Stages in Replanting a Church: Growing

By Bob Bickford

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1 Cor. 3:5-7)

What does successful ministry look like? Survey any group of pastors – and for that matter any group of church consultants – and you’ll find a wide array of answers. D.Min. students labor to discern the “key” characteristics of successful pastors, revitalizers and replanters. Theories are developed, surveys created and assessments given.

And still much of what causes church growth remains a mystery. If it were anything less, we’d all be pastoring growing churches!

A pastor serving a tumultuous short-term tenure in one location leaves (either by choice or force) and is wildly successful in his new setting. A seminary graduate with the right connections, stellar communication gifts and a charismatic personality is handed a sweet opportunity to plant a church with full funding, lots of people and a great worship leader – and he ends up closing the church plant three years later.

Who was successful? Who failed?

Myth: We (pastor, planter, replanter, revitalizer) are the ones who make a church grow.
Truth: God is the one who makes the church grow.

In our series, we’ve looked at three stages in a replant: Plowing, Planting and Watering. Now we turn our attention to the last stage, Growing.

Growing: The fully developed seed of the gospel springs up and is evident in the life of those inside the church. It is marked by changed thinking and living, and is evidence of God’s work in the lives of the people – spiritual growth.

The Corinthian Christians were making much of men. Paul corrects their error by reminding them that those who minister in the church are merely servants, carrying out an assigned task. One plants, one waters – as God hands out the assignments. God is the one who causes growth. I may need to say that again: God is the one who causes growth.

Have you ever had the experience of praying, working, strategizing, marketing and inviting, only to see your outreach effort fall flat? Why did that happen? Did you not understand your community? Did your marketing fail to impact your community by grabbing their attention? Is it you? Are you a failure?

I’m not sure any of us can say for sure, but here’s what I can say with great confidence: If your church experiences growth, it’s because God is causing it to grow.

Sure, He will use you, your people and your work and skill in plowing, planting and watering, but you have nothing to do with causing growth. That’s all from God.

If you are faithfully fulfilling your assignment in plowing, planting and watering, you, brother pastor, are doing what God requires. He will grow His church. It may be numerically, doctrinally, spiritually, relationally.

You may not be nominated for the church magazine’s top-growing church list; that’s OK. Don’t seek a reward from men; seek the reward that comes from faithfully fulfilling the assignment God has given you.

Published January 6, 2022

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Bob Bickford

Bob Bickford is a Replant Pastor in suburban St. Louis, serves as the Associate Director of Replant for the North American Mission Board and is the co-author of Am I a Replanter,  Pathways to Partnership and the Associational Replanting Guide. Follow Bob on twitter @bobick