The Columbia area is home to more than one hundred local churches. Do we really need another one?
At Trinity, we believe that it takes a large, diverse network of faithful churches to reach and serve an entire area. There are a few specific reasons why we feel Columbia needs not just one more church but dozens of new churches.
Fulfilling the Great Commission
When his earthly ministry was completed, Jesus called his disciples—all of his followers—to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:20). To baptize means to immerse people in the faith of a local church community. When someone becomes a believer through a local church body, he or she is far more likely to grow as a true disciple of Christ.
Reaching the Unchurched
Whereas existing congregations have excellent resources to provide spiritual care, training, and service opportunities for mature and maturing believers, brand new churches tend to be more effective in reaching the unchurched. Although it is not always the case, churches are most fruitful in reaching unchurched people during their first ten to twenty years. Typically, church plants and young churches set aside significant time and funds for reaching unchurched people, while existing churches allocate more time and money to member care and facilities. Mission scholar C. Peter Wagner once wrote, “Planting new churches is the most effective evangelistic methodology known under heaven.”
Reaching the Next Generation
New churches also tend to be the most fruitful in reaching young adults. Similarly, new residents in a city are more likely to attend a new or young church than to join an existing one. Fewer long-standing traditions mean young adults and new residents can engage deeply and take service and leadership roles more quickly.
Columbia was recently reported to be the fastest-growing city in Missouri (Columbia Missourian, March 25, 2017). Columbia averages one church for every 800 new residents. Over the last six years, Columbia’s population has grown by 14,000 residents, meaning we would also need about 18 new churches planted during that time. Several new churches have started, but many more are needed!
At Columbia's current rate of growth,
we need more than 20 new churches every decade—
just to keep up with population growth.
Church plants are good for existing churches, too. New churches serve the community of churches by increasing the total number of church-attending people in a city, by equipping servant-leaders and releasing them into the marketplace, and by creating innovative and effective new forms of ministry that other churches can adopt. In many cases, new churches will build a relationship and baptize a new believer, then the new believer will join a different, existing congregation, and the whole city benefits from both churches’ involvement.
As Tim Keller, a pastor in New York City, writes: “A vigorous and continuous approach to church planting is the only way to guarantee an increase in the number of believers, and is one of the best ways to renew the whole body of Christ."
We believe church planting is the most effective and fruitful way to invest our lives in the city of Columbia. Church planting—when done slowly and intentionally through strategic networking, winsome evangelism, and intentional discipleship—is God’s primary means for spiritual renewal.