January 2015

Let’s Start the Discussion
with Loaded Language

alligator1The Clergy Killers’ DNA

I received an advertisement in my email yesterday pointing to a two-year-old documentary entitled Betrayed: The Clergy Killer’s DNA. It wasn’t spam. It was sent by a pastor.


I checked the link to the film’s website.


It costs $20 to view the documentary. I watched the trailer and read the discussion threads. I’m not about to invest in what seems to be a 90-minute pity party, aimed primarily at a clergy audience.


The trailer promises a one-sided look at church life. Pastor as victim.


The film addresses a problem that only clergy know about. There are, lurking in congregations, evil laity who are wired to make life difficult for clergy, They, and they alone, are causing clergy to forsake careers of service. They, although few, are bringing down the entire Church.


The Alligators Have Returned

I have been around this kind of talk all my life. Back in the 1970s the clergy called parishioners with dissenting views “alligators.” You get the picture. The alligator hangs in the water. Only its eyes can be seen. It is waiting for just the right moment. Snap! Its jaws are locked on the pastor’s leg, pulling him under—(and back then it was a him).


This documentary ratchets up the rhetoric. No longer alligators. Clergy killers. It’s in their DNA. Unredeemable!


Interestingly most of the testimonials on the documentary’s website recommend sharing it with other clergy. There is very little suggestion that this is a film to be shared with laity. Keep it in the club.


A Little Power Is Never Enough

Here is the reality of church life.

  • Clergy control the rule-making process.
  • Clergy control the pulpit.
  • Clergy control the church press, whether it is the church bulletin, congregational newsletter or a denominational magazine or website.
  • Clergy have their own “union”—other clergy to advocate for them and make sure congregations live up to denominational standards.
  • Clergy control any grievance process, if there is one.
  • Even in the conventions or assemblies, where lay people participate, the laity are vetted. Those chosen to attend and vote are usually in favor with clergy. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily, but it does create frustration for laity with less than mainstream views.
  • Clergy are fairly immune from legal obligations in fulfilling promises. If courts get involved they are likely to lean toward the establishment, defaulting to the powerful. That old separation of church and state thing.


Yet, with all this one-sided power exercised in a downright cloistered environment, when leadership problems occur, the laity are somehow to blame.


2×2 has its roots in this inequity. We have experienced the resulting abuse of power.


Make no mistake. Church leaders wanted our congregation to die. They said so. They meant it! Lay members who might stand in their way were labeled before there was any discussion. We were personally pursued in court from 2008 to 2014. The killer DNA is not limited to laity!


The Lay Point of View

The laity could make our own documentary about our lot in the Church. Just go over the above bulleted list and replace “Clergy” with “Laity don’t” or “Laity aren’t.”


2×2 advocates for the lay point of view—many points of view, we assume. We are not clergy haters or clergy killers. We have career clergy in our membership.


We are part of the waning Lutheran tradition in which clergy and laity are regarded equally.


We, as lay people, want to serve within the Church to the best of our abilities (which are boundless). We see a structure that discourages lay involvement. The number of laity opting out far exceeds clergy dropout. It’s worth a documentary!


Good Leaders Solve Problems

The types of problems that lead to this documentary’s inflammatory rhetoric (as evident in the title) and the resulting fractious and divisive congregational conditions are in fact leadership problems—not laity problems. Leaders must deal with all sorts of people. If they can’t, their lives might be better spent in a different line of work.


Are the laity abusing their little bit of power? Or are they frustrated at not being heard? Are we worried that the Church we love is going in a dangerous or wrong direction? Is our experience unappreciated? Have our decades of devotion been for nothing? Are we tired of being limited to lives of Christian service as ushers and choir members? Do we see new strategies and innovation that maximize the skills of all? Or do we see pastors contentedly doing the same ineffective things, while the church is dying? Are we tired of seeing churches closed, land grabbed and members locked out, while pastors who failed to grow a church are quietly reassigned?


Perhaps we care enough to point out when we think policies are misguided or important needs are neglected or when the pastor is making bad judgment calls.


Leaders—true leaders—can nurture congregations and overcome problems of leadership. That starts with mutual respect. Sometimes it is a simple matter of taking a few people aside, asking questions and listening.


Leaders with poor skills take problems to other people—ones who will be sympathetic—who won’t consider another point of view—parishioners who accept what clergy say as gospel. This will make the pastor feel better while it divides the congregation. In dire circumstances a poorly trained pastor will turn to other clergy who will never hear the lay side of any issues. But they might help make a documentary!


PrintClergy and Laity: Equal in Importance

The Church faces real challenges today. These challenges will not be met by enlisting only followers with blind allegiance. For one thing, they are going to be hard to find!


The stakes are high for most congregations—life or death for some. Congregations will not survive if laity are passive and yet that is what is expected of us. Congregations need parishioners who advocate for different points of view and aren’t afraid to address problems. And sometimes, not always, but sometimes—the pastor is part of the problem.


Clergy are stronger when influence is shared. The whole Church is stronger when we aren’t looking for excuses, calling names, and pointing fingers.


All Christians, clergy and lay alike, are called to discipleship or servanthood.


It wouldn’t hurt clergy to wear their parishioners’ shoes for a while.


Interview a few of us when you make the sequal!



Service or Worship? Chicken or Egg?

shutterstock_159858644An interesting article about the importance of worship begins with this illustration:


Kazimierz Bem, a UCC pastor, writes:

Around the year 1510, a delegation of Christians from Sudan, which had been recently overrun by Muslim conquest, went to the Christian Ethiopian court and begged the emperor to send them bishops and priests. The Christians remaining in Sudan needed clergy to lead worship, administer the sacraments, and teach the people. But the emperor refused, sending them away empty-handed.

With no Christian worship, within 100 years Christianity in Sudan became extinct and forgotten until the twentieth century.

The writer springboards into a lengthy discussion about the importance of worship as opposed to a modern emphasis on service.


I’m not sure the opening illustration is helpful.


You see, this is not 1510. Clergy are no longer leading communities that depend on them to read. Consequently, many of the rituals which this writer holds up as foundational — well, they just don’t make a lot of sense — especially to the overwhelming majority of people who are not growing up in the Church.


I argued 25 years ago, when Lutherans were uniting and revising their liturgical practices, that one little tweak, meant to convey one thing, would actually be interpreted to mean something totally different—actually opposite of Christian purpose.


In this case, the new liturgical practice was to invite laity to read the Old Testament and Epistle lessons, but they should then turn the Bible over to the pastor to read the Gospel. The reasoning was that the preacher would then segue seamlessly to the sermon. This would liturgically reinforce that the sermon is based on the Gospel. I argued that people would read this differently—that only clergy can read the Gospel. It wasn’t long before I heard the argument in a worship meeting, “But who is going to read the Gospel? Pastor Soandso can’t be here.”


Things that make sense to those who are deeply embedded in Church, just don’t make sense to those outside of Church tradition — most people.


And so I can’t help but wonder if back in 1510, had Sudanese Christians been equipped to lead worship and teach, would they have been more likely to find ways to keep sacramental covenants and Christian traditions alive without the Ethiopian emperor’s help?


It also raises another question: If Sudanese Christians had organized to serve, would they have been able to influence their Church’s destiny?


Would dedicated SERVICE have inspired them to keep worship traditions alive?

Or . . .

Would faithful WORSHIP have inspired service that grew Christianity’s influence?


It is a chicken/egg conundrum. Regardless of which side of the question you argue, the word SERVICE fits!


I suspect that one grows from another and that all benefit from education, which many congregations have all but abandoned. If people do not understand worship, it will drive them away from both worship and service.


EXAMPLE: A young woman who attended worship regularly came to members repeatedly with the same complaint. “We don’t spend enough time on our knees. We need forgiveness.” After a while, this young gal, who was always ten minutes late for worship, was starting to make people uncomfortable. I took her aside and went over the structure of worship — pointing out that worship begins every Sunday with repentance and forgiveness. “What you are looking for in the service takes place in the first ten minutes of worship, before you get here.”


This concept is taught in Catechism. But adults coming to Church today often skipped Catechism—and Sunday School—and Bible School.


When people first venture through the sanctuary doors, they are scouting, looking for something. They may not know what. For them, witnessing a Christian worship service is like watching a foreign language film with no subtitles. A medieval foreign language film!


This writer cites his ready response when worshipers complain that they aren’t getting anything out of worship. “Worship isn’t about you,”


He is wrong. Worship is a conversation with God. If people don’t resonate with what is going on, they are not worshiping. They are attending.


Worshipers who enter the sanctuary in listen-only mode will leave with a sense of exclusion. They are not likely to return.


Are they likely to suddenly find meaningful lives in Christian service? Probably not.


Which brings us to another question raised by this article and its readers. Is the Church being outgunned by the public sector in its ability to serve?


Next post.

Why is Sunday morning the most segregated hour in America?

This question is often raised, especially at this time of year when we are commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr. and approaching February, Black History Month.


It’s a puzzle to church leaders who view a congregation as one big happy family serving under the open-armed leadership of one theologian.


We crave diversity so much that we create our own Potemkin church view.


Our denomination boasts diversity. Hundreds of local Lutherans converge annually at the regional level. The Assembly Room presents a multicolored, multi-aged tapestry of people. But the representation is false. Representatives must meet the criteria of a quota system, which gives the illusion of diversity.

Our congregation made a project of visiting other congregations. We saw very few diverse congregations—maybe five percent—each of them fairly small. Most congregations we visited are either mostly white, mostly black, or mostly an ethnic group of some sort.


Very few have strong memberships under the age of sixty.


Our congregation had a unique experience with diversity. We grew without a called pastor—by forming relationships with several supply pastors and allowing the laity to adapt the worship and fellowship in ways that introduced new traditions without forsaking the old.


This is what we learned.


  • Resistance to diversity often comes from leadership. We encountered some sadness from older members as things changed, but when they saw that they were not abandoned, they embraced the change.
  • Leaders feel inadequate to lead people who are not like them. We were told flat-out by our denominational leaders that they could not find a pastor for us. They were looking for someone LIKE us. And we had already become diverse. Our bishop actually proposed dividing our united congregation along racial lines. “White Redeemer must be allowed to die. Black Redeemer . . . we can put them anywhere.” When both White and Black Redeemer resisted this idea, a locksmith was called.
  • The structure of the Church precludes diverse growth. Such a goal requires an extraordinary leader who can leave behind personal preferences and embrace multiculturalism.
  • Lay leadership is important to successful segregation. This requires a pastor that can share “power.”
  • Small congregations can lead the way in diversity. It makes sense! Newcomers will not compete for influence with hundreds of people with obvious differences.
  • The Church tends to close churches that are best situated to address diversity!
  • If diversity is a goal—start promoting small congregations.


Today’s laity grew up in desegregated schools. We work side-by-side with people from all over the world. Clergy tend to come from church backgrounds, which are far less diverse.


If the Church is to achieve diversity, it must empower laity. There is precedent!


220px-AmbroseOfMilanSaint Ambrose

St. Ambrose became Bishop of Milan, by public demand. He was a regional governor—a politician, Although from a devout Christian home, he was not a priest. He wasn’t even baptized!


The Church was far more influential in the fourth century society, but there were still some pesky pagans to contend with.


As governor, Ambrose was making a public appearance to quell a volatile situation.. Think “Ferguson.” His words were well-received.  A chant began—Ambrose. Bishop. Ambrose, Bishop.


Now that’s a call!


The Church, its back against the wall with the threat of violence, agreed. Ambrose was quickly baptized and given a crash course in theology.


Ambrose approached his call with humility, embracing the poor. He was able to change the Church of his time—and shape the Church of our time—because he had something the Church needed that the clergy of the time lacked—people skills. Like-ability.


Leaders with people skills—that’s what the Church needs today, especially if diversity is a serious goal.

Run for Your Life. What Do You Carry?

A 2×2 reader shared a link to a touching photo essay. It captures images of Iraqi Christian refugees, posing with their most treasured possessions—the ones they were able to carry with them.

What would you bring if you had to flee religious persecution?


What Is A Church Member Worth?

dollarWatching Dollars Fly Out the Church Door

Today’s topic is almost never addressed in church circles. It goes contrary to “church think.”


What is a church member worth?


I often skirt this issue, but this is the first time I’ve addressed this as the key topic. It is important. Where money becomes an issue, power follows.


Church members don’t want to be thought of as dollar signs. Church leaders don’t want to admit this is ever a consideration.


Like it or not, economics comes into play with almost every decision made by church leaders.


What is a church member worth? What is a congregation worth?


These are difficult questions when sanctuaries are full and denominational offices safely assume adequate support. How do we answer these questions when the going is tough?


My writing today is prompted by one paragraph from Seth Godin’s blog post, published today, entitled, Please, Go Away. The post addresses how businesses fail to address customer problems, wrongly thinking they are saving money. Invariably,  they make it difficult for clients to interact. They prefer unhappy customers just go away.


Here’s the paragraph.

Any customer that walks away, disrespected and defeated, represents tens of thousands of dollars out the door, in addition to the failure of a promise the brand made in the first place. You can’t see it, but it’s happening, daily.


He is right! And churches suffer from the same thinking. Out of sight, out of mind.


Many church members have a nagging feeling that they must play along to get along. Dissent—even mild dissent—is not welcome.


Try it, if you dare. Write to your leaders. We did. We were ignored. Shelved. Eventually, one national church lawyer responded: We feel no obligation to address your concerns.


The most important part of Seth’s sentence, paraphrased for Church, is that this action represents the FAILURE OF PROMISES MADE TO MEMBERS IN THE FIRST PLACE.


These promises exist on two levels.


  1. Biblical promises—things like love, reconciliation and forgiveness.
  2. Polity promises—the stuff of tradition and constitutions.


In my experience in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, congregations have no way for members to address grievances that are not controlled by people who are possibly the cause of the grievance. If a lay person has no pastor to advocate for them, they will be shut out. The Church has a way of rewarding like-mindedness.


The preferred strategy for dealing with dissent (and it predates Martin Luther) is simple. Go away. “Why can’t you people just move on?”


Here’s the problem with this selfish philosophy—the part no one wants to talk about.


We, as the Church, are shooting ourselves in the economic foot.


Bad behavior is often prompted by economic challenges. Congregational and denominational budgets may be stretched. Any reminder that people might be hurting is time-consuming and expensive. We tell ourselves that they drain our “true mission.” We think of them as “baggage.” Undesirable.


  • We take members for granted, assuming that they will tithe forever, regardless of how we treat them. More than that, we encourage them to leave their estates to the Church!
  • We assume that discontent is contained.  Remove problem people. Problem solved.


The sociology of church is an intricate tapestry of intermarriage, friendship, multiple and overlapping clans, and coworkers. When one bleeds, the other is scarred.


The people who care enough to get upset about things in church are the people who care enough to give.


Most pastors recognize that it takes ten or more new members to equal the giving of old members. And still we approach old members with offensive terminology, inappropriately borrowed from the Bible. Church leaders dismiss existing memberships as “old wine skins.” Others ascribe a twisted interpretation of the Resurrection story—They must die so we can live. Oddly overlooked are all the directly applicable biblical teachings that are inclusive and do not give up on even the weakest.


Problems ignored are problems that fester. New members, as they too become taken for granted, will remember how their predecessor members were treated. They will give with more caution and may never be as devoted as those who conveniently “moved on.”


I can cite numerous examples of the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars to our little congregation because of actions of pastors and decisions of the regional body. I won’t share them publicly, because they are stories of real people with real hurts. I know them by name. They don’t need more hurt. But I make this one note: The problems they encountered were invariably caused by leaders thinking in practical, managerial, often selfish ways, with no love in their hearts for congregation members and no thought of the future—perhaps because they didn’t believe in the future. Perhaps they don’t believe the promises they teach!

Most lay people are not ready to give up on the future. They came to church where they were asked to believe and act with faith. They embraced a God who cared about each one. When circumstances change, it is the job of leadership (the promise-makers) to help. Maneuvering and manipulating, so leaders can start fresh is breaking pastoral promises—and it is creating long-term problems.


Another important point that goes beyond most Church leaders’ understanding. Out of sight is not out of mind! Once people “move on,” the Church loses influence. The members excluded from Church still live in the community, which is likely to be more accepting. Their hurt will be all the more difficult to address by alienating them.


What’s the answer?


  • Model ministry after Christ, who did not serve with economic interests in mind—anything but!
  • Find ways to address concerns—the earlier the better. Solve problems when they first occur. Listen.
  • Don’t wait for people to come to you. Interact regularly.
  • Make sure you are not just listening to one circle—the ones you know will agree with you.
  • Turn to the Bible. There is a wealth of church leadership advice there that has stood the test of time.


If we fail to deal with problems early, we are hiding the “lost coin.”


Perhaps it would help for every church leader to mentally envision a dollar sign on the back of every member. This may not help them serve their congregations spiritually, but it will be the last thing leaders see when they are tempted to stand by the church door, counting devise set to reverse, clicking away as they contentedly watch members walk away.


And then the dollar sign won’t be imaginary.

Careful! Children Are Watching!

grandmotherBe careful. The children are watching.


Not a bad motto for any parent. Children watch our every move and hang onto our words long after we’ve forgotten.


Now Pope Francis reinforces this. He told an interviewer that when he was a child, the Church had one interpretation. All Protestants were headed for hell. He might have grown up believing this and incorporating it into his world view and consequently the world view of millions of Christians. But Francis recalls one exceptional moment—the kind adults don’t even notice.


He was five years old, walking in the city with his grandmother. They passed two Salvation Army women wearing their bonnets—not quite like a nun but not so different either. The boy who would one day be pope asked his grandmother, “Are they sisters?”


Her answer, simple as it was, may still change the world.


“No, they are not sisters, but they are good.”


All of us are shaped by little encounters like this. Some of them hurt and cripple us. Some of them help us grow up. Some change the world.


The problem for parents is that moments like this are so fleeting for us. We might be tired. We might be in a bad mood. We might not have our own answer so we repeat what we’ve been told. We often don’t realize —we might be changing the world.

Behind the Rhetoric of Church Replanters


Cooperation Within the Church

pocketThe new president of the Philadephia Lutheran Seminary wrote yesterday about his trip to a Baptist Seminary. The interfaith effort prompted David Lose to write about cooperation in the Church—something 2×2 addresses frequently.


Failure to cooperate is a key reason the Church cannot pull itself from its downward spiral.


The Church is not set up for cooperation. Competition is everywhere.


  • Pastors compete for increasingly few “plum” calls.
  • Congregations compete for increasingly few “plum” pastors.
  • Within the congregations Pastors compete with Lay Leaders for authority.
  • Congregations compete for status and for members.
  • Regional offices compete for dollars. Their only source of money is congregations. This colors how they allocate their services and how they view less lucrative, but important, small churches.
  • Denominations compete for influence.
  • And then we get to Church Agencies. These serve all kinds of mission needs. • World relief. • Children and families. • Mentally and physically challenged. • Elderly. • Homeless. • Military families. These agencies do important work that congregations cannot do alone. They are funded with the pooled resources of congregations and as they seek additional public support, they sometimes forsake their Christian message.
  • Seminaries and camps are no different. Fund-raising is an important job for the leaders of these fine institutions. They are less tempted to forsake their Christian message!


We are all in competition for a bigger piece of the same shrinking pie.  Competition makes cooperation difficult.


Congregations—upon whom the entire Church depends—need cooperation desperately. We are seen as the pockets of the Church. Failure of all Church entities to cooperate is wearing holes in the linings of our pockets. That hurts the entire Church’s mission.

VBS-Aid: Our Idea for Working Together 

Years ago, 2×2 proposed a program that encourages cooperation in ways that would benefit all. It would strengthen local churches. It grew from our 80 church visits. We saw congregations eager to reach out that just couldn’t find a way.


A major challenge for neighborhood congregations is aging. The only thing that is aging faster congregations is the pool of available clergy! This creates hopelessness in the congregations. Everyone is worn out!


Many factors led to this—economic and social changes for starters. But the result has been that many neighborhood churches sit in the middle of vibrant neighborhoods and no longer have the volunteers capable of outreach or the money to pay for long-term professional help. The only model for leadership is paid clergy with long-term calls and salary expectations that are increasingly out of reach.


We proposed VBS-Aid

VBS-Aid Logo smallWith a little help, this idea could get off the ground with benefits to many.


VBS-Aid recognizes that many neighborhood congregations want to reach community. They just can’t within the usual model of church work—One pastor. Lots of volunteers.


VBS-Aid would provide short-term, qualified help. Well-trained teams of college-aged young people would travel to congregations to provide the energy and hands-on leadership for summer programming. Pastors or pastoral candidates would provide important advance and follow-up help, so that the programs would not be feel-good shots-in-the-dark. They would be connected with the rest of the congregation’s ministry.


The teams would be trained by leaders of church camps—experts in training teams of youth. In return, a visit to church camp would be built-in to the VBS curriculum, giving the camps contact with a fresh audience.


Seminaries benefit because the intensive “internship” of college-aged youth fosters interest in church vocations. They would also be creating a new field experience for pastoral candidates—intensive evangelism experience, something small congregations need in pastors but rarely find.


These teams would be compensated, but the investment would be far less than seeking full-time educational directors or outreach ministers.


  • Small congregations can get much-needed help.
  • Camps gain access to congregations—often a challenge for them.
  • Seminaries have a recruitment tool.
  • Denominations have healthier congregations.


Here is where this idea stands.

  • We met with camp leaders who are interested. They went so far as to work up some figures.
  • We’ve had interest from congregations of several denominations. They typically contact us too late for the current year. Partnership would help us identify congregations earlier.
  • We approached one of the nearest seminaries—not Philadelphia Seminary. While the person we met with moaned about not being able to manufacture pastoral candidates, he missed the recruitment potential of a program like this. Businesses recruit talent by creating opportunities like this. The Church can, too.
  • The regional office made a photocopy of our proposal and filed it away, we presume.


So that’s where our effort at working together is stalled—at the seminary and regional body level. The problems we foresee will be the problems of hierarchical thinking. Who owns the project? Who gets credit? Who calls the shots? Who controls the budget?


There are answers for all these questions. That’s where most Church creativity and cooperation is stifled. Talk it out!


We still think it’s a good idea and are primed to pilot it.


Take a look, Philadelphia Seminary. Talk with us. There are dozens of congregations within 15 miles of Mount Airy that need this kind of help. There are thousands across the country. We are looking for partners!

Congregational Resolutions for the New Year

shutterstock_149620829Take Baby Steps Toward Lofty Goals

January 2015. Did your congregation set any resolutions for the New Year?


Resolutions are daunting. Yearly good intentions are so easily side-tracked by daily demands.


Try this. Forget New Year Resolutions.


Work on Monthly Resolutions. That’s the true activity cycle of most congregations. Boards and councils meet monthly!


It doesn’t hurt for church planners to look at the longer picture. But it might be a big bite for the whole congregation to chew at one dinner.


Try this. At the end of each monthly meeting, identify one goal that will help you reach the more ambitious goal. Enlist support for just that one goal until your next meeting.


Example: A dieter could resolve to lose 40 pounds during the year. The January goal might be to eliminate snacks. The February goal might be to walk two miles a day. The March goal might be to choose less fatty meats. The April goal might be to add a mile to the daily walk.


Church Example: Your congregational annual goal might be to improve stewardship. January’s goal might be to advertise the needs. February’s might be to help the congregation understand giving. March’s goal might be to demonstrate what giving accomplishes. April’s goal might be to work with every church subgroup to enlist help with the congregational goal. And so on.


The New Year’s Resolution, broken up into mini-monthly resolutions becomes part of congregational life — and may even continue into 2016!

Problems with Church Replanting: Part 2

shutterstock_239715148You Cannot Build A Church on Conditional Welcoming

Church Replanting as defined in this post on Christianity Today relies on a Church Replanter or pastor having unconditional control of membership—something that may violate a congregation’s constitution.


The first step is to exclude the most faithful—the people who have invested the most in prayer, time and offering and the people who have the most knowledge of church procedure. It is a way of excluding anyone who might say “Wait a minute. Is this who we are?”

What does it say about Church, if you start with exclusion?

Conditional welcoming adds a new caveat to the typical sign in the church yard.

All welcome

(unless you’ve been here before)

Church Replanters assign themselves the right to toy with the faithful in ways that can be horrifically hurtful. The strategy is cruel. Church Replanters can live with this because they have dismissed the people as undesirables. They don’t visit with them, serve them, or care about them. They are the “old wine skins.” The people have served their usefulness. In many cases that his been to supply the property and endowment funds to support the Church Replanter!


What does this say about Church?


Here are some of results we experienced.

  • Divided families. Confused children put in the middle.
  • Unnecessary testing of faith—usually with a loss of trust in God.
  • Finger-pointing.
  • Gossip.
  • Name-calling.
  • Guilt.
  • Eroded confidence.
  • It can even lead to life and death issues.


What Happens to Excluded People?

Church Replanters will report without evidence, that the displaced people happily “move on.” They state this and move ahead with their plans.


We recommend this actually be researched. It is difficult to poll people you have excluded.


Church Replanters tend to consider existing members as baggage. They are all for getting rid of “baggage”—not caring for it.


The Church Replanter is dead focused on more important things—finding new people to warm the pews and line the offering plates.


Ed Stetzer writes: 

A new church will need a new identity so the community will know it’s a new church. You see, they’ve already decided the old church was not for them. They may decide the same thing about the new church. However, a new identity is a new opportunity for engagement.

This statement is filled with presumption. The foundational presumption is that it is the people in the Church that are “not for them.”


There may be many other factors. Some of them may have had to do with how church leaders treated the people over the last few decades. People already may feel excluded and unworthy—judged. People may determine that contributions of time, talent and wealth are better used elsewhere.


There are so many ways pastoral leadership could engage that are less cruel and more promising.

  • Visiting every member.
  • Listening.
  • Talking and praying with individuals and groups and working to regain trust.
  • Attending community events and practicing intentional inviting and welcoming.
  • Showing pride in your people and your message.


Excluding the most faithful confirms the feelings of the disillusioned. “I’m glad I stopped going when I did—before they locked the door on me.”


The Real Reason Church Replanters Start by Excluding Members

Ed Stetzer admits in passing that the Church Replanting might fail. But this strategy has taken care of the true interest of the replanter—gaining the control of the congregation’s property and endowment funds. If it fails, the denomination has the property and monetary assets, which if the church failed with the people in control, might have been directed elsewhere.


Denominations want control of the property. They have to get rid of the property owners to do that. This entire strategy is about gaining control of property.


Church Replanting is a euphemism for theft.


Most Protestant denominations have congregational polity. The congregation owns the property and controls the funds and directly oversees church operations through some form of governing board. Church Replanters need to get rid of previous members so that they can claim property and change the rules so that they have control. Rules and bylaws can be suspended or changed without resistance if you just lock doors. The new management they suggest you advertise is no longer local. Congregational polity has artfully been shifted to hierarchical polity.


Church Replanters’ lofty ambitions cannot work without this measure of control.


This is so important that denominations who send the Church Replanters are prepared for court (where they might lose if the law is applied, but the law cannot be applied because of separation of church and state).


Denominations often have lawyers on staff. They are likely to have helped draft the strategies. They are prepared for the coming conflict, while congregations scramble to get their footing with no denominational support.


Congregations, made up of volunteers who come to church to worship and nurture Christian values in their families, are unprepared for what will come — heavy-handed arrogance and self-righteousness which activates the ugliest characteristics of the human condition. Greed, pride, arrogance will soon justify coveting, bearing false witness, and theft.  All for the greater good. Any resistance to the Church Replanters agenda is suddenly the work of enemies—not members. Lines will be drawn and allegiances sought to bolster claims. Denominations, who have access to the decision-makers in the Church will make sure their interests are protected. The Church will be at war with itself—self-destructing.


Don’t think it won’t! We’ve already seen this happen! Our congregation questioned the denomination’s actions under the existing constitutions and found ourselves in court for the next six years—sued as individuals.


Denominations can claim they are Replanting Churches when they are really trying to acquire endowment funds and properties to sell, making sure they receive the congregations’ wealth. That’s about the only thing that makes this strategy, which ignores most of Christ’s teachings, attractive.


All evidence in the Bible points in a different direction.

Churches grow with acceptance, love, and service.


This is how Jesus grew a following. This is how the disciples grew a following.


It takes time and patience. It takes sacrifice. Humility helps.


And it has far better odds of working for more than 10 years.