Majority of Church Start-Ups Fail

Tim Soerens, the co-author of The New Parish: How Neighborhood Churches Are Transforming Mission, Discipleship and Community, cited a mashable article that stated 90% of start-ups fail. He eventually went back and made a correction to that statistic saying it was more like 70% church start-ups that fail.

Either case, Village Church is a start-up and I have been struggling deep in my heart with the fear that what we are doing will fail. We meet the first Sunday of the month and have met for three months with little to no substantial growth. In reality, we have only had one constant attender. So that means that our friend, my wife and I are in my living room meeting with God; hanging out, breaking bread, praying, and studying the scriptures.

However, as I look at the word fail and scream at my computer screen because that word makes me a little nauseous, I infuriatingly ask the question, “What does it mean to fail,” or more appropriately, “What is failing.” These articles may contain a sliver of an answer. These articles may be alluding to what we are mistakingly focusing on. I think the problematic factor is simply this:

Building a church vs. making disciples.

I have two thoughts

1. The byproduct of disciple-making is church, not the other way around. What this means is we are called to make disciples. As students begin to follow the teacher, the group becomes a church. It’s not the other way around. Typically, in my experience, building a church only makes disciples of the event, the Sunday morning experience. People can run a church service but can they lead people to Christ? Can they serve others? Can they teach the word? Can they make disciples?

2. Success is not how we build a church but how we follow our calling. Are we doing what God has called us to do? Are we making disciples? Are we teaching or preaching God’s word? Are we serving the less fortunate? Are we doing the ministry He has called us to rather than leaving it up to the church to fill the void? It doesn’t matter if the people don’t have a church building if they have homes. It doesn’t matter if the people don’t have a budget if they have the heart to serve. Success comes when we are loyal to our calling, not a position or a church name.

What I’m ultimately trying to say is maybe we are measuring the wrong thing when we consider what failure or success should look like. I honestly struggle with this every month because I have to check myself to be sure I am not finding my self worth in having a lot of folks over and calling it church. I’m called to make disciples, not build a church building with all the trimmings. When I make disciples, the church will happen when we gather wherever that is. When I follow my calling, I will be successful because as a pastor, I’m loving people, I’m leading people, I’m serving people, and I’m discipling people.

Therefore, when following our calling, that failure statistic doesn’t look all that substantial.


The Lean Start-Up Church 

Why 90% of Startups Fail [INFOGRAPHIC]

CP Study Part 2: How Many Church Plants Really Survive–And Why?


About Kevin Riner
child of grace, worshiper of Jesus, husband, father, Pastor of Village Church, author of Faith Debugged

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