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New life through new churches-part I (March 23, 2004)

New life through new churches-part I (March 23, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

New life through new churches-part I

March 23, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0045}


An e-Review Commentary
By Dr. Montfort C. Duncan Jr.**

Recently, I was asked the question, "What can new churches do for the United Methodist Church?" I was glad to have that question posed to me. The newly released book titled "Rekindling the Mainline: New Life through New Churches" deals with this exact question. It is written by my colleague Dr. Steve Compton in the Western North Carolina Conference and published by The Alban Institute (
His central point is that the establishment of new congregations has been the cause of growing mainline denominations. Whenever denominations cease or decelerate the growth of new church development that denomination (and conference) inevitably declines in its disciple-making efforts and outreach to uncommitted people. He showed the direct correlation between the number of new church starts and conference membership in his own annual conference. His main objective is to provide a means of turning around mainline denominations (and conferences) in their outreach and efforts to make disciples of Jesus Christ.
What does this mean for the Florida Conference? It means that Florida can be part of a systemic movement to make new church development a priority in the life of our conference and denomination. It must be stated that our concern is not the numbers, but the people whose lives are lost, broken and distant from the living God. We must move from playing church to being the church.
It has been observed that "God's primary method of evangelizing a new community is by planting a New Testament church to reach the area with the gospel," according to Elmer Towns, author and professor of Christian education and church growth. Fuller Theological Seminary in California has drawn the following conclusions from one of its recent studies: 1). In a church that is one to three years old it takes three people to win one new person to Jesus Christ, 2). In a church that is four to seven years old it takes seven people to lead one person to Jesus Christ, and 3). In a church that is 10 years and older it takes 85 people to win one person to Jesus Christ.
"New churches are far more successful in bringing people to than established churches. Even if none of our existing churches are struggling, we should plant churches for the sake of winning souls. That is the mission of our movement-reaching a lost world for Christ," said C. Peter Wagner, author and professor of church growth and spiritual formation at Fuller Theological Seminary. He further noted that "the single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planting new churches."
Part II of this article will deal with the first steps in creating this as a movement as we seek to share the Good News so that people's lives will be transformed into lives of wholeness, meaning and relationship to God through Jesus Christ.


This commentary relates to New Church Development.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Duncan is executive director of the Florida Conference's New Church Development office.