Plant or Revitalize? — Why I would like to Encourage Young Pastors to Consider the Exisiting Church

One of the growing trends that I see among young men entering the ministry is the desire to plant new churches rather than Pastor existing, established churches.  The reasons for this are rather simple.  Many young guys simply do want to deal with the hassles and difficulties of steering a church back towards health and gospel centeredness, as one young man told me, “Why try to fix what is broken when I can just start brand new.”  Young Pastors also know that it is far easier to start an evangelistic minded church than it is to lead an existing church to recapture their zeal.  Many young men have simply become disenchanted with the unwillingness of existing churches to engage their culture and adapt their methods.  They find that it is easier just to start fresh.  Finally, I do believe that some young men are drawn to church planting simply because it is considered the glamorous thing to do or they think they can become the next evangelical superstar.  My advice to this last group is to rethink whether or not they have been called to the ministry.  The bottom line is that if you are not willing to labor in obscurity you are not fit or ready for a larger ministry.  With that said, I would like to give a few reasons why I think more young Bible college students and seminarians should consider taking on the challenge of revitalizing existing churches:

  1. Jesus died for existing churches, owns them, and loves them– we hear a lot of criticism about churches and church members today but what we often forget in this mix is that Jesus loves these churches and so should we.  Sometimes I listen to Pastors and church leaders who seem to relish in pointing out the warts and flaws in the church.  Among young pastors especially there sometimes seems to be an arrogance and smug attitude about the problems in the established churches.  Let me remind you that while she might have some blemishes and may at times show her age a little, the church is the bride of Christ, therefore, we should all be careful about how we treat her.
  2. Exisiting churches have resources that can be used to build the Kingdom– Obviously, existing churches have material and financial resources that new church plants don’t always have but I have more in mind here than building and bank accounts.  Existing churches have men and women with years of experience in church work and the community.  This often goes unnoticed by new Pastors but the collective experience of the people in the church are some of the greatest resources for spreading the gospel.  The key here is to reengage their creativity and energy into carrying out the mission of the gospel.  The challenge is that sometimes in an existing church this can take awhile and requires patience and humility on the part of the Pastor.
  3. Exisiting churches are needed to help start new churches- the work of the Kingdom is not just starting new churches nor is it just about revitalizing existing churches.  It is both!  We need exisiting churches to be revitalized and to recapture their desire to spread the gospel through evangelism and church planting.  Often it is good to think of revitalizing a church as a replanting it because in many ways that is that it is.  But part of every revitalization project must be the focus on fulfilling Acts 1:8 by planting new churches.  In my experience at First Baptist Church, Metropolis I’ve become convinced that one of the ways to revitalize a church is to lead them to get involved in church planting.  Here we started by simply becoming a secondary partner with a church plant.  We took on the role of simply investing part of our budget in the work and sending a couple of teams a year to help, but this quickly grew and became part of the DNA of our church.  Now we are involved in a church planting partnership in Haiti and Chicago but in addition we have experienced a revitalization within our church that has been amazing to watch.

There are several more thoughts running around in my mind about this subject but that is enough for right now.  Next week, I am going  to try to put some ideas out about the things Pastors need to do in order to lead a revitalization process.

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Mission Monday: Revitalizing Older Churches By Planting New Churches

missional

Yesterday I had a series of twitter interactions with one of my former students about the importance of balancing church planting with revitalizing existing churches.  That got me thinking about the importance of keeping both of these aspects of missional work in balance.  Over the past eighteen years, I have found that one of the best ways to revitalize a plateaued or declining church is to help them recapture the excitement of planting a new congregation.  In my current ministry, for instance, we just completed a multi-year relationship with a new church plant in DeKalb, Illinois.  While we were not the primary sponsors of this work, we did play a vital role and I can honestly say that we received far more than we gave in this relationship.

As our church members prayed, gave and labored in this new church plant they began to recapture a vision for the work of spreading the gospel through church planting.  It was amazing to me to see a church that had little interest in church planting regain a passion for this vital work.  But there is more to this story than just getting excited about planting a church.  At the same time we were helping a new church plant get off the ground, we also were sending multiple trips to other countries, such as Niger and Haiti.  As our members went on these trips we began to notice that they were coming back with a renewed passion for sharing the gospel in our own community.  The more people we sent to other countries the more passion we saw developing within our church for sharing the gospel at home.  This observation has lead me to rethink the way that I have attempted to lead the church to experience revitalization in the past.  Let me explain what I mean.

In the past, I have tended to think that the way to get people to be involved in foreign missions and church planting was to first focus on revitalizing the church and its local outreach.  But what I have seen over the past five years has made me rethink this pattern.  At First Baptist Metropolis, we have actually seen the opposite happen.  As we sent people to help with church plants and foreign missions trips they returned with a passion that resulted in a revitalized church and local evangelistic efforts.  Tomorrow I will share a few more thoughts that I have about this pattern.

Antioch
This is a very helpful resource for church revitalization.