“Don’t We Have Enough Churches?"
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this.
This question, and its numerous variations, were all too common when we presented the plan for starting Revision Church in Olive Branch, a growing city in booming Desoto County. In a lot of locales, we’d cheer for a new church, claiming the more the better. The only problem is that Olive Branch is in Mississippi, which was named the “Most Religious State in America” in a 2009 Gallup poll. 85% of respondents said “yes” when asked “Is religion an important part of your daily life?”
So why would we ever need more churches in such a “religious” area? The answer is actually quite simple: religion and salvation are not synonymous. According to research by the Intercultural Institute for Contextual Ministry, approximately 70% of the state of Mississippi is unreached. The IICM explains that “The ‘unreached status’ refers to an estimate of the number of households…that do not consider themselves to be an evangelical Christian. An evangelical Christian is a person who professes to have accepted Jesus Christ as his or her personal Lord and Savior.”
While 85% of Mississippians may say that religion is an important part of their daily life, only 30% profess Christ as Lord and Savior. While this will undoubtedly surprise a lot of people, I found it lined up pretty consistently with what we’d gathered about Olive Branch. In our preparation to plant, we discovered that in 2010, on Easter Sunday, the most “generous” day of the year for churches in regards to attendance, there were a total of 8,000 people present at all Olive Branch churches. That comes out to around 26% of the population of over 33,000. Some of the volunteers who helped us canvas before our launch asked those whose doors they knocked on if they attended church anywhere. 80% of them said no.
That’s why we needed to plant in Olive Branch. And one church plant isn’t going to reach all of those people. Between 2000 and 2010, 60,000 people moved into Desoto County. In those ten years, Southern Baptists planted four new churches in the county. I’m thankful for those churches, but we need to recognize that even if we planted 100 churches, they would have to run 600 people apiece in order to reach everyone who moved into the area. That doesn’t even count the 100,000 people who already lived there. Which is why this idea doesn’t just apply to Olive Branch.
It applies to cities and towns throughout Mississippi, places with great churches but greater needs. That’s one of the reasons I’m so thankful to be part of the 242 Network as we cooperate with church plants and established churches alike in an effort to reach Mississippi and the Mid-South through gospel-centered church planting. These are exciting times, and I encourage you to pray for our established churches and new church plants in Mississippi as we work together to bring the good news to the unreached.
- Josh Kubler
Josh is the Associate Pastor at Revision Church in North Mississippi. He is also the Network Coordinator for the 242 Network. You can follow Josh on Twitter at @JoshKubler.