Counting the cost

By Replant

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?
Luke 14:28

Replanting a church is an enormous undertaking. My Church planting friends often listen with eyes wide and mouths open as I recount for them some of the challenges we faced in the early days. Usually they say something like; “Man, I’m glad you’re doing that, I sure couldn’t!”

There are costs to Replanting and Planting Churches. Some are similar, some are unique but each weighs heavy on the one bearing the weight of leading.

In a Replanting a Church you’ll likely pay these costs: Spiritual: you’re attempting to take back ground that the enemy has held onto for years, maybe even decades. The gains won’t come easy; you’ll experience significant spiritual warfare as you lead the congregation back to health and gospel vitality. Financial: smaller congregations in decline have often been living off their cash reserves. In calling you as a Replanter the church is taking a risk as are you. You may have to raise support, take a part-time job, or have your spouse seek employment. Conference stipends and pastoral expense accounts and paid vacation may be limited or non-existent.

Confidence: in a Replant there are times when everyone is mad about something and nobody thinks you’re doing a good job. Success may have come easily in your previous ministry setting. And now nothing seems to be working. You could begin to second guess your leadership, doubt your gifts and question your call.

Family: serving as a Pastor is not a regular job—it is a calling. A Replanter’s family joins him in that calling. As you bear weight and experience pain so does your family. When it’s difficult for you, it’s difficult for them. Your kids may be the only ones in the children’s or student ministry, your wife may serve in multiple ways. Criticism: in a replant everything is subject to change–the bulletin, favorite programs and events, the style of music, decorations, service times, the color of the carpet, the giant ornate pulpit, everything. People want change until it is required of them or impacts their preferences. I was surprised at the level of push back when we changed our bulletin to be more outward focused and guest friendly. The response wasn’t just about the bulletin—it was the fact that the church (facilities, programs, style) which had changed very little over the years was now growing less and less recognizable to the long time members. Relationships: people who enthusiastically welcome you as their Pastor and those who join you for the challenge of replanting will leave the Church. People for whom you prayed, counseled, served, encouraged and challenged will walk away. There’s no escaping the hurt, loss and sense of abandonment this creates.  Physical/Emotional: it is impossible not to feel exhausted both physically and emotionally. The weight and work of replanting will take a toll. Why would anyone want to take this on? Certainly not for the glory or recognition. It’s not an easy task; it is more likely to fail than succeed. It’s not quick work—it takes years to see it through. Why would you consider serving a dying church? Because you can’t escape the clear call that God has placed on your life to this work and you are convinced that the cost, whatever it might be, is not high enough to keep you from obeying and following His leading.

 


Published November 24, 2021

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The Replant team of the North American Mission Board works to reverse the death and decline rate of Churches. For more information and resources on Replanting go to www.namb.net/replant and follow @churchreplanter.