We can debate the reasons, but we cannot debate the reality: churches across the United States are aging, and many of them in the coming decade will face the agonizing prospect of closing.
Church planting addresses the need for new evangelisic outposts, especially in areas where Christians of previous generations feared to tread. But what about the 150-year-old rural churches that have succumbed to population loss? What about the historic urban churches that could not transition with their neighborhoods? What about the suburban churches, vibrant just one generation earlier but now surpassed by newer, flashier options? Must these churches die?
Mark DeVine and Darrin Patrick tell the encouraging story of one venerable Kansas City church that defied the trends and has thrived under new leadership. Yet the transition seemed anything but certain in the middle of conflict and clashes. This tale plays out in the pages of a new book, Replant: How a Dying Church Can Grow Again. DeVine, then a professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, teamed up with his former student, church planter Darrin Patrick of The Journey across Missouri in St. Louis, to write this account of how God faithfully equipped an old church for a new mission.
DeVine, now associate professor of divinity, teaching history and doctrine, at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama, joined me to share some of the story and counsel other churches struggling to survive let alone thrive. During this 30-minute interview I was especially interested to learn how he contended with lay leaders. As DeVine writes in the book, “A pattern had emerged, a valuable lesson for church leadership: give the right person the right amount of rope at just the right time, and they might, in undoing their own misguided aims, achieve good things for the people of God.”
We also discussed why certain pastors survive in traditional contexts, whether he recommends takeovers and mergers for most struggling churches, what seminaries and networks should be doing now to address the problem, and more. We invite you to listen in, join the conversation, and especially to get engaged in this crucial need to help dying churches grow again.