The Numbers That Keep Me Up At Night

The Bottom 3 percent of counties hereOnly 16% of the United States follows Jesus.

More than half of the counties in PA have under 10% Christ followers.

Three counties in PA have under 3% (Carbon, Elk, Pike).

There are 104 counties in the US with under 3% Christians.

Most of these are in the Northeast or near Utah (Mormon territory).

If you were to plant 2000 churches today, and 1000 new people came to Christ, you wouldn’t raise the amount a percentage point.

It costs well over $100K to launch a traditional church. In the scenario above, it would cost $200,000,000.00.

However, if half of the current Christ followers in the US discipled one new believer over the next year, it would be 24% believers. If everyone did the same thing the second year, it would be 36%.

It costs no money to make a disciple. Just your life. ~ Neil Cole

(Thank you J.D. Payne for this article. Here is a map of the counties across the US in the bottom 3%.)


15 thoughts on “The Numbers That Keep Me Up At Night

  1. As a resident of Elk Co, PA, i’m not sure how this is being calculated, but even by the most conservative of methods, i don’t see how this can be remotely accurate.

    I’ll lead with the hook ~ “Church planting is for sissies.” ~ me, I’ve been saying it for 5+ years. We don’t need more church plants, we need more Christians making disciples. Real men charge the line of the establishment and take it, revive it and lead by example. Church planting has become a fad. Imagine the letters to the seven churches if written by the modern church planting movement, “To the church of ______, things really stink there, so much that we’ll forget you, take our most talented/passionate people and park them down the street…”

    There of course is a time/place for church planting, but we’ve got a bad model currently. We need people who are willing to get on the battlefield of the church and cry out “return to your first love,” not run away because its easier to “inject your DNA into a new group” or some other random blather that church planters giggle about behind closed doors.*

    Weeeeell, that shouldn’t spark any debate.

    *personal experience among a number of church planters and district church planters.

    1. LOL….thanks for the controversy! 😀

      The data is from the US Census and the ARDA ( The measurements are of evangelical Christians, if I’m reading it correctly.

      I’m with you on making disciples! I even think that churches should grow around new groups of disciples! We should connect on what we’re doing in Philly.

      How do you encourage and teach your people to make disciples?

      1. Personally, i dramatically reduced the number of services at the church (from 3 to 1) to enforce the idea of the mandatory nature of Christians being in the world. I hammer this topic in sermons. I hang out t a few local establishments that pastors aren’t “allowed” to go to (ie. bars and backyard ‘bars’). I openly/publicly mock the idea that a Christian could go a year without making a disciple in my own conversations and sermons. I esteem people who are making disciples. I pour into people who are making disciples. I tell new Christians to (if their conscience allows it) go back into their contexts of sin and live their faith there.

        I’m not always popular, but this is war after all.

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  3. Church planting in the United States is nothing new. The church I now attend was planted 40 years ago by Joseph Smith in Jenison, Michigan. Ada Bible church (now a megachurch), was planted by the same guy in the 70s (Our youth group went door to door with him handing out flyers for the first meetings). There are old mission agencies in the United States that are still planting churches. There are missional churches being planted in my own neighborhood, which is needed, since many churches have abandoned the city proper and moved out to the suburbs. Why did we go to a suburban church? Because there was good teaching, and an established youth group for our kids.

    What you are doing is an excellent work, which has been done before in a different way. I am not knocking your work. We personally and our church corporately are supporting a missional church planter. However, in explaining your work and the motivation for your work, too much time and energy is being spent knocking other ways of doing church.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I’m not knocking anyone who’s doing Kingdom work; I just want to encourage us toward effectiveness. Feel free to disagree. God bless!

      1. Missional church pastors do have something to offer traditional churches. For instance, the missional pastor who is supported by our church is reaching back into our church to teach missional living, and outreach. Last year the summer youth missions week involved helping out at his church and also other missional efforts in the city.

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