By Brian Croft
The numbers are staggering. Experts estimate that approximately 1,000 local churches close their doors every year. What is even more disheartening about this statistic is that number only reflects Southern Baptist Churches—my denomination. Imagine how that number grows if you added the number of closing local churches from other established denominations, which some assert is between 3,500 and 4,000 churches annually. Needless to say, we have an epidemic on our hands. Although God continues in part to build his church through church planting, churches are not being planted and lasting near the rate of those that permanently shut their doors each year.
It is good and right to be burdened by the reality of the extinguishing of once thriving local churches that previously were gospel lights in their communities. Pastors are quitting. Beautiful, historic church buildings are being auctioned to the highest bidder. No doubt, the burden that many who love Christ’s bride feel is a burden we too should feel. The weight of this burden has resulted in an unprecedented movement to do something about these dying churches. Emerging in a variety of denominations, it has been labeled, “Church Revitalization” and/or “Church Replanting.”
Having engaged in my own pastoral work of church revitalization prior to the inception of this movement and having observed this movement during that time, I have noticed two commonly unhelpful approaches to this undertaking: the Pragmatist and the Purist.
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