by Clare Jewell
I stepped on the scales with fear and trepidation. Last time I looked, I was 20 pounds over my desired weight. The numbers spun. I prepared myself for disappointment. I was tempted to step off before I faced the final judgment, but I was glad I waited. Without realizing it, I had lost 10 pounds! Wow! Instead of sneering at the scale, I hugged it. Funny thing is, I hadn’t been trying to lose weight. I had been trying to improve my health. I had been having heartburn issues, so I changed my diet. I lost the weight by “accident.” Yea!
A similar thing happens in churches that reproduce. The process that leads to planting a new church comes with some unexpected benefits. Vision is clarified. Mission comes into focus. Leaders are trained. Laypeople are mobilized. Resources are released. There’s a renewed commitment to reach people outside the church. The momentum that was missing returns. In short, the path to church reproduction leads to revitalization.
Churches that are hanging on eventually let go. They lose vision. They forget their mission. They lose their grip on leaders who want to engage in meaningful ministry. Laypeople get stuck in maintenance mode. Resources are hoarded, and the only real commitment is to keep the church doors from closing. Unwilling to take a risk, these churches seal their own fate. Unable to trust God with reproduction, they settle for reduction. Instead of investing their resources in a new birth, they waste them on a really long funeral.
It was Jesus Who said that a seed has to die before it can bear fruit. The same is true of churches. The only path to growth is to give themselves away—to die to the past and trust God to resurrect a future filled with fruit.
As I talk to pastors across the country, I meet many who hope to plant a church . . . after they grow to a certain size . . . when the budget has a little more room . . . when they have enough leaders . . . when the church starts to gain a little momentum. They are praying for revitalization, but it never comes. In failing to plan for reproduction, they end up planning their own funeral. It doesn’t have to be that way. The parable of the talents indicates that a focus on reproduction leads to exponential growth. God blesses what is invested, not what is hoarded. God honors risk rooted in faith, not prudence rooted in fear.
So here’s a thought: If you don’t like the road your church is on, try a new path to revitalization. Invest what God has given. Trust Him to honor your faith. Focus your “talents” on reproduction and see how God multiplies what you place in His hands.
Clare Jewell is national church planting coordinator for Regular Baptist Ministries.