Is it possible that our cherished Baptist polity, which so focuses on the autonomy of the local congregation, is in a measure the enemy of effective church planting strategy? On the one hand, because any individual or group is free to do so, she/he/they can start a church, call it Baptist (affiliated with a denominational body or not), and carry out the church planting task. No credentials to present, no fees to pay, no permissions required -- just do it! (Although if you expect denominational church planting support funds, there are some hoops to go through). But on the other hand, this can mean that people start churches that are not strategically located. Sometimes they will be located for the convenience of the founding person/group, and thus not necessarily in a community that is underserved by Baptist churches. Sometimes new churches will be splits from an existing congregation, and may locate rather close to the old congregation's meeting site, the motive being spite or hostility rather than mission. Some anecdotal evidence. Twenty years ago, when I accepted a pastorate in Washington, DC, I did a little survey and found that there were 38 churches of all kinds within a one-mile radius of the church I had been called to serve, and that 8 of those were Baptist. Eighteen years later, when I retired, there were still more churches in this small area, and there were 13 Baptist churches! Granted, urban population is dense, but not dense enough to require that many churches of one flavor. It is true that most were different in style, demographics, "class" from our church, and so in many ways we did not feel their presence. Most were and are one-man operations, in storefronts, and have very small congregations. Do you think that there is a wasteful duplication of effort in a setting like this -- thinking of all the tithe money going for rent, utilities, etc., not to mention part-time salaries? Or do you think that the more places where the Gospel is preached, the more likely it is that someone will be reached? Another back-up anecdote: several years ago one of the old, established Baptist churches in Washington relocated because its old downtown site was taken for a Metrorail station. The new location was just around the corner from another old, established, similar Baptist church. When a denominational official spoke to the pastor of the church that was moving about whether he did not feel he was creating competition for the same neighborhood, his reply was, "He [the other pastor] has his following and I have mine ... no competition." The pronouns say a lot -- churches as personal fiefdoms! But the key issue for me is whether the church moved to its location because it saw a mission/evangelism need or whether they just set up shop because they had the opportunity (in this case) to get a building left behind by another group.