Within the Church there is often competition (which, in some cases, results in an outright sparring session). In one “corner” you find those who are passionate about planting new churches or establishing new sites – they are quick to cite the need that comes with a growing and changing population, and the statements of noted researchers that new churches are the most effective Great Commission strategy. In the other “corner” are those who are energized by bringing a new day to existing churches that have lost their momentum, and in some cases have lost their way – believing it is the best use of resources and honors the sacrifices made throughout the years of those who remain part of those congregations.
The intensity of interaction increases when there are resources for only one or the other – either church multiplication or church revitalization. This can lead to an “either/or” mindset instead of a “both/and” mindset. I realize stewarding resources well means tough choices about priorities, but that “either/or” paradigm can spread well beyond finances.
Wesley Seminary has identified and prioritized areas of “signature” service to the Church. Leaders of The Wesleyan Church (TWC), to whom we belong, have given formative input into the process – and thankfully, these areas have been affirmed by many we serve in the broader Church (while 40% or our students serve in TWC, the remaining 60% serve in nearly three dozen denominations and associations). The top two priorities of signature service – church multiplication and church revitalization.
We are launching specializations or certificates in each of these priorities, so ministry leaders (being enrolled in a degree program at Wesley Seminary is not a prerequisite), through the completion of four courses including field study experiences, can be equipped for multiplying new churches or sites, and equipped for revitalizing existing churches.
The opportunity I’ve been given to interact in the design of these equipping opportunities has reinforced my both/and perspective. Multipliers and Revitalizers have much more in common than might be immediately evident if one focuses only on their ministry contexts (new or existing).
BOTH Multipliers AND Revitalizers…
…must “be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:6-9). Neither is for the faint of heart. Both involve risk, including the reality that they may not succeed.
…must have “agenda agreement” among those who form the core of the Church. As a new church brings together a launch team and core constituency, the planter must discern whether they truly share the vision or have their own personal agenda. In an existing church its current constituency must rise above personal agendas to embrace the common value of fulfilling the Great Commission.
…must create a movement rather than settle for maintenance. In either case, maintenance means eventual extinction. New people must be reached and enfolded into the church relationally and missionally.
…must assess the needs of the community they are called to reach. What are the demographics of the community, and what are the felt concerns of the unchurched people in the community? Where are the networks the Church must access to create a communication grapevine with the unchurched? How will they best show their heart for the community?
…must seek the input of others beyond their immediate context, often in the form of coaching. The “can’t see the forest for the trees” syndrome exists among both planters and revitalizers, and having the right people asking the right questions can help a ministry develop freshness and relevance.
…must have a compelling sense of God’s calling, with an intentional plan of action to fulfill that calling. Wishes and dreams do not give birth to a church nor do they transform one. A higher calling, with a clearer road to a new reality, is essential.
…must have new life – people experiencing salvation and comprehensive conversion, accompanied by baptism and testimony. It is dangerous to the DNA of any church to rely on “transfer” rather than “transformation” to bring true spiritual and missional vibrancy to a congregation. Those being “added to their number daily” in the book of Acts were recently redeemed, and the Church nurtured them as contributors rather than catered to them as consumers.
I’m excited that we’ll be equipping leaders for BOTH multiplication AND revitalization – maybe you’re one of those we’ll have the privilege to invest in as you complete a certificate. And I’m thrilled that BOTH will serve to strengthen and extend the Church into a world that desperately needs it!