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Thursday, May 8, 2014

"Replant" (Darrin Patrick and Mark Devine)

TITLE: Replant: How a Dying Church Can Grow Again
AUTHOR: Darrin Patrick and Mark Devine
PUBLISHER: Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook Publishers, 2014, (176 pages).

Three men. Three cities. Three pastors. Two churches. One goal to redeemed a congregation that is shrinking, despairing, and fading. The first person is Mark, a seminary professor by day and an interim pastor by night. The second person is Kevin, a reluctant church planter who shuns a spanking new building for fear of it becoming a distraction to his calling. The third person is Darrin who lives 250 miles away from the new Church. The Church concerned is First Calvary Baptist Church, established in 1840 with 18 members. At her height, she boasts of a size around 600 worshipers. However, by 1994, the Church has become just an old place for a handful of worshipers, a far cry from the heydays. Even though one may claim that the Church is not about buildings or judged according to numbers, true spiritual health does mean a growth in numbers to some extent. Mark observes that some churches tend to put on a bold rhetorical front of growing in spiritual health especially when their numbers are shrinking. Darrin points out some signs of churches needing rebirth. Signs such as frequent pastorate changes; short pastoral tenures; deteriorating worship centers; power concentrated on a few; and an inability to adapt to changes in the culture and neighbourhood over time.Other signs include the control of power by a few individuals as well as inhibiting the roles of lead pastors to do what they are called to do.

Mark Devine provides his perspective of some of the leadership struggles. In particular, the issue with powerful individuals like John and Keith even led to the expulsion of the latter. Serving in a deteriorating church climate is already bad enough. Imagine having to deal with internal fights and controversies? Add to that the initiative to merge with another Church. Devine manages to facilitate several paradigm shifts.
  • Standing up against the powers that inhibit the future growth of the church;
  • Risking his own dismissal by speaking out on controversial areas;
  • Moving away from a typical "pastoral search" toward a "congregational search"
  • Considering putting his own church to be a "satellite" church of a larger congregation elsewhere
  • Replanting fragile churches in a more stable environment
  • Willingness to cede power and control to the parent organization
  • Before any replant, the old "First Calvary" would have to "die"
  • How existing ministries will need to be recasted

This book is a no-holds-barred exposition of what it takes to revitalize the Church. It means learning not to accept the status quo, especially when the latter is leading to a deterioration of the church. It means recognizing the signs of decay and the need for renewal. It requires the bold steps to cultivate changes for the better.  It also means having to grapple with the powers that are resisting change. Most importantly, all of these things need to come under the umbrella of gospel witness and focus. The authors have identified it spot on. Doing Church is not about preserving one's history no matter how glorious it may be. Neither is it about keeping the status quo so as to avoid rocking the boat. It is also about speaking the truth in love, even when it means confrontation and conflicts. The Church is about the gospel. Anything that causes the gospel to wane and decline must be arrested, and replaced with the steps of faith.

I am reminded again that change itself is not only scary, it can be heartbreaking as well. Seeing how well-intentioned individuals fight tooth and nail over a common purpose, differing over ways in which ministry is done. Thankfully, this book deals with the optimistic view of the Church as well as the reality of disappointments despite the best efforts and motivations. Just like the rocky road to replanting "First Calvary," replanting any Church is a ministry hazard as well. It is not surprising that so see high staff or people turnover. In fact, we should always anticipate that, though we may not look forward to that.  

Well-written, this book shows the risks, the rude shocks, as well as the rewards of daring to take the plunge to enter a place where any one church had never gone before. Thinking about it, isn't faith also about taking a risk? The difference is, we are taking a leap with God.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of David C Cook Publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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