Every year 3,500 to 4,000 churches in the United States close their doors. Eighty percent of existing churches are stagnant or declining, according to church planting surveys.
Those statistics are the catalyst for churches that reproduce by planting new works, such as Lakeland Baptist Church in Lewisville, which has started congregations in the north Texas area for more than two decades. Pastor Ben Smith said it is part of the church’s heritage.
“We’re the daughter that has 18 grandchildren and 7 stepchildren,” Smith said, referring to the 25 church plants Lakeland helped start after its own start as a mission church of First Baptist Lewisville in 1962.
Smith, who has been the pastor at Lakeland for 30 years, said the idea to church plant started because of inflation.
“Interest rates were running about 13 to 14 percent,” Smith said. “We couldn’t afford to build.”
So Smith and church leaders began talking with Southern Baptist leaders about planting a church. Smith said he was told a church didn’t have to build to grow.
“We took that as a word from the Lord.”
Smith said deciding where to plant a church is based on two criteria: demographics, and a pastor to match the demographics.
“We are going to win or lose Texas not based on our theology but our sociology,” Smith said.
He believes the new churches are going to be successful by finding ways to minister to neighbors. Lakeland works diligently trying to find out the makeup of a neighborhood by commissioning studies on demographics and the socioeconomic levels in an area. Lakeland‘s church starts have crossed all ethnic lines from black to Korean to Anglo.
After the church discovers the needs of an area, the focus then turns to finding God’s man to reach the people of that area.
Sometimes the church actively seeks that man and sometimes that man just happens along, Smith said.
Later, the church begins assessing and training a prospective pastor. Smith believes assessment and training are vital to church plants. Smith and his congregation want to ensure the person selected as pastor will be able to shepherd the new flock. Because of this philosophy, Lakeland has a 50 percent success rate in its church starts.
Smith said he believes new churches that fail do so often because the pastor didn’t fit the congregation.