If you knew from the day you planted a new church it would eventually die, how would that impact how you do ministry? What would be your long-term plan in light of mortality?
I have an idea, but I’d like to hear your thoughts. Do you think all churches eventually decline and die? Why does that happen? What should we do about it?
Many church planters have an unrealistic picture of the life cycle of a church.
It’s not their fault; most of have bought into a fantasy picture of church growth that looks like this:
Recently, we have realized the importance of multiplication, so the idealized life cycle of a church plant has morphed to this:
Or if we are super aggressive, we may believe that a truly healthy church will grow like this:
The realistic life cycle of 98.76% of all churches looks a lot more like the life cycle of an average human:
We are born, we grow up, we have kids, we have grandkids (or as I like to call it, The Awesomeness Stage), we die. We can act like middle schoolers all of our life, we can have plastic surgery, we can marry a 25 year old when we’re 75, but we cannot change the life cycle. Every human is born, grows, and eventually dies. That is the way God designed life.
And I believe that is God’s will for the church as well. Jesus said,
John 12:24 (NLT) I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.
What if from day one of planting a church we embraced the natural cycle of life? It might look something like this:
If we can figure out how to make every stage in the life cycle of the church something to embrace, and if we can turn the death of a church into something that breathes new life into the Kingdom, we might actually see the tide turn in the decline of the American church.
What does each stage looks like, and how can you evaluate which stage your church is in? How can embracing the church life cycle change the scorecard for success in America and lead to a much more collaborative environment where churches are constantly being born fueled in part by churches that are dying (and being reborn)?