Pastor Bob O'Bannon
As Christians, we believe we are the light of the world — not because we think we’re something special, or because we’re better than other people. It’s because this is what Jesus says is true of his people — in Mat. 5:14, he says to his disciples, “You are the light of the world.” Where Christians are, there is light. Where Christians are not, there is darkness.
I think we’d all admit that there is a significant amount of darkness in our world. So if the world needs light, and the church is the light, then it would follow that in communities where the church is on the increase, there will be an increased amount of light shining into the darkness. And where there is light, there is direction, purity, wholeness, truth, hope.
Various statistics seem to be indicating the church is not increasing, but decreasing in its influence in the United States, even in the Midwest, which is regarded as being generally conservative. According to Ted Powers, the Midwest church planting coordinator for our denomination (Presbyterian Church in America-PCA), there is no place in the Midwest where more than 15 percent of the population attends church. Powers says it requires one church for every 50,000 people in order to have “presence” in a community; one church for every 5,000 people in order to have “influence” in a community; and one church for every 500 people in order to “saturate” a community (which Mormons have in some areas of Utah and Muslims have in the Detroit area).
Right now, the PCA has one church for every 350,000 people in the Midwest, which means we do not even have “presence” in this area of the country. We’re not even a blip on the radar.
Of course there are other healthy, Gospel-preaching churches in the Midwest, and I don’t mean to suggest that the PCA is the only church that can shine Gospel light into a community, but any way you slice it, there is a need for more churches in our area of the world.
If you doubt whether this is true, and wonder why more churches are needed when there seems to be so many already in every community, I recommend two articles: one by Mike McDaniel, director of Summit Network, and the other by Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer PCA in New York City.
As McDaniel says, we in the church often “overestimate our influence and underestimate the need.” We get comfortable and complacent. The darkness around us causes us no concern. Our friends might be Christians, but we overlook the fact that, in most cases, the people living across the street and on both sides of your house are not. We’re shocked and alarmed by the “moral deterioration” of the nation, yet we have no urgency to increase the presence of the church in our cities.
Here is my vision for Muncie and Delaware County — let’s “saturate” this area with Gospel-preaching churches. Imagine how Delaware County would change if there were one healthy, Bible-based, Jesus-centered, grace-oriented church for every 500 people in this community. Imagine the marriages that would be saved; imagine the meth labs that would disappear and the strip clubs that would close down; imagine the prosperity that could come to this place if God’s people were to actively seek it (Jer. 29:4-6); imagine the people who would be called out of darkness and into the wonderful light of the Gospel.
New Life currently has plans to plant our first daughter church in downtown Muncie in the next couple of years, but it will require many more daughter and granddaughter churches to fulfill this vision. It’s a lifetime of work. Will you join us in supporting this effort?