Options For a Struggling Church

This article is written specifically to churches that find themselves in the unenviable position of decline and / or stagnation.


What is a church in this position to do?



The ministry of Church Revitalization is some of the toughest work in the ministry. It is not for the faint of heart! If someone has never done this type of ministry, especially long term, it is difficult for them to fully grasp the value, or fundamental nature or requirements, of this work. They may even try to minimize its importance or value.


Do not let this unlearned sentiment deter you if you are interested in the work of revitalization, and do not let this attitude discourage you if you are in a church that is struggling, and looking for answers.


THERE ARE OPTIONS!



The First Option We Discussed Was


REVITALIZATION


The Next Option We Will Discuss is


REPLANT



Replanting a church has the same goal as revitalization, however the process is different.


The reason why we take the time to define and discuss these different words is because the field of church revitalization is relatively new....especially for Independent Baptists. So, to define the terms and discuss the concepts helps to remove some of the mystery associated with the ideas.


For example, the concepts of revitalizing and replanting may be confused with restarting. Restarting a church would be most closely associated with Revitalization, but it is different. In a restart, the current church is not completely shutdown. It may, and usually does, close for awhile so that reorganization and restructuring may occur. But when it opens again, it is still the same church....maybe with different vision, different leadership, different programs, etc.


It is also wise to clarify these concepts because there are a number of variants that can occur in these processes. To have a firm grasp on the terminology and major concepts helps you to understand the variants better. I might also add that some terms utilized in the field of Revitalizaiton work are changing (and new ones are being added)....so it is improtant to keep up with the times in this regard. For example, Replanting a church can now be looked at in various ways.


Replanting can mean that a church completely shuts down / dissolves and then reopens with a new name, new constitution, new leadership, etc. Replanting can also be looked at as an "adoption" where the new (replanted) church becomes a satellite location of another church. This process may also be termed a merger. We will primarily look at this option from the former perspective.



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Replanting involves the same basic four elements as in revitalization, but in relation to people, there is a combination of new and old:


You + New and Existing People + New Structure + Old History.


This replanting process involves the complete shutting down of the current church and the opening of a new independent autonomous church, in the same place, but with a new pastor, new and (sometimes) existing people, new constitution, bylaws, name, etc. Concerning history in a replant you ALWAYS carry the good and the bad history into the new church.


 

(Remember, a variant of this process may be that the new church

is a satellite location of another church

That is, the church has been adopted, or merged with another church).


 


This process must be prayed about and thought through intensely. When a church closes, it must be considered if there is a need to re-open it. The journey of a re-plant can be so fraught with difficulty, that it must be determined whether God truly desires that church to be re-opened. Although we find no specific instruction in the New Testament on how (or if) to re-open a closed church, we do find valuable principles related to this aspect of revitalization.


The church, and its health, was important to the Apostle Paul, therefore it should be to us. He gave the better part of his life, at the command of Christ, for the establishment and continued prosperity of local churches. If one considers the churches of the New Testament, most of them had problems. Some churches had more problems than others. The Corinthian Church was fraught with problems, and serious ones at that. The Apostle lovingly and courageously nurtured them and sought to bring them to a fuller measure of Christlikeness.