America needs more churches, church planters, and pastors to carry out this mission. Even the most churched areas in America need a bolder gospel witness. In one generation, church attendance has decreased nearly 75 percent. Around 4,500 Protestant churches closed in 2019.1
Healthy churches and church leadership is not merely a future issue. The church in America is presently in decline, and the leadership pipeline for the future is waning. Researchers predicted a 20 percent increase in pastoral resignations in 2022. That prediction has come true, as shown by one denomination reporting hundreds of empty pulpits.2 3 The average pulpit vacancy has increased from 12 months to three years. Not only do we need more pastors for existing churches, but we also need new churches planted to reach every people group in America. The church needs a long-term, sustainable answer to the leadership deficit if it is to remain a light for the gospel.
How do we raise up more pastors and church planters? Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” This proverb emphasizes childhood training and gives generalized wisdom. The wisdom is that careful training in childhood will stick with and direct the child later in life. The passage does not guarantee that proper parenting will produce Christian children. That burden would be too difficult for parents to bear.4 Biblical parental training combines knowledge and discipleship with a prayerful dependency on God and pursuit of his honor in all things.
We begin raising church leaders in the home. The Bible assigns training children to the home, specifically to fathers (Ephesians 6:4, Proverbs 13:24, Deuteronomy 6:6-9). Families are the Department of Education, and fathers are the headmasters and teachers. Fathers who understand God’s structure for the education of the next generation are the key to raising pastors and church planters. A man cannot do this alone. It is not good for man to work alone, and God gave him a wife as a uniquely suited partner to help him with this task. One cannot overestimate the importance of a man’s wife to his children. She is particularly created and gifted to aid her husband in the raising of children (cf. 1 Timothy 2:15). The responsibility to train children, however, does not primarily fall to the mother. It is fathers whom God holds accountable for training their children in the way they should go.
God not only commands but also equips fathers to raise the next generation of church leaders. Fathers who take God’s Word seriously will feel the significant weight of this burden but equally trust in God’s provision. Pastors and parents who institute God’s design for training up children engender a culture of discipleship and education in the church. Men who model pastoral leadership in their homes sharpen and are sharpened by one another (Proverbs 27:17). No man can stem the onslaught of darkness alone.
God has ordained a structure for generational succession in the church. We all have and are imperfect fathers, but men who submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21), travel together in godly fraternity, and disciple the next generation will see their families flourish.
The solution to a lack of healthy church leadership to fill pulpits and plant churches begins with discipleship in the home. It specifically begins with men who take responsibility for educating their children in Christ in every area of their lives. Godly men form a society where women and children flourish, and God is glorified.
1. Adam Gabbatt, “Losing their religion: why US churches are on the decline,” The Guardian, January 22, 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/jan/22/us-churches-closing-religion-covid-christianity.
2. Thom Rainer, “10 Things Trending in the Church for 2022,” Outreach Magazine, December 30, 2021, https://outreachmagazine.com/features/leadership/70027-10-things-trending-in-the-church-for-2022.html.
3. Leonardo Blair, “Evangelical Lutheran Church short ‘at least 600’ pastors as many step away from ministry amid pandemic,” The Christian Post, May 11, 2022, The Christian Post, https://www.christianpost.com/news/evangelical-lutheran-church-short-at-least-600-pastors.html.
4. John Piper, “Does Proverbs Promise My Child Will Not Stray?” Desiring God, August 20, 2015, https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/does-proverbs-promise-my-child-will-not-stray.
There are billions of people around the world who don’t know Jesus. What can you do to help? You can pray! Join us in prayer on May 28, 2023 to ask Christ to bring more people to faith and continue to build his church throughout the world. Will you join us?