We need more churches. To be more specific: we need more gospel-centered churches in more areas of missional need. In general, church planting is the most effective form of evangelism and more churches reach more people.
What we don't need, however, are more churches planted for wrong reasons. What might some of those reasons be? Here are just five:
1. Don't plant a church out of a messiah complex.
The gospel is indeed revolutionary. Your church plant may indeed breathe new life into your chosen community. But it's highly likely you aren't "bringing the gospel" to any given area, especially if there are other churches already there. They may not be as new or as fresh or as cool or as exciting or as whatever as whatever you plan to plant might be, but it's not usually the case that, in the West at least, any one church planter is the missional pioneer.
This is something I saw a bit during my time in New England. New churches tended to do pretty well, depending on the area, but there were some planters who reasoned that because New England is the least-churched part of the country that they were somehow introducing the gospel to their neighborhood. And the truth is, they may have been reaching people existing churches weren't or introducing a different kind of ministry than other churches were exercising, but anybody planting even in New England (or any minimally-churched area) ought to do so mindful of the long-tenured faithful who've been holding down the fort for years. They could use the extra help. They cannot use some guy thinking he's coming in on a white horse to save the day.
You're no neighborhood's Jesus.
2. Don't plant a church because you're bored.
Church plants do take a certain level of entrepreneurial gifting -- understood in the right way -- but too many planters tend to think too consumeristically about their planting efforts. The kind of pastorpreneurs who start new churches out of an appetite for challenge, for "building something new," or for climbing their latest mountain tend to think of their churches as projects more than people, and tend to manage more than minister. To be clear, and at the risk of redundancy, a good church planter does have a degree of entrepreneuralism (the "kingly" aspect, for you tri-perspectivalists out there) and does have to manage a lot. But church plant as entrepreneurial endeavor is a first step toward a quick exit, because entrepreneurs tend to get bored fairly quickly and antsy for the next project. Churches deserve more, and steady, plodding commitment is required to cultivate the kind of sustainability churches thrive in over the long haul.
3. Don't plant a church because it's cool.
The new church planting movement doesn't show any sign of waning (yet?), and that's a good thing, but church planting didn't begin with Mark Driscoll. Or Rick Warren. It's been around a long time. Planting a church because it's the "in" thing for up and coming preachers/pastors to do is a wrong reason to plant. A church that is planted in order to "go with the times" will, as C.S. Lewis said, "go where all times go."
Additionally, it only takes a fat second into the work of planting a church to realize it's not really that cool. Most normal planters are doing normal pastoral work plus a lot of extras that almost immediately take the luster off the romantic idea of church planting. And good assesors and networks help remove this romanticism before the preparation is begun in earnest anyway. But supposing you're ignoring them (or planting without the counsel of a denomination or network), you will discover that planting a church because it's hip will get as old as using the word "hip."
4. Don't plant a church out of bitterness at your old church.
It doesn't have to be the last church you were in. It could just be your church background in general. In any event, some planters think of their new church as the opportunity to "get right" what was gotten wrong in their background. It's appropriate, obviously, to gather the wisdom of strengths and weaknesses from past church experience, but churches planted out of a desire to fix "what's wrong with the church" tend to operate in the spirit of what they're against rather than what they're for.
You can start a movement based on antagonism against tradition, innovation, etc., but it is very difficult to sustain a movement with those things. So if you come out of a painful charismatic background and you're grounding your teaching in heresy hunting, or you've come out of an attractional background and you're grounding your ministry in being anti-seeker church, or in general you're simply trying to build the reverse image of whatever church you don't want to be like, your planting motivation is upside down. Learn from your past but don't plant as a way of raging against it.
5. Don't plant a church to work out your need for validation.
Every good church planter has a vision. Every good church planter finds some fulfillment in the growth of his church. But planting a church out of a desire to validate yourself is planting a church based on personal insecurity rather than the security of Christ's gospel.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer speaks to this kind of "visionary dreaming" in Life Together, warning pastors to steer clear of the "wish-dream," which he reasons God plans to crush through our difficulties and ministerial frustrations.
In his book Facing Leviathan, Mark Sayers writes:
“Without realizing it, leaders can paint their own dysfunction over churches, ministries, and mission fields. All too easily, the effort to preach the gospel becomes about appeasing fears and insecurities, turning leadership into a tool used to primarily gain a sense of personal meaning.”
Remember that Christ is your validation and the gospel is your justification. Pastor, you are justified by your faith, not by your church plant.