With a sarcastic and somewhat jealous tone, my pastoral colleague grumbled, "This city doesn't need another church!" Often in the last 30 years I've heard a resident pastor complain about a new church plant in his or her area. The fear and concern behind such complaints arise from the fact that too much of modern church growth comes from membership transfer, not unbeliever conversion.
But the truth is that we need more intense evangelism from current churches, and more church plants in the United States and worldwide to keep pace with population growth. Consider these facts from the 2000 U.S. Census:
The U.S. population has grown 13.2 percent since 1990, reaching 281,421,906.
Nevada led the growth by 66.3 percent. Four other states (Colorado, Utah, Idaho and Georgia) more than doubled the U.S. growth rate.
According to the U.N. Population Fund, by Oct. 12, 1999, world population passed 6 billion. Other facts:
70 million people will be added annually to the world population in the next 15 years.
Of the world's 6 billion people, 1.04 billion are between the ages of 15 and 24.
Today's generation of young people making choices on family size will decide how fast the world grows. Experts project we could reach more than 10 billion by 2050.
Need more church plants? You bet. Need faster growing existing churches? Of course. The standard "rule of thumb" still holds: If a church doesn't grow annually by more than a tithe, it is slowly dying.
So what do we do with booming population growth? Pray, covert, disciple, equip and send them to reach others for Christ. We need healthy churches growing numerically and spiritually.
Recently I found myself privileged to teach and worship in Singapore. Church plants and growth are exploding there. In one Singapore congregation, more than 300 people are converted each week and 50 to 60 cells start monthly. In Nepal, one woman missionary has planted more than 40 churches in just 25 years.
Jesus' words are still true: "'The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest'" (Matt. 9:37, NKJV). Pray, evangelize, convert, disciple, equip and grow! We must continue this cycle until Jesus returns. No other option exists.