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Is church planting still the most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven?

I’ve been planting churches since 1988. My first church was planted in the inner city of Buffalo, New York, among the urban poor. I worked bi-vocationally as an insulation contractor and planted the church on the weekends. I was 21 years old and didn’t know what I was doing, but God worked through it all.

The church planting world has changed substantially since then.

In 1988, church planting in most denominations was driven by people who couldn’t find another ministry job. Since they couldn’t find a place to work, they went out and tried church planting. There were a few denominations that were exceptions, but on the whole most denominations operated in that way.

Over the years, church planting has in many ways become the preferred ministry venture for many of our most entrepreneurial leaders. This preference for church planting is a significant change from just a few decades ago.

This kind of church planting emphasis has largely been concentrated inside of evangelicalism because entrepreneurial leadership has not often been welcomed or engaged inside mainline Protestantism, both for structural and theological reasons.

But as church planting has shifted into this pattern, denominations that did not welcome the entrepreneurial leader have struggled with engaging in the church planting shift.

A brief history

About a decade ago, for a research project, I read every book in the English language published on church planting since the mid-1950s. I’m not the final authority on all things church planting, but I do know a good amount about the history.

Before the late 1980s and mid-1990s, for the most part churches planted churches, rather than entrepreneurial individuals. When there was a need for a church …

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