I was doing a little reading on the PCA website today trying to find out more about the denomination which I am currently attending. The statistics are quite fascinating.
Number of Churches:
2006 – 1,345
2007 – 1,372
2008 – 1,408
2009 – 1,442
2010 – 1,455
Professions of Faith By Adults:
2006 – 5,683
2007 – 5,465
2008 – 5,446
2009 – 5,441
2010 – 5,183
So, the PCA added 105 churches to their denomination from 2006-2010, yet they showed a decline of 500 new professions of faith over the same 5 year period. This is not in disregard of the ~5,000 new believers added, but also is not consistent with the rise of population in America, nor the additional churches added.
Is the PCA really growing? Yes, in one sense it is still growing. Until the Profession of Faith by Adults reaches zero (not to mention children who are also listed) and church swapping (membership) is in the positive, the PCA itself is growing. Yet in another sense, the PCA is actually atrophying in comparison with population explosion that is occurring. The PCA, in America, is becoming smaller and smaller. Not that it must necessarily be “large” or grow in consistency with population (though I would find it strange that the Elect are being born at a slower rate).
Of more importance here to note is the current church-planting strategy advocated by many for the purpose of introducing new people to Christ. Now, it may be true that each new church plant represents a majority of the Adult converts. And it may be true that once a church becomes established, Adult conversion atrophies. But it is odd that the number of churches planted continued to increase, while the number of new converts decreased.
So it appears, at least for the PCA (I have not looked at any other church data), that planting churches is not an effective form of evangelism. Not that evangelism must be “effective” – only the Holy Spirit makes evangelism “effective”. But for those who assert that church planting is an effective form of evangelism, they should go back and reconsider what they are actually trying to accomplish by planting a church. Especially those who advocate a “Missional” form of strategy for reaching the lost.