About a week ago I wrote on "Defining a Successful Church Plant," pointing out the assumption that in many cases people would define a successful church plant the same way that one would define a new Starbucks. Mainly based on the amount of people attending, often from other churches (church shoppers), the amount of services, etc. But I believe if that is the criteria that we place on a successful church plant then I believe that we have missed the mark somewhere.
Rather than a church plant being celebrated as successful based on x amount of consumer Christians or church shoppers attending, there are some things that need to be in place as a minimum that would define a successful church plant. Minimum based on whose criteria, based on the criteria read in the New Testament.
Before I discuss the minimums, I want to mention briefly the things that need to be in place for a healthy church plant to take place. First there needs to be leadership. Second there needs to be discipleship. Third there needs to be a group of people on mission.
Once those three things are in place, here are the minimums when it comes to defining a successful church plant:
First a church must be built on Jesus Christ and have the gospel as the focus (1 Cor. 3:11). In the words of Josh Kouri, "The gospel is not entry level Christianity. It is our primary and most important message." The church should have Jesus as the first and last focus, everything should point to him, and be all about his glory.
Second a church that is built on Jesus must then be filled with the Holy Spirit so that their leading and guiding come from him (1 Cor. 3:16). A key to knowing if a church is truly filled with the Spirit is that everything done in and through the power of the Holy Spirit will ultimately point to Jesus.
Third a church must have qualified elders to lead the church (1 Cor. 3:10). This is why assessments of church planters is essential because if not then any yahoo out there can pose under the guise of "church planter," which then often will lead people astray and sets up an unhealthy church on the road to disaster.
Fourth a church will then have a group of people that are on mission (1 Cor. 3:9). This is why teams are key to planting churches, not individuals. I have known many struggling church plants and church planters, and I have no doubt in my mind that one of the number one reasons that they struggled is in part due to them being the "lone ranger" church planter. It is not healthy and has unfortunately proven so to their detriment.
These are what would need to be in place as the bare minimum for a successful church plant, at least one that is going to be healthy, gospel-centered, Spirit-filled, and on mission.