Market Share Evangelism
" The Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) is trying to recoup up to $1.3 million lost in failed and fraudulent church plants, some of which existed only on paper. A late October report revealed that most convention churches started in the Rio Grande Valley from 1999 to 2005 have failed. Among 258 congregations started by three pastors in seven years, only 5 still gather. Some of them never existed." Reports CT on Dec. 11, 2006
A few years ago a supporter sent me a big newsletter proclaiming a new breakthrough in Poland in Church planting. Within two years a full grown church was planted and functioning, or so the newsletter said. The mission organization was a major and established missionary organization. You would know the name if you heard it. A few years later I met with the pastor who told me it was a misunderstanding. The church disbanded within weeks of the announcement. The new "church" was a gathering of believers from various churches who were looking for something else and were unhappy with their church. It was a shift and did not represent true growth. Market Share in a strong Christian community is sometimes valid. Believers at times are led to switch churches and to find one that will best meet their needs. People move into new cities. Some churches lose members because there was a change in any variety of things ( Pastor, worship leader, doctrine, etc. ). I'm not questioning the wisdom of such moves here, but we really are not talking about church growth. Many church planters I've seen in Poland were looking for that silver bullet to take from one building and to move them to another. Some pastors in the States have used even more drastic methods, by trying to prove that only their church is doing things right in this community. In one city where there are two mega churches, one is subtly telling all others by radio that they might not even be saved, because they do not emphasis one "key word" as much. Lost in all of this is the sharing of the Gospel with the lost. Even Christian radio seems to be looking for market share and very little Gospel is heard on some Christian music stations. Why is this? Here is how it looks to me.
1. There is very little glory in tilling the soil and planting the seed. I've heard people say, we can't wait that long we need to fill these pews this month. In this case the lost get trampled upon and those who are doing the job right get trampled right along with them.
2. We are trying to meet someone else's expectations, rather than following the Lord.
Regardless, if it is Poland or America we need the front lines to do their work again. It isn't always pretty. Methods always need to adapt. It happens when preachers are finally humble enough to recognize that they are not 90% or even 50% of the ball game. I've seen churches that taught that only the pastor can really explain the Gospel, even after forty years of training under that minister. This is one of the reasons why the para church ministries have become so crucial. Everyone can do the work of an evangelist and everyone can be trained to teach others if they are faithful.
Solution? Don't send anyone out without their full armor. This includes those Gospel combat boots, the sword of the Spirit and all the rest. after three and a half years, Jesus did not only expect fruit from his flock, He turned the whole church over to them. Yes the church has had many awesome failures, but this was all explained to us in God's word. " Men are looking for better methods, but God is looking for better men". E.M.Bounds