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Church Planting and Church Revitalization

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : July 19, 2005

Yesterday, I had a conversation with a friend named Dan.  We were talking about what ails the church and he suggested that church planting is not the way to bring new vitality and health to the church…he likened it to the dysfunctional couple that decides to have a baby to heal their marriage.  The youngster has lots of energy and is cute…and can therefore get away with alot, but ultimately inherits the traits of his/her parents or, as is often the case, creates new patters of dis-health by reacting against his/her parents.  In either case, the child can often be enslaved to its parent’s unhealthy ways of relating. This is a funny conversation, since Dan and I are both church planters (well, he was about 5 years ago).   

What is the alternative? Revitalizing our current institutions, right?  Let’s all just try to make our institutions more healthy and productive…right? I don’t think so.  I think the solution IS church planting…but church planting of a different sort.  Most conversations about church planting or church revitalization assume something: the church is an institution.  What if, we had a more fluid definition of church…one that included both its institutional expression AND its uninstitutionalized dynamic expressions? What if a group of friends at First Church decided to start intentionally relating to one another in loving ways and did their own outreach out of that…but resisted the urge and desire to either leave their unhealthy church to start something new, or the urge to force their own "revival" onto the institution?  In this sense, these people would be starting an intentional community within their existing institution–a sort of "church within a church" but one that is not institutionalized, like the many "church-within-a-churches" that are either young people’s worship services or a seperate institution?  These church-within-a-churches reinforce homogeneity.  The fluid way of being a church-within-a-church is low-key, and centers around having meals with friends and building relationships…and cultivates meekness instead of trying to "change the system." 

I’d love to hear your thoughts and reactions…I know my thoughts are rather embryonic; help me flesh them out a bit…

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Comments

3 Responses to “Church Planting and Church Revitalization”

  1. Richard on July 19th, 2005 5:57 pm

    I stumbled across your blogg and read your last comment. I’m in a bit of an exploration myself presently so don’t have many answers, but my experience so far may help your discussion.

    Firstly, my wife and I have left our “church”. We do not attend the services any more. It was getting too difficult as God was leading us one way and the consesus of our church is that there is no members only leaders who are either leading or being trained for leadership in a church program. We still relate to our friends, share communion with them, pray together, share finances etc but are not members of the “church”.

    I jointly own a business with other Christians. We have prayer meetings and so on. We have seen a few salvations through our contact with clients, and we try to help people God has led us to.

    I used to work for our church, and there seems very little difference between working for a church (that effectively operates like a business) and working in business that seeks to minister like a church.

    Obviously there are a number of problems, but the journey is just starting.

    I would be interested in some objective feedback?!

  2. Richard on July 20th, 2005 12:58 am

    Sorry, I didn’t quite get to the point. I was meaning to say that “the church within the church” concept was not possible in my case due to the strong leadership structure of the current situation. Ie leadership and membership only exists within the parameters that you are given (church programs). This takes up all spare time, and so it hasn’t been possible to explore a more fluid option at the same time.

    We have had to choose one or the other.

  3. Michelle on July 20th, 2005 1:38 pm

    The new pic makes you look like Tom Hanks.

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