Three Engagements for North American Churches

Today there is a growing movement towards church replanting and revitalization in North America. Some organizations are on the frontlines of this movement like Church Answers, Renovate, Revitalize Network, and the North American Missions Board. We also see a growing number of universities that are positioning themselves to educate and train in this area such as Liberty University Rawlings School of Divinity and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

There is no doubt that the evangelical bubble is creeping on us, meaning that boomers (born 1946 – 1964) mainly supported brick and mortar church buildings, and the millennial generation (born 1981-1996) are not giving heavily to those focuses like past generations.

Millennials are about movement and being missional, not constructing large buildings and red-tape meetings. This poses some significant challenges for the established American church and its future. Church merges and the adoption of struggling churches is the topic of discussion in recent podcasts and conversations around today’s church leaders. What does the church do about the crisis of empty buildings?

We’re going to look at three options towards healthy future navigation for the established American church.
1. Regenerate the Church (Giving birth to a baby church)

Regenerating is the idea of inward healthiness birthing outward healthiness. Every church in America should be a multiplying church. This means every church should be making disciples and pushing those disciples to birth a baby church through regeneration. A new church is much like a new baby. It has the same DNA from child to parent, it looks like the parent church and eventually will talk like the parent church because of the environment in which it was raised. As it grows, the new church should intentionally be part of partnerships and networks to eventually birth new churches of their own for the sustainment of future generations.

An option for older churches is to birth a new church with fresh leadership, and let the church grow up to be an adult and eventually have babies of its own. Don’t just simply close your doors. Do what you can to launch a new church that can reach your area. The plan to birth new churches is very much needed in North America, and this option should be considered through organizations who are getting the job done, like NAMB.
2. Resetting the Church (Fostering a church)

Fostering is about moving outward healthiness to forward healthiness. My nephew and niece have fostered for years. They walk into the situation knowing that one day they may have to return the child to its family, but in the meantime, they care for the child as if he/she were their own until the situation is healthy for them to return to their own home. In the church world, some churches may not want to leave their “families,” but they need some fostering and coaching to bring themselves back to health. This is a temporary relationship, maybe just for one year, where your church is committed to helping another church get back on its feet again so it doesn’t close its doors. Resetting the foster church towards health will eventually lead the church back to its family again, healthier than ever before. In some cases, however, fostering leads into adoption. Sometimes the foster church does not want to go back and you become its family.
3. Replanting the Church (Adopt a struggling church)

Replanting is about outward healthiness to upward healthiness. Sometimes a plant needs to be replanted into fresh soil with new nutrients. These new conditions can bring health and growth. Bringing a struggling church into your family is like replanting it in your healthy soil, nurturing it, and standing back like a proud parent to watch it flourish. You are adopting it and letting it feed off of your nutrient-rich soil. The secure church is reestablishing the struggling church with a new name, a new hope, and a new family. The replanted church then moves from struggling to regained health to finding security in their new home with a new name. This healthiness will allow the replanted church to refocus its attention on bringing the glory of God back into their community.
In North America, we are going to see more significant movement towards kingdom healthiness in these three areas. The established church will have to look at its options to flourish in a challenging time. The great organizations like the North American Missions board with revitalization and replanting, the Revitalize Network, Church Answers or Renovate are a great place to start the conversation. Together we can make a difference in North America and around the globe.

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