Why Do We Need More Churches?

by May 5, 2010

At Harbor, we are committed to being a church-planting church. We want to partner with God in multiplying healthy churches, so this week I’m working with others from EFCA Hawaii to assess four potential church-planters.

Some people wonder if we really need to be planting churches. They have a few common objections:

  • “Don’t we already have plenty of churches? Seems like there’s one on every other corner.”
  • “A new church will only take people from other churches.”
  • “We need better churches, not more churches. Instead of pouring all this energy into a new church, we should be helping a struggling church.”

To answer those objections, it helps to have a little historical perspective. First, we don’t have nearly as many churches as we once did. This is from The Churching of America by Roger Finke:

In 1820, there was one Christian church for every 875 U.S. residents. Due to aggressive church planting over the next century, by the start of WWI there was 1 church for every 430 persons. In 1906 over a third of all the congregations in the country were less than 25 years old. In 1776, 17% of the U.S. population was ‘religious adherents’, but that rose to 53% by 1916. Both have declined steadily, along with the rate of church planting, since WWI. (p.16)

So 100 years ago, there was a church for every 430 people in America. J.D. Payne, director of the Church Planting Center at Southern Seminary, released a report (PDF) a few months ago arguing that we need a church for every 500 people in rural areas, and a church for every 1,000 people in urban areas.

According to this report, there is currently only one church for every 3,383 people in the City & County of Honolulu. Clearly, we have some work to do.

Second, new churches have consistently proven to reach unchurched people more effectively than older churches. This is from Church Growth by Donald McGavran:

The average new church gains most of its new members (60-80%) from the ranks of people who are not attending any worshipping body, while churches over 10- 15 years of age gain 80-90% of new members by transfer from other congregations. (p. 100)

Hawaii is currently the only state in America where church attendance is growing faster than the population. The Spirit is already stirring. Let’s join him by multiplying healthy churches!