What is a Sustainable Church?


That's one of the questions that haunts nearly every church planter or pastor of a smaller church. While that is a common question once we peel back the layers what we're ultimately asking is, "How big does the church need to be in order to pay my salary where I can make a living doing this?"

I sometimes wonder if the early pioneer missionary church planters like Paul in Acts thought like this or expressed this sentiment. Yes, we can clearly see instances where he received support for his missionary efforts. At other times he worked his trade as he made it clear to the churches he didn't want them to have to support him so there'd be no questioning his motives.

Is that what this all boils down to? Motives?

Yes, church planters, pastors, and missionaries need to make and sustain a living which means a salary. But I suppose then the question at hand or even the tension is, "Where does this salary come from?" You see, we talk at length about planting or growing sustainable churches. We're even taught the tricks of the trade .... how to break the 200 barrier and jump from 150 to 250 congregants. Again, all part of the plan to grow a sustainable church.

But what if we're asking the wrong question?

Instead, what if the question was "what is a sustainable church planter or pastor?" If a church planter is sustainable then regardless of how big or small the church is, however long it takes to grow "big enough," or particularly if the church is in a low-income neighborhood or community then it'll be sustainable because the pastor-planter is sustainable.

Maybe it's time to start asking better questions.

Sean Benesh