A few weeks ago I began traveling to Other Baptist Churches in St. Vincent on Sunday mornings. Though they often ask my to speak this isn’t about preaching, but developing relationships with Believers outside of Barrouallie, and understanding better the spiritual needs of Vincentian Churches.
Yesterday the Lord allowed me to visit Bethany Baptist Church in the town of Stubbs (about an hour away). Before Sunday School I was chatting with some members about how I and other missionaries can help St. Vincent’s Christians and one of them asked why we (missionaries) always planted new Churches when there were already established Churches that needed help.
Of course Church-planting (starting a new Church in an unchurched area) has always been a very important part of missions. However in many mission fields (St. Vincent included) it’s becoming harder and harder to find areas that are truly “unchurched.”
For instance in Barrouallie and it’s surrounding area alone i’ve been told you can find ten different Churches. Now it’s true not all of those will be Gospel preaching Bible believing Churches (we are surrounded by Pentecostal) so there can be a need even in “churched areas” for Church planting. Yet I found myself driving past at least three different Bible believing Churches in less than 20 minutes on my way to Stubbs yesterday.
Which brings us to the Church members question…why plant a Church when established ones are in need?
There are actually some good reasons for this;
- These Churches are normally led by a National, and since our goal is to equip local pastors a Missionary would prefer to start a new work
- While these Churches have great needs, there are usually Vincentian Believers already attending who could meet those needs (a missionaries place is to encourage or motivate and train those believers)
- And the financial support and training missionaries have make it easier for them to plant a new Church
While there other reasons for this, in my heart I believe one of the greatest reasons church planting is chosen over church revitalization is it’s just easier.
Now I realize that when most people think about Church planting the word “easy” doesn’t come to mind. But in this situation you start with a clean slate. With “Church revitalization” however missionaries may have to deal with lots of drama.
- A smaller group of believers who may be discouraged, or wounded by a former missionary or pastor
- Instead of creating your own own culture (philosophy of ministry) you adapt to the Churches culture that already exists.
- Since we are dealing with human beings there’s bound to be relational conflict
- It always takes time to develop relationships or earn trust
- And some smaller churches have huge problems that must be dealt with right away
- But even though Church revitalization is messy and filled with challenge, there is a far greater need for it today than Church planting.
Editors Note: Please don’t see this as a criticism of just Vincentian Churches, there is an even greater need for church’s revitalization ministries in the United States.
More than anything else the difference between Church planting and Church Revitalization is the message it sends
Church planting says to the Nationals “stand aside and let me do the work”
Church revitalization says to the Nationals “let me help you do the work”
In other words Church revitalization focuses on training, discipleship, and leadership development of members who are already there. Church planting lends itself towards a pioneering view of ministry which if we aren’t careful can become just about the Missionary.
As we got ready for Sunday school in Stubbs one of the men began listing areas outside of Kingstown (farther north) where almost all of the Churches were struggling, and there was nobody to help them. As I drove back to Barrouallie that afternoon the Lord placed a burden upon my heart for Church revitalizing missionaries who would dive into the drama, and grow those struggling Churches instead of planting new ones.