The renewal movement of the 1960’s and 70’s gave rise to the emergence of the New Churches. In one sense they were ‘planted’, however these Churches had little intentional strategy at first, but ‘fellowships’ and new Churches emerged in most cities, towns and some village settings during this period and into the 80’s as Apostolic Networks were built.
The 80’s and 90’s saw the Dawn Church Planting movement and also the emergence of other networks both in and outside of the historical denominations. At this stage intentional strategized church planting became the norm and most historical denominations, new churches and emergent groups are still talking around this issue even if the models employed are diverse and the current language is ‘missional’.
Throughout this period the predominant model has been congregational planting. Initially this was broadly successful both evangelistically and in the establishment of new groups, however in recent years this model has become much less effective. There are still great groups being established at a high cost to those taking part, however, I think our problem is that evangelism and real growth for the Kingdom of God is lessening as each stream or denomination focuses on planting it’s ‘brand’ in key locations already well served by similar expressions of Church.
The common scenario is as follows:
Group locates into new city or town, begins meetings, a great programme is set up. People are drawn from existing churches, a few people who are de churched return, a small number are converted initially. During this process existing Churches lose people, resources and suffer as a result. Some Churches actually shut permanently. When the statistics are compiled we realize that the real number of active Christians in the town or city have not increased, they have just been redistributed as people choose their Church around consumer values and not in line with missional commitments. Years go by and another ‘stream’ comes to the city and the whole thing happens over again. This scenario is being repeated again and again across our nation.
I think the time has come to wake up and invest in fresh approaches to reaching our towns and cities. Approaches built on evangelism, breaking new ground, building discipling communities and cooperation and partnership between existing groups. ‘Brand planting’ needs to give way to ‘Mission Planting’, communities that begin with mission, clusters, projects, businesses, not for profits and people groups. It’s time to start thinking and acting out of our boxes.