Why I'm tired of hearing about church planting

This post originally appeared on  Church Revitalization 

When I was in college, I interviewed to be a youth associate-type-intern person with a mega church in OKC.  It was a typical interview, Q and A type things.  Greatest strengths, weaknesses, and so on.  He then asked me a new one.  If I was standing before two rooms, one with people who were not followers of Christ, and one with lukewarm church people, and I could only enter one to speak to, which would I choose?  I thought about it for a while, and finally answered that I would take the lukewarm church people.  He seemed surprised by my answer.  I didn’t get the job, or didn’t take it at least.  But I have mulled that question in my head for a while since then.  Was it the right answer?  If asked again now I would go and share with the people who were not Christians, that much is sure.  Always take a chance to share with people who don't know God.  But that answer then began to show me the heart God had given me for the church. The lukewarm, the burned out, and the never was.  I love the church.

In the early pages of the book of Acts, the early church spreads with earnestness.  The church grows in leaps and bounds. I have sometimes wondered, as a nerd might do, about the logistical dilemmas it caused the early church.  How they communicated, passed word along, etc.  As Acts moves along, Peter begins preaching to the Gentiles, and then Paul enters and the church begins to explode across the western world. Churches pop up everywhere.  

Many people today seek to emulate the Acts model, to go and plant a church where there is a need for the gospel to spread.  And rightly so, as this is a great way to spread the gospel.  There are seemingly endless amounts of funding, training, mentors and resources for church planters.  

 I long for more churches to be planted, in my own community, and around the world.  I count many church planters as my friends, and considered the call for myself.  I know many organizations exist to help churches plant churches, to fund, train, equip, support and more.  I'm proud to be part of a denomination that recognizes the need for that.  

But I am tired of hearing about church plants.   Don’t get me wrong, I think we need more churches.  But still I’m tired of it.  My heart has always been with the local church, and  I have a great desire for existing churches to be revitalized.  This is not meant to put down church planters or the need for more churches.  It's a call to remember the task before us with the churches we already have.  

Revitalize.  It’s a word that gets thrown around a lot, with increasing frequency among some people.  But there are precious few resources devoted to this.  My own denomination, the SBC, will spend over 50 million dollars this coming year on church plants through the North American Mission Board.  I applaud that.  But I constantly see every week in our state Baptist paper a list of churches that have shut their doors.  I know it’s not limited to my state either.  Thousands of churches close their doors for good every year, from all denominations.  

So what is to be done about it?   “Church Revitalization”  is a popular term, but it garners nowhere near the popularity or articles or funding of church planting.  A quick google search yields these results for number of hits on these terms.  

church planting

Church revitalizing


Church planter

Church revitalizer


“to give new life or vigor to” 

That’s the dictionary definition of revitalize.  But what does it mean for a church?  For something to be re-vitalized, it must have had life at some point!  This is the primary focus of revitalization, bringing back the life that was once there.  In a church setting, this life might have been very far in the past, sometimes over a hundred years.  More likely it was a few decades ago, a generation or so.  The church was full of life, busting at the seams, with programs, outreach, training, missions, and more. But as time wore on, the community changed, or there was a fight, or there became just a general lack of drive.  Maybe there was a moral failure in the leadership, or a local economy collapse.   And so attendance fell.  Pews were empty, baptistries still.  But there is hope still!  Revitalization.    When these churches get revitalized, they get new life!  Not old life, or the way things were in the good old days.  But new life.  New people.  New ways of thinking that are outward focused, that spread the Gospel, and grow God’s kingdom.  

But it seems for some, the solution  is just plant more churches.  Those churches had their heyday, now it’s time for someone else.  Let those old, stubborn, unchanging churches die.  

My church sponsors a mission church in a un-incorporated community about 20 minutes from ours.  It is a mission church, and will always be that for us, a mission.  We sought help for the funding of this church, and a few agencies told us to close that church down, give it six months, and open again as a church plant. Then we would have access to lots more funding, resources, missionaries, and more.  But for our established mission church, there was no help they could give.    

As I provocatively said,  I'm tired of hearing about church plants.  We need them.  But I want to see the resources, blogs, pastors, networks and funding that goes to church plants be put towards helping churches get new life. 

Without existing churches getting healthy, I don’t think we can reach our towns and cities effectively for Christ. 

Please note:  Revitalization is just that:  New Life!  It is not church growth, it is not church plants, it is not even tweaking a good church to make it great. It’s helping existing churches become healthy.  There is a time and space for all those other things, but revitalization of sick churches is one of the greatest challenges facing the church today. 

So what are you going to do about it? 


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