Last week a reporter from Reuters new agency contacted me. She wanted to know how many new evangelical churches have been started in Utah in recent years. I was able to give her some idea, thanks to information compiled by Mike Menning, whose ministry Pastor to Pastors stays connected with most of the church planters in the greater Salt Lake metro area. At least 50 new congregations have sprung up in the last 5 years, including several that are currently in the works. This does not include possible church plants that we don’t know about because they are in rural Utah or because we haven’t discovered them yet.
The reporter was not particularly wowed by this number, but I am. I tried to convey to her how challenging it is to plant a church in Utah where only 2-3% of the population attends an evangelical church on Sundays, and how 8 or 10 viable new churches a year is quite a lot compared to the past.
The reporter wanted to know if recent national events involving Mormonism could account for the increased interest of church planters toward Utah. She referred specifically to the Romney presidential candidacy and to the Book of Mormon musical. I told her that for most of these planters, their decision to come to Utah is the fruit of months, maybe years of prayer and planning. Such factors might make people more conscious of Utah, but it probably goes back to the 2002 Winter Olympics.
She had to go to a meeting, so I didn’t have time to explain that there is also simply the work of God involved, bringing Utah to people’s hearts. I believe we are in the beginning stages of a significant God-moment for Utah. In the past, Utah was a place pastors got sent when they couldn’t succeed in North Dakota (grin). More recently, Utah has become a destination of choice for some of the most highly qualified young spiritual leaders I’ve ever met, men who could choose to go anywhere but were led by the Spirit to Utah. That has to be a God thing!