Where To Go…What To Do

As many of you know, I am finishing up my last year for my Master of Divinity degree. I have had so many conversations about the future it makes me feel like I forget about living in the now. Hours have been invested in “What are you going to do after you graduate?”

You can’t get away with an “I don’t know” without following it up with some plans. So today I wanted to ponder (and have you help me) whether one should plant a church or (what has been come to be called) “revitalize” a church.” The former means that you (and some other folks) go and start ministering in a specific area and start something new in an area. The latter is where you (and some other folks) go to a church that is languishing and begin to preach and teach, trusting God to rebuild his church.

Too many times there is verbiage that leans towards a dichotomy between the two professions. Let me say that they are not at odds. They are siblings. They need each other. The question is which type of ministry is needed in a specific locale. The latest buzz is planting a church. Perhaps it is the thrill of something fresh. Perhaps starting from scratch and not having to worry about church splits. I have many friends who are planning on planting a church (or who are doing so). I have listened to Tim Keller’s talk on his rationale for planting churches.

One of the things he says is that there can never be too many churches. Since I heard him say that two years ago, I have wondered whether that is right. In the theoretical world this is right. But here, in this world, is this the case. I know what he is getting at and I agree at one level. But I am nagged by the fact that so many folks say they will not plant a church in the south becase there are so many churches already. Am I missing something? Please lend me your thoughts so I can think through this as I lean towards both church planting and church revitalization (more on this later). I am getting whiplash, so help me think through this, please…

Comments 5

  1. “revitalization” might take a different sort of person than church planting. Revitalization takes a patient, plodding sort of person, one who is willing to really trust exclusively in God’s word and His love. No gimmicks, no amount of charisma, will unseat the previous powers. Only God and His love. Church-planters seem to need a broader array of skills and giftings. also, church planters will see results much more quickly than revitalizers.
    As to whether we need more churches or the churches we have to become faithful again, some might say it’s a both/and. But many of these “churches” that we might want to be revitalized are not churches, but church buildings. And those who attend it are coming to a social club more than hoping to meet with God. Are they churches when there’s no faithful? No. I wonder if some people’s desire to revitalize churches is more a desire to circumvent a building program or renting a place than a recognition that here IS a church that needs a pastor. Well, maybe it’s just a group of old people in a neat building, and that a building and group of people with a negative “testimony” among their neighbors. If you can get funding for a church plant, do it. If not, labor in the building, amidst unfaithful people, with oppressive politics, and pray.

  2. Good points, David ~

    I think you are exactly right about the patience aspect of a person. I would also think that the church planter must also be extremely patient as he evangelizes his area and waits for the Lord to move. I like what you mention implicitly when you speak about gimmicks and such. I fear that too many church planters are buying into the latest toys (yes, toys, not tools) to make their church grow. The generations of X and Y do not want a hokey-pokey sermon with cutesy phrases. They are hungry for the Word of God. This is also true of the former generations. I see the reason for the persistence of the quaint is due to a disconnect with the world. Christians think a cool skit will communicate a deep truth. It may. But have we leaned on such methods to do the work of solid proclamation to our friends and families? Probably.

  3. “There can never be too many churches”- I think that is ridiculous! I admit I’ve only heard a little bit of Keller so I’m reacting to this one sentence (He could be referring to biblically sound churches).

    There can be too many churches. I’m in the SBC so I’ll pick on them. Over 40,000 SBC churches exist in Amerca- supposedly. Being gracious, lets say 1,000 of them aren’t preaching the Gospel but are catering to felt needs- throwing out God’s word, the atoning sacrifice of Christ and the need to pursue holiness. Let’s say another 1,000 (being gracious again) are encouraging a false understanding of conversion by conducting altar calls, baptizing those who give no evidence of true conversion and naming them “sheep” in Christ’s sheep fold. Think about the number of mislead non-Chrisitans and the mislead Christians.

    Why not tear down a negative witness by building a new one in its place? And with the Christians already there?

    Christ uses both revitalizers and planters but I don’t think I’m ready to lift one up over the other. It’s dependant on the specific situation. I do disagree with David and would not encourage someone to revitalize a church as “plan B.” The pastor’s job is to shepherd the flock (unfaithful or faithful) and help them see Christ by clarifying the Gospel through his word. That is never a plan B.

  4. matt, this is a great topic and one that i too have been thinking on much as of late. you are familiar with some of my own struggles here, and i have often wondered if it would not be much easier to simply start a church, clean-slate (church planting). yet, in spite of the ‘baggage’ that may come with an already established church, i cannot deny that there are also advantages to revitalization and building onto or altering a structure already there. certainly, there is merit in and need for both.

  5. Hey brother, great to find you over on wordpress. This is a great post and great thoughts! I will be praying for you as you wrestle with the Lord’s will on this and trust in His providence to lead you to the perfect place to serve Him and His church.

    My two-cents are that we ought to sincerely wrestle with whether God might have us go where there is NO witness and no church (ala Paul’s desire to go to where the Gospel has not been proclaimed and the reality that Jesus will not return until all the nations have a witness). If you have sincerely wrestled with the Lord through that one and your heart is filled with a burning and longing for the church to be planted in everyplace for the sake of his name then I believe you can with good conscience follow God into His call to serve Him here. I love what Floyd McClung says, “Only those who long to broadcast His glory to the nations have the right to stay.”

    Then the question is church planting or existing and where. One thing I have seen as someone living in the ‘city of churches’ (Charlotte, NC) is that there is still a great need for bible-saturated, missional, christian-hedonistic, culture-engaging churches. I know of only one and I hope I am wrong. Personally I would lean toward planting because of the baggage that you get when you go into an existing church but with planting comes other challenges (which are probably no tougher than existing church baggage).

    Man, keep me posted! You are in my prayers. It was great to have lunch at TFG!

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