Maybe we’re missing something that is already there.
Church planting? Should we still plant churches?
Let me approach that issue with my childhood lens:
When I was 10 years old, there was an enormous event developing in our little Minnesota town. It was such big deal that it was the feature story in our local weekly paper that week. “McDonald’s is Coming!” read the headlines. I know, it sounds ridiculous, but some 25 years ago, it was an significant claim-to-fame in the small-town world to say that you had a McDonald’s in your area.
As I recently reflected back on that innocuous event, something about the whole thing struck me. In that small little town, we were celebrating one single McDonald’s coming to town. But do you know how many churches were already there?
Think about that … 10 churches were already in a small town of 5,000 people. 10!!! And now for the connect-the-dots realization: We (the Church) did it. Yes, we did it. Even though the Church has divided and argued for centuries, breeding unique sorts of denominations and independents, it actually propagated a phenomenon, unbeknownst to us … that the Church is EVERYWHERE. It is far, far more prolific that McDonald’s has ever been. Yes, we the Church … we did it.
The problem, however, is that we don’t think we’ve done it. In fact, we think we need more churches. “The other churches are dying and don’t get it,” we sometimes say. But think about it … are we forgetting our own brothers and sisters? Aren’t we ultimately part of the cause of the breakdown of many churches as we put up our own … I don’t know … McChurches? Can we be honest with ourselves and admit that some of our church planting is actually fueled by the desire to be the “next big church?” Not always, but sometimes?
Maybe our solution is not to church plant, but to pull church leaders and denominations together and look at the corner of the market we already have. I would imagine it would be infinitely more difficult to do it that way, but a better choice sometimes. Don’t some existing, but dying, churches have some of the best established locations around? What could happen if we re-thought how we “plant” churches? What if the desire was, instead, to make existing churches healthy or revitalized?
Maybe we need to rethink our humility and start with compassionate hearts that approach existing churches. Maybe a revitalization of the aged church is just what we need to order.