostles and others preached the gospel and people were converted, churches were formed throughout Judea, Galilee, Samaria, Syria, Asia Minor, Achaia, and beyond. Church planting was God’s plan then and it is still God’s plan today. While various Christian ministries make their specialized contribution to the work of Christ’s church today, the local assembly of believers is the normal focal point for worship, fellowship, prayer, evangelism, and service. Therefore, if all areas of our nation are to be adequately evangelized and discipled, many more Fundamental churches must be planted.

Why Are More Fundamental Churches Needed?

Church planting is needed because there are still areas with no known Fundamental church.

My office helps to manage what is probably the largest and most up-to-date database of Fundamental churches in the United States. We recently identified over 1,000 smaller communities in our nation with no known fundamental church within a 30-mile radius. Sixty-two of these communities range in size from 5,000 to 28,000 people and are almost entirely west of the Mississippi River. In addition, we have identified 73 large suburban communities with very few Fundamental churches in comparison to the population. Very importantly, we have also identified another 37 major metropolitan areas with few, if any, known Fundamental churches in high population centers. Often these are inner-city areas that greatly need evangelism and sound Bible doctrine and practice. You may view information about our study at the website http://www.bju.edu/ministries/church-planting/.

Church planting is needed because we are failing to keep up with population growth.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau the population grew by 32.7 million from 1990 to 2000, or 13.2%. The West grew by 19.7% while the South grew at 17.3%. Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and Idaho were the fastest growing states by percentage, though California grew the most numerically, 4.1 million. California has approximately 34 million people and very few Fundamental churches statewide. Las Vegas grew by 83% during the 1990s with only a handful of sound churches and a population of 2 million. The U.S. Hispanic population grew by 57.9% over the last ten years. This population surge gives burdened pastors, missionaries, church planters, evangelists, and laymen much reason to expand the church planting efforts of our churches. Since the 2000 census, the U.S. population has already grown from 281.4 million people to over 288 million. The souls of millions hang on the brink of eternal damnation without the gospel of Christ being preached by faithful churches. See the U.S. Census Bureau website at http://www.census.gov for vast information on population trends in America.

Church planting is needed as worldliness invades the church and is willingly accepted in many formerly sound churches.

Unfortunately, many churches which came from a Fundamental heritage are succumbing to the pressures of compromise with culture. Rock music, contemporary services, sinking standards, and an overall accommodation to worldliness are eroding the base of Biblical churches. Communities that once had several brightly beaming gospel lighthouses, now provide no distinctively different church ministry. Conservative believers have few, if any, alternatives for their families and friends. Worldly churches lack God’s power in aggressive evangelism and clear Biblical teaching. Thus, the gospel light grows dim and souls are not reached with the truth. Christian leaders everywhere have observed these alarming trends in recent years, as the pace of compromise seems to accelerate. Where will the strong churches for the next generation come from if they are not planted today?

Church planting is needed to provide a solid base of support for foreign missions.

The demise of some formerly sound, vibrant churches is of special concern to missions, agencies and missionaries. Because of their broad work with many churches, mission board representatives are acutely aware of the impact of compromise upon the future of missions. Even today missionary deputees are “backed up on the loading dock” for years as they seek support. Stagnant churches rarely support additional missionaries and declining churches may be forced to cut missionary support. Churches that compromise or split over controversy leave their missionaries in the “no man’s land” of indefinite future support. New, vibrant, evangelistic churches are needed to maintain and expand the base of foreign missions support. The relationship between home and foreign missions is not an “either/or” proposition; it is “both/and.” As overseas military operations are only as strong as the home base, so the strength of foreign missions relates directly to the strength of American churches. Our international church planting is vitally linked to national church planting and development at home.

What Can Pastors and Churches Do?

Churches should be planting churches! They should make church planting support a substantial part of their church’s annual budget. They should challenge young adults and serving couples to team up with a church planter to reach a needy area. Home mission boards should be contacted for information on church planters and needy areas.

Pastors should challenge their young ministers with the exciting prospects of church planting and should lead their churches to pray specifically about areas where churches are needed. Pastors should encourage the colleges and seminaries where they send their students to provide classroom training in church planting.

Evangelists should invest their time and energy in helping church planters, especially in the early stages of reaching a community for Christ. In addition, creative thought should be given to reaching rural areas where there are no acceptable churches. Urban areas are in great need of church planting pioneers to penetrate the inner cities of our land. God’s people should pray, plan, and persist in the ongoing, never-ending task until Jesus comes.

And finally, consider planting a new church within your church. A church planter who goes to a new community, would love to have fifty people at the end of his first year. In fact, that would be wonderful. Practically speaking, that means he is reaching one person per week or one family a month for a year. Every church would profit greatly by such a quest. Reaching one new person a week for Christ would likely change your church. What church would not want to see fifty new people come in over a year’s time? So while your heart yearns to see churches planted elsewhere, do it at home as well. Your own church growth may be the fuel that God uses to help start other churches.

The Lord is able to do more than we could ever imagine! He has done it over and over again through the centuries. We should long for Him to do great things in the century ahead if He tarries. “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Eph. 3:20, 21).


 

Dr. Bruce McAllister has worked with the BJU Preachers Class since 1977 and has served as director since 1991. He oversees many practical ministry courses, student outreach ministries, and the church staff placement office. He teaches a variety of courses including Church Planting and Biblical Church Ministry. Dr. McAllister has been actively involved with churches as a church planter, pastor, and consultant. Dr. McAllister and his wife, Ellen, have four children.

(Originally published in FrontLine • January/February 2003. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)


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