Dear TIMES12 Family,
As we wrap up the year and approach the joyous season of Christmas, it’s a great time to reflect on why Jesus came and the heart of our mission together. Jesus said about himself,
“the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)
Jesus, our Savior, was born for God’s search and rescue plan so sinners like us would be reconciled to God. He demonstrated his commitment to this by showing compassion, socializing with sinners, proclaiming the good news, and leaving his disciples and us with a lasting commission to follow him in this mission. Ultimately, it’s his substitutionary death on the cross that saves, and his resurrection verifies that the mission he was born for offers real hope. But, lostness all around us can still feel daunting.
The need for this rescue mission is staggering, with 146 million people in the U.S. who still need a relationship with Jesus Christ.1 Our nation is a vast mission field, and the challenges are real. People make futile attempts to fill their empty hearts with wealth, sex, and power that will never satisfy them, and fractured relationships, isolation, and despair are prevalent. While the gospel and the church are spreading globally in many regions, sadly, the U.S. church has been declining. Nearly 3,500-4,000 churches close annually 2, and the number of unchurched has nearly doubled since 1991. 3 These declining churches were supposed to join God in his search and rescue plan, but they haven’t been able to. Despite these big problems, there is a solution.
Planting new churches is the best way to join Jesus in his search and rescue plan. Dr. Timothy Keller emphasized this from research in his article, Why Plant Churches? He wrote,
“The vigorous, continual planting of new congregations is the single most crucial strategy for (1) the numerical growth of the body of Christ in a city and (2) the continual corporate renewal and revival of the existing churches in a city. Nothing else—not crusades, outreach programs, parachurch ministries, growing megachurches, congregational consulting, nor church renewal processes—will have the consistent impact of dynamic, extensive church planting. This is an eyebrow-raising statement, but to those who have done any study at all, it is not even controversial.” (p.1)
“New churches best reach the unchurched – period. Dozens of denominational studies have confirmed that the average new church gains most of its new members (60-80%) from the ranks of people who are not attending any worshiping body, while churches over 10-15 years of age gain 80-90% of new members by transfer from other congregations. This means that the average new congregation will bring 6-8 times more new people into the life of the body of Christ than an older congregation of the same size.” (p.3)
At TIMES12, we are more committed than ever to planting many more gospel-centered churches that pursue the lost in our cities, towns, and neighborhoods. We are thrilled that current church plants in our network are actively reaching the lost. In the 2023 fiscal year, there were 452 professions of faith/baptisms reported through churches in our network. These are not just statistics; they represent real people like Wendy, the Director of the YMCA, whose life was impacted through Eastpoint Church in Easton, MD – a church plant with TIMES12. Sam Cassese, Lead Pastor of Eastpoint, described how Wendy had been invited by a colleague at work to visit their church that meets in the Y. Wendy began attending regularly, formed relationships, heard the gospel, and placed her faith in Jesus. This week, after Wendy was baptized, Sam wrote,
“This past Sunday, she (Wendy) went public with her faith. Such a sweet moment as the church realized we’re not just renting a building, but reaching a people.”
As we approach Christmas, let’s remember the incredible privilege we have to participate in the great search and rescue plan of King Jesus, who said heaven rejoices when the lost are found (Lk 15)!
On behalf of TIMES12, thank you for partnering with us and for your generous giving that is making a real impact. Wishing you and your loved ones a Christmas filled with the joy of knowing we are part of something near to God’s heart.
Search and Rescue
Sam Cassese (left) baptizing Wendy