Saving a drowning church

By Replant

800-900 Churches close each year 
It doesn’t have to be that way
A Church must be willing to receive help.

Almost every week I hear about a Church that is near death. They may look alive, they hold services, sing songs and listen to preaching, take up an offering and even hold a few meetings or programs. Yet, if you take a deep look, a really deep look you’ll find they are in a crisis and about to drown.

Some of those churches are in denial about their predicament. Naively they hold on to the beliefs that they can keep going since they have money in the bank and new Pastor. Truth is, they’ve had a new Pastor every three years for the last four decades and the money in the bank is money they saved from not having to pay a full-time Pastor each time there is a transition. They may be alive but they are treading water and it won’t last.

A Replanting Pastor is like a lifeguard, full of passion and willingness to run in and help where life is in danger. Replanting is not a job for just anyone. A Life Guard’s longevity and success is dependent upon more than passion and willingness, he needs training, he needs to know when and how to help a drowning church. This holds true for every Replanter.

In water safety courses, a cardinal rule is never swim out to a drowning man and try to help him as long as he is thrashing about. To do so is extremely perilous. As long as a drowning man thinks he can help himself, he will act in a manner that endangers anyone who tries to assist him. His tendency is to grab the one trying to aid him and push the rescuer under as he propels himself up for air. Ultimately, this turns into a struggle that jeopardizes the lives of both the victim and the rescuer. The correct procedure is to stay just far enough away so that the drowning victim can’t grab you. Then you wait. When he finally gives up, you make your move. At that point, the one drowning is pliable. He won’t work against you. He will let you help him. –taken from The Spirit Filled Church by Charles Stanley

The Church that thinks it can still save itself, or that it’s not really in danger isn’t ready for rescuing yet. They’ll resist and struggle and you’ll both end up drowning.  

Replanters need assessing, equipping and encouragement. Over the next few months you’ll hear more about Replant Regional gatherings designed for these purposes. If you are in Texas I recommend you checkout the September gathering.

Don’t let your passion cause you to take on a drowning church only to drown yourself.

Does your church need help in determining next steps? We can assist your leaders and congregation with a proven consultation process.

Published August 12, 2015

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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 and follow @churchreplanter.