We believe wholeheartedly that the starting of new, vibrant churches that reach the lost and disciple believers is an integral part of fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Thus, church planting is fundamental to God’s program. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of exciting stories of how the Lord is starting such churches all over Europe, and we praise God for each one of them!
However, if all the church planters who shared their stories with us plant just one church, if every full-time church planter launches just one church, and if every existing church in Europe starts just one daughter church, it would take thousands of years to start enough new churches to put a Christ-following congregation within reach of every unbeliever in Europe.
For example, as we stated elsewhere, a church in Rome once calculated that if every missionary and full-time Italian church planter in Italy were planting churches (and many are not), and all were successful in planting (and many are not), and all of those churches reproduced themselves once (and many will not because of the methods used), then it would take 2,700 years to saturate Italy with enough churches to impact the country for Christ.
It is painfully clear that if we pursue the path of simply planting one church at a time, Europe will be without a significant Gospel presence in most towns and city sectors for millennia! That seems wholly unacceptable, and it also seems to go against the New Testament model in which Paul, for example, helped to plant multiple congregations and in which his colleagues went on to plant others without his help.
Whether you call this “Saturation Church Planting,” “Discipling A Whole Nation,” or “Church Planting Movements,” it is clear that God would delight in seeing not just the addition of new churches but their multiplication. We cannot be content with the planting of a single church when we could go beyond that to see the planting of several churches, which in turn plant several more. The growth would be exponential!
Some principles that would free us to go beyond church planting to a vast, reproductive movement of new church starts might be…
- For each church and church planter to aspire toward planting multiple churches (see Paul’s example)
- To recognize the strategic role of unpaid church planters (e.g., Priscilla and Aquila and the “anonymous” planters of several New Testament churches)
- To free church plants from overwhelming financial constraints (e.g., requiring a paid staff for every church; requiring the owning or renting of a church building in every case)
- What would you add to this list? Let us know by email!
Please understand that, while we would all like to avoid waiting for millennia before seeing every person in Europe within reach of a vibrant, Christian community, we don’t believe that individual church plants have to necessarily be rapid. Sometimes God allows quick growth, and that is to be encouraged and celebrated when it happens.
However, the important thing is not the speed of the individual plant but the large-scale, long-term reproduction of churches. Churches that last just a few months or make shallow, non-reproducing disciples will not get us much closer to fulfilling the Great Commission.
We need thousands of new churches, but by God’s grace, we also need them to be healthy churches that make disciples!
So, is planting churches in Europe enough? It is if we are willing to wait two or three millennia to provide a Gospel witness to every corner of Europe. If not, planting churches one by one falls short of the goal.
We have a desperate need for God to show up and help us plant churches that plant churches that plant churches, because Jesus Himself is…
“the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy” (Colossians 1:18)!