My focus currently is on both planting churches and in developing a church planting culture in COGAF, the fellowship in which I serve. If you are not familiar with them, check them out at www.cogaf.org. I will also document my journey, both in church planting and in the process of learning and mentoring for church planting.
Let's address the "why" with one of the simple answers first. I have heard so much about training, educating, and credentialing those called to ministry. That is an admirable effort and is certainly filling a previous void for many fellowships. However, it cannot stand alone. Let me explain.
In one fellowship I served, they had a ratio of two credentialed ministers for every ministry position that they had available. In fact, that was their ratio before they started a school of ministry. I would estimate that number is now 3 or 4 to 1 after several years of churching out credentialed ministers. My question is this: where do we expect these called, trained, and credentialed ministers to serve? Do we expect them to go back home and teach Sunday School? If that is their call, then wonderful. But I seriously doubt any individual would invest in education and credentialing processes in most fellowships to teach a curriculum designed for a 6th grade reading level.
Credentialing new and younger leaders is necessary, but is ineffective if there are not ministry opportunities available for them to fulfill their calling. New churches bring new areas of ministry that many existing churches do not wish to pursue and allow younger generations to do what they do best: reach their peers. When empowered and challenged to rise to the occasion, many will exceed the expectations.
Along with the new church focus, and hopefully so interwoven they are indistinguishable, is a call for the existing church to invest in misions work. New churches are the most cost effective method of evangelism in the US, and should be seen as an integral part of home missions. It has been proven effective for years on the foreign field, and is now gaining momentum stateside. The problem arises when there is a lack of focus from the existing churches to invest in missions, as this will reduce the effectiveness of the overall process. Then again, churches without a missions program might want to consider a name change that does not include "church." Religious social clubs are the enemy of missions and of the great commission. We must refocus our efforts to put missions at the forefront, and not simply an offering. Our churches must embrace missions, including their very own. Usually, a church with no missions effort has no vision and no sense of evangelism. Congregations wonder aimlessly through their lives and meet together twice a week without ever interacting with the mission field in which they live.
Simply put, we must plant churches for the current and future generations of leaders and for those they are called to reach. The potential is there. The resources are available. Personnel are waiting. But too often, the calling goes unanswered.