Should we Plant Churches or Revitalize Old Ones?

This is the questions Al Mohler tackles in his most recent post, Church Planting Movements and the Great Commission.  In the end, he concludes that planting new churches must compliment and not castigate the revitalization of older churches.  Ultimately, “churches will grow only as Christians share the Gospel with people who desperately need to hear it — and that will hold true no matter how old or young the congregation may be.

For those of you wondering my surgery went fantastic yesterday.  My leg, which I thought would hurt the worst, is feeling great although my back feels like someone just beat me.  The stitches will come out next Friday just in time to go help and older congregation under new leadership catch a vision for being a missionary in their community.

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4 thoughts on “Should we Plant Churches or Revitalize Old Ones?

  1. I’m glad to see that you are doing well after your surgery!

    I just finished reading Mohler’s article, and I appreciate his balance. Yes we need to be planting Churches in unreached areas, but I also agree that we need not give up on existing churches. I like this statement:

    “At the same time, we also need this generation of young pastors to go into established churches and revitalize a Gospel ministry through expository preaching and energetic leadership. Giving up on the established church is not an option. Some young pastors see church planting as a way of avoiding the challenge of dealing with the people and pathologies of older congregations. This is an abdication of responsibility.”

    Again Mohler states,

    “the passion to reach unreached populations is entirely laudable and urgent. The sad reality is that many of our established evangelical churches seem determined to reach only people who look like themselves — if they are committed to reach anyone at all. The danger on the other side is that many of these newly-planted churches begin to look like their founders and first members. A church of tattooed twenty-somethings in New York can be just as lacking in diversity as the aging middle class congregation at First Church .”

    I liked this quote a lot, because I see this is as a huge problem with much of the new church planting going on. Often times there is so much emphasis on reaching a niche group that they turn into a church that is not diverse. I think niche churches cut themselves off from the rest of the body. I see this a lot with some of us younger guys. We want to reach our generation, but I think we forget the elderly, the family, children, high schoolers, etc…

  2. Honestly, most of the people I know of who have graduated from Southern have been very critical of church planting movements (CPM). This is one of the biggest problems I have with the SBC. Their foreign missions arm (IMB) preaches and teaches CPM models and doctrine that are contrary to what the rest of the denomination believes and teaches, particularly in the seminaries.

    For example, a CPM is a rapid movement, one which new church plants are not led by trained pastors. Plants in some areas are led by converts that are “infants” in the faith, often only saved weeks (or even days) earlier. Removing those leaders for formal training (seminary) is something that kills the movement, and this is discouraged by every CPM training manual the IMB produces.
    However, no SBC church would even think of being under the leadership of a pastor that didn’t have a degree from an SBC seminary. No SBC church I’ve ever seen would let their small groups (home groups) multiply autonomously and become their own churches, performing their own baptisms, led by lay leadership, etc. That’s the very heart of every CPM seen around the world (outside the US).

    What Mohler is calling a “church planting movement” in America seems to be more of just a desire among recent seminary grads to plant new churches (Emerging Church folks?) , and not what foreign missions agencies call a CPM.
    As Chase highlighted, much of that comes out of frustration from the lack of growth in churches using “old pathologies.” Those churches aren’t reaching the culture and thus, new “emerging” churches seem necessary.

    As Stafford points out, NAMB hasn’t been close to the same page on CPMs until very recently. And I think they will never be exactly on the same page. I could elaborate further if anyone’s interested.

    Hope you’re feeling good, didn’t realize you had surgery.

  3. I recently read David Garrison’s book Church Planting Movements and had to write a review while also answering the question as to why we do not see simmilar movements in the US. One of my more controversial statements referred to the churches reliance upon para-church ministries, such as mission boards, seminaries, and denominational structures. We talked about this in class and I think that they are attempting to move toward more field based training models, I can personally attest to this as I will be participating in several SBTS and NAMB internships over the next two years. David J. Heselgrave also touches on several field based training models in his book Planting Churches Cross-Culturally.

    I would like to see, or start, a return to the 2 year Bible Institute model or an internship model, simmilar to Dever’s and Mahaney’s, to train men for ministry. Education is important but not at the expense of ministry. Let me balance that by saying that Ministry is important but not at the expense of orthodoxy.

    I appreciate what Charles Brock points out in his book Indigeneous Church Planting: A Practicle Journey (click here for free PDF download) he notes that, “The members are trained, therefore not laymen. A new believer is a layman, but if he remains a layman for more than six months, the pastor and church should re-evaluate the programs of the church.” The problem is that most churches have abdicated their responsiblity and left serious docrinal training up to para-church organizations, namely seminaries. This is not so at Ignite after four years at Ignite you will have learned systematic theology, hermeneutics, church history, missiology/church planting, apologetics, and studied numerous books exegetically. Not that the church is perfect but we need to move to a model of church that is more than a come and see event. Pastors must realise that their responsibility is not to entertain but to train, empower, and send out.

  4. Good thoughts.
    However, the reliance on para-church ministries is a natural outgrowth of a developed church. I asked Curtis Sargent about this while he was at our training in Richmond. He concedes that, over time, a CPM slows down and eventually you start to see the heirarchical structures like denominations (and seminaries) develop. Then, you start getting into economies of scale, and churches quit multiplying and instead grow larger. Some CPMs continue because some governments simply don’t allow those heirarchical structures to develop, so the church stays underground.
    Getting rid of reliance on those para-church structures is a paradigm shift you’re just not going to see among large denominations in America. Would take a major miracle of God, or severe persecution, or both.

    Sadly, few churches will consider hiring someone who was discipled at Ignite because it lacks that official stamp of approval that an accredited denominational seminary has. We’ve adopted the secular world’s standard of requiring a diploma.

    The other important thing to remember about on-the-field training is that you want to avoid extraction if at all possible. Often, I’d say it’s not so much “education at the expense of ministry” as it is education at the expense of reproducibility and culture and family. You send the message “If you want to be a leader, you must leave your home/family/etc. for a while.”
    YWAM seems to do a good job of training leaders in tough countries, but mainly through extraction, which has negative side-effects.

    Side note– there’s a seminary here that requires all students to learn English, uses all English materials, and teaching only in English. They bring in teachers from American seminaries to teach 2-week minimesters. Their message is inherently: You can’t be a pastor unless you speak English. None of these pastors will be teaching/preaching in English once they graduate.

    That’s really sad.

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