Thursday, May 31, 2007

Church Planting Gone Astray

We live in a consumer society. Eveything that is marketed today is basically 'junk' within five years. Consider your computer, your car, your clothes, and your cell phone. Do you still have the same one that you had a mere five years ago? Three years ago? One year ago? These are high dollar purchases for the most part, and it is a rarity that any would last ten years.

The trouble with a consumer society is that it isn't simply material things that get tossed. Everything tends to get thrown out with the rest of the outdated garbage. Things that ought not to be trashed; like the local church.

It seems that one of the most recent church planting strategies involves finding a 'dead' church and planting a 'new' one next door. It's sort of like the old "television killed the radio star" analogy, or the Wal-Mart that drives the Mom and Pop establishment into bankruptcy; if the "old" church doesn't have the goods and the flash at low cost, then it needs to be sent to the Vet and put to sleep to the tune of "The Old Rugged Cross" with organ accompaniment.

To me, this is absolutely scandolous. Perhaps this is because I tend to be a bit old school, and perhaps it is because I do not believe a church is truly "dead" until the gospel is no longer preached there (Where there is gospel, brother, there is hope!). But I believe that doing this sort of thing undermines the gospel itself, and it undermines our credibility as believers.

Let me begin with a couple of disclaimers, I'll put them in bold so you will not miss them:

1. I believe that we need more churches planted. Many, many more.

2. I strongly believe in local church co-operation and I believe in the co-operative program of the SBC.

I also understand the mentality that leads a group to plant a church next door to a church that they consider "dead." The list includes:

1. The dead church is mired in tradition and can't be budged.
2. The dead church is not effectively reaching her community for Christ.
3. The dead church's music is horrificly outdated and cannot appeal to a younger audience.

Numbers 1 and 2 can be legitimate concerns for the body of Christ. If you bring up reason number 3 to me, prepare yourself for a fight. Hopefully it will not come to fisticuffs but there will definitely be some verbal sparring going on.

In order to deal with these reasons for church planting next to a church of like faith and message, I'm going to examine the following reasons and definitions in the next few days:

1. What is a "dead" church?
2. How do you know that an old church can't be budged?
3. If a church isn't being evangelistic, is the best answer to ignore her?
4. What does "effectively reaching a community" look like?
5. Is there value in being old?

I hope that this will be a beneficial look at the Church and what it means to be a Church, and as always, I look forward to your input.


Even So... said...

Looking forward to it, the timing is providential for me...

Eric said...

This is a great topic, Brad. I look forward to reading it. There are at least four Baptist churches within a mile of my house, and at least two of those are SBC. But what I really like is where you talk about the centrality of the gospel. Where Jesus is, in word and sacrament, there is a living church -- no matter how "dead" it might look to others.

Lisa writes... said...

Bring it...I'll be anxiously awaiting your thoughts...

Russ Reaves said...

You have hit the proverbial nail on the head, my brother. I look forward to the coming posts on the subject. I have written similarly in the past and say these things often.