Sometimes churches die, and sometimes they should. As shocking as this may be, the death of a church might be the best thing that could happen for the sake of the gospel within a given community.
Churches are not meant to be mere holding tanks for folks who remember “the good old days,” and if they cannot or will not fulfill their purpose, they don’t need to exist.
Don’t misread me here. Not every struggling church needs to die. Some churches go through rough spots and come out stronger on the other side.
Many that appear to be in their winter years can be revitalized and become effective again through leadership changes or, more likely, through a powerful move of God that stirs their affections and motivates them to love and good deeds. Revitalization happens and should happen more.
Facing the Death of a Church
Many struggling churches in their twilight years, however, face issues that may have a chokehold on them spiritually, financially and/or relationally. In these cases, it may be best to, as graciously as possible, close the doors.
Many churches just need to close. And for many that feels like a failure.
What If Death and Replanting Are Connected?
But what if, instead of merely closing the doors and walking away, there was another way? What if there could be a changing of the guard? What if, in the fertile composting soil of the dead church, a new, healthier church could be birthed to pick up the mantle of gospel work the first had begun?
Replanting is a healthy approach to dealing with a dying congregation, and it should be considered as churches find themselves facing death. I’ve written on replanting before here, but today I’d like to quickly discuss what healthy replanting might look like, since it’s becoming a more common practice.
Keep in mind that much of what follows will need to be worked out well in advance before a replant actually happens. Replanting does not happen overnight—at least healthy replanting doesn’t.
Don’t try to force it, but do consider pursuing it.
Here are some short ideas.
First, Create a New Identity.
A new church will need a new identity so the community will know it’s a new church. You see, they’ve already decided the old church was not for them. They may decide the same thing about the new church. However, a new identity is a new opportunity for engagement.