About a year and a half ago, for the first time in my life, I drove through villages in India with no Christian churches at all. Quite the opposite, here in the US, it is not uncommon to see churches across the street from each other. An extreme example is in a town near the Western part of the state of Michigan, where I drove down the main street containing dozens of churches next door to each other! Not just one or two, but literally dozens within eyesight!
I know within denominations, it is important to leadership to try to get each brand of Christianity in every city in the US. In larger cities, several churches from each denominations.
While speaking near New York City a few years ago, a Pastor confided in me that he is worried about the state of the Church in the US. He shared with me stories about he and his fellow classmates, while in Bible college, used to plant churches on the weekend. He believed that if we are not planting churches regularly, the Church as a whole is dying.
My question was, at the time, and still remains - do we really need more and more churches (especially in the US and Europe) or better churches. By better, I mean healthier, more deeply spiritual, places of prayer, servanthood and outreach.
Recently, a speaker quoted a statistic about church plants, saying they consistently reach more unchurched people than established churches. I believe this is true. In all our travels, it seems that any type of church plant, church building project or other large, stretching step of faith ends up with two things: lots of trials and lots of new people finding Christ.
Other news has recently brought all these thoughts to my attention. Starbucks founder and ceo is back to his position and has made some drastic changes. He is closing 600 stores this year and launching 200. I truly believe it is not mainly for economic reasons, but for leadership strategy and philosphical reasons. Starbucks doesn't need stores next to each other on the same corner (and neither do churches). The only reason a company would build two stores next too each other is to reach some abstract "goal" to fulfill an even more abstract "dream." Two stores next to each other is not about the bottom line and embodies contradiction in the purest sense.
A friend of mine owns a very successful business. His partner had a goal to reach 600 employees and 15 business offices. There was one small problem. His "goals" and "dream" were hurting the bottom line. The bottom line for a business is financial. For the Church it has to be more and better disciples. What to do next? Stop aiming for pride goals that don't influence the bottom line.
All this to say, do we really need more churches in America? or should we start aiming for better use of the church buildings we already have? I would venture to say we too should close down 600 churches and open 200 new ones. Our heart should be our bottom line, and to never let our "goals" and "dream" distract from what God's goal and dream are.