Problems with Church Replanting: Part 2
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.
(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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.