In response to David Phillips's comments in "Devouring One Another" (June/July 2007), I wish to offer a couple of correctives to clear up what may be some misperceptions created by his essay.
First, contrary to his claim that twothirds of the new churches planted in the Reformed Church in America between 1988 and 1998 have subsequently closed, the truth is that of the original 99 counted by the end of that decade-long effort, only 35 were disbanded or transferred out of the RCA. That is a 35 percent lack of survival rate, not 66 percent as claimed in the article by Rev. Phillips. Further, of all churches started since 1999 in the RCA, only 18 percent of them are closed, an 82 percent survival rate. Name changes and other facets of organization and reorganization may mask this, but in fact the vast majority of new churches from the 1990s did survive and still exist even as more recently planted churches are also doing well.
Second, Rev. Phillips suspects that the funding for the latest RCA church-planting initiative will inevitably come through the RCA's closing of existing (but declining) older congregations (hence his image of "devouring one another"). This is also not so. Forty-five classes (regional groups of churches) representing nearly 1,000 churches have in their bank accounts $15- $20 million designated for planting. More than half of the $6 million raised in the last decade is still hard at work as well. Additionally, most new churches soon begin to pay their own way even as they face fewer expenses by virtue of renting facilities as opposed to having mortgages and building costs. New church growth need not and will not come through closing older churches.
Finally, rather than using the metaphor of "devouring one another," we could better look at older congregations and newly planted congregation along the lines of another Pauline statement: "And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ" (Eph. 3: 17-18). We are all in this together as God's saints in the Church, as only together can we attempt to fulfill the Great Commission of our Lord and King.