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Disciples start 101 new churches in two yearscomment (0)

January 2, 2003

INDIANAPOLIS — The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) says it has started 101 new churches in the past two years, despite an overall membership decline of about 16,000 members.

The Indianapolis-based church said it will finally see membership gains by 2006 — and 1,000 new congregations by 2020 — if current church-planting trends continue.

The percentage of new churches is currently three times the rate it was when the Disciples and other mainline churches thrived in the 1950s.

The 807,335-member denomination started 40 new congregations last year, and at least 61 so far in 2002. The current growth rate in new churches is 1.5 percent annually; officials project membership gains when that figure reaches 2 percent.

So far, the news is encouraging. In Memphis, Tenn., New Direction Christian Church was started in July 2001, and already attracts 1,150 in Sunday attendance. The newest congregation, Bethel Christian Church in San Benito, Texas, attracts a mostly Hispanic crowd of about 60 worshipers.

Other mainline churches have similar goals. The Episcopal Church, through its 20/20 initiative, hopes to double Sunday worship attendance by 2020. And the Presbyterian Church (USA), which lost 31,000 members last year, is planning a multimillion dollar appeal to plant new churches at home and abroad. 

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