There are many reasons why people oppose church planting. Some people think it takes too much money. Others think it takes too much time. All agree that it demands a lot of energy. In many cases the new church may not follow all the time honored traditions people have grown accustomed to. Though all of these reasons are common, in my experience I have found that opposition to church planting most often comes from people in existing churches who fear that if a new church starts in their community some of their faithful church members will flock to the new church and abandon the existing church.
In such situations, what I think most people fail to realize is that faithful members are faithful because their existing church meets their needs. Faithful members typically like the music, the building, the location, the fellowship and the sermons in the existing church. They are faithful to the existing church because it works for them. It is extremely unlikely that faithful members will leave an existing church to help start a new church unless there is some clear “missionary” call in their lives. Since only a handful of people experience such a missionary call, our concerns that large numbers of faithful members will leave existing churches are simply unfounded. In the rare case that a faithful member does have a missionary calling, would we really want them to ignore it?
What I have found often happens is that some less faithful members of an existing church may indeed check out the new church. Perhaps they are only Christmas and Easter attendees. Perhaps they have moved too far away to remain faithful to the existing church. Perhaps the existing church, as wonderful as it may be, just does not meet their spiritual need. People on the edges of an existing church may checkout a new church across town, but what has the existing church lost in such a situation? In fact, should we not rejoice when a wayward believer finds his way back to the Lord, whether it is in our church or another?
Though sometimes less faithful members of existing churches will wander into a new church, what I have found is that the overwhelming number of people who visit a new church have no meaningful connection to an existing church at all. Perhaps they were once members of a church, but it has been a decade or more since they attended, even for a special service. Or perhaps they never got into the whole church thing at all and are checking it out for the first time. People like this are often sponges eagerly soaking up all that God has for them. While they could have attended some existing church, for whatever reason they did not. Something about the freshness of a new church got their attention. Watching them grasp spiritual truth, repent of their sins, give their lives to Christ and become faithful disciples of the Master is a wonderful thing to behold. Why would a faithful member of an existing church ever want to oppose a person who does not currently practice their faith from attending a new church that helps them engage with God?
Let us pray for new churches. Let us rejoice at those who attend those churches. Let us release our fear and celebrate the expansion of God’s Kingdom through church planting.