Very few church leaders and members are opposed to their churches being revitalized.
After all, revitalization is the process of your church getting reinvigorated. Revitalization literally means “life again.” It sounds pretty basic.
The problem is that many church leaders and members really don’t want substantive changes with their revitalization. For them, revitalization is a process of tweaking and making small adjustments. Add a program or ministry here and there. But don’t change our church!
Hear me clearly: That type of revitalization will not work. Indeed, it is not revitalization at all. It is a superficial move with no lasting results.
In the post-COVID world we are entering, I see the need for many churches to replant instead of revitalizing. Let’s look at the difference between the two.
Revitalization is the process of a church making substantive changes to move to greater health. Replanting involves closing the present church and starting a new church in its place.
The challenge is that many churches think they are in the process of revitalization, but they are not close to making the substantive changes they need to make. There is resistance to those changes. More often than not, the resistance comes from the church members. But it can come from church leaders as well.
There is a hard reality for many of those churches today. On their present path, they will close the doors. Perhaps many of the members do not see it coming, but this trend is growing in the post-COVID world. The trend began before the pandemic, but it has been accelerated and exacerbated as a result of the pandemic.
What Is Involved in Replanting?
While no two replants are identical, most of them have common characteristics. Here are a few of them:
- The existing church is legally closed, a new church is legally constituted.
- There is a period where there are no services at the church site. The new church lets the community know via a sign and, perhaps, local social media marketing that a new church is coming.
- The church changes its name. It is, after all, a new church.
- New leadership comes. They may or may not keep the existing leadership.
- The replant is treated, in many ways, like a new church plant. There is a concerted effort to get people in the community to come to this new church.
- There is a celebratory opening of the new church.
The Big Challenge
For certain, I have oversimplified the replanting process for brevity. You can likely see, however, why few churches are willing to be replanted. It is an act of sacrifice and selflessness. You are willing to give up your personal preferences for the greater good of God’s glory and his Kingdom.
I have heard countless times that the church is the people, not the building. I get that. But churches must gather somewhere. And in this post-COVID and post-Christian world, we need more, not fewer, places to be lighthouses for Christ in communities.
If you have read this article and think your church will never need to be replanted, please consider the matter again. Several years ago, I wrote a book called Autopsy of a Deceased Church, where I interviewed former members of churches that had closed their doors.
There was a common theme in all the interviews. The members were in denial about the state of their respective churches until it was too late. A common refrain from these members was, “If we had only known.”
Now you know. At least you know it’s a possibility your church will close.
Be willing for your church to die so a new and healthy church can come to life.
But don’t wait until it’s too late.
This article was originally published at churchanswers.com on June 28. Thom S. Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.