As I look across the landscape of our country and that of Europe, I can’t help but to notice the remnant of once thriving churches that are now run down buildings or historical buildings with no life of a church. This breaks my heart.
Almost five years ago I came to Valley Center as a church planter to restart an almost dead church. Through the journey of restarting Valley Baptist Church I have come to appreciate the unique challenges, struggles, and rewards of this type of ministry. I am convinced churches today need to invest in the process of restarting dying churches for a number of reasons.
Stewardship. The average church planter in Southern California will never lead his church to purchase property because of the sheer prices. There are benefits to not owning property, but that is not for this discussion. What I don’t like about this is there are many healthy church plants that are thriving while there are many dead churches sitting on property that is paid off and not being used. It just seems like poor stewardship not to unite two of these churches to reap eternal rewards.
Legacy. Almost without a doubt (sure there are exceptions) the founders of these churches loved Jesus and wanted to impact their community through Christ. Almost without a doubt the people of these churches did not change with the culture (contextualization, not distortion of the Gospel)and ultimately failed in their effectiveness in being able to share Christ with their neighbors. There is great potential if an established dying church can humble themselves concerning preference of form concerning worship, they have an opportunity to continue their legacy. I had the joy of becoming great friends with the man who pastored VBC through the 60’s and into the 70’s. It brings me great joy to see his joy as he watches our church thrive.
How to move forward? I don’t know exactly. I think the first step is to specifically pray for this sort of opportunity. God has to lead the way for sure. Second, I believe the local church should be actively involed. We couldn’t have done what we did without the emotional, prayerful, and financial support of FBC Mira Mesa for the first three years of this journey. I am praying and currently working with a church planter and dying church going through this process. I hope that we as a church can help other churches stay alive and become defective again in carrying out the Great Commision.
The right man for the task. The man called to restart a dying church needs certain gifts to enable his success in the journey. He needs to have a balance between firmness, gentleness, sensitivity, and most of all patience. Patience is key because restarting a dying church is like turning around an aircraft carrier-it takes time, but the rewards at the end are totally worth it!