The Presbyterian Church in America is pushing its "every church plant a church" campaign to help bring more people to Christ.
Launched this year by the denomination's domestic mission arm, Mission to North America, the thrust was designed to create a grassroots church-planting culture in the PCA.
"We're not inventing any new methodology here but we're crystallizing concepts we've clearly seen God use, and encouraging people to take more steps in this direction," said Fred Marsh, associate coordinator of MNA, in the denomination's byFaith magazine.
Church planting is considered one of the most effective ways to "bring in a harvest."
According to research by David T. Olson, author of The American Church in Crisis, new churches grow faster than established churches and have three to four times the conversion rate per attendee than do established churches. They are also historically the best method for reaching each emerging new generation.
Additionally, planting new churches promotes the health of parent churches. Olson points out that the traits that cause a church to plant a new church (such as a desire to evangelize and minister to their community) are the same traits that will cause the parent church to grow.
"The best way to make known the name of Christ is by planting new churches. It's the best way to promote world missions. It's the best way to promote the health of existing churches," said David Sherwood, senior pastor at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Providence, R.I.
Mission to North America notes that Trinity and other churches that have been successful with church plants are not megachurches with superstar pastors. These pastors are just ordinary people responding to God's call to advance the Gospel through planting churches, the mission agency emphasizes.
Since 1970 the rate of church planting has been increasing but only marginally. The net gain in churches over the last eight years has been about one sixth of what would have been needed to keep up with population growth, according to Olson's research.
Meanwhile, mainline denominations have rediscovered church planting, missiologist Ed Stetzer said at the release of the "State of Church Planting USA" study in 2007. Some of the national churches that have a church planting emphasis, particularly in North America, include the Reformed Church in America, Assemblies of God, Presbyterian Church in America, the Baptist General Conference, and the Missionary Church.
The number of churches in the PCA has grown from 1,288 in 2004 to 1,372 in 2007. The denomination's mission arm has developed resources to help every church become involved in church planting to impact communities across North America.