Sunday, May 16, 2010

So why do we need new churches?

The following is an email I sent to a recent acquaintance to answer a series of questions he had about starting new churches. These same questions have probably crossed your mind.

Dear friend,

I’ve been on the road hard for the past month. Thank you for your questions, or at least statements. I’ll parse out a couple of your questions and answer them to the best of my ability.

Question 1: Why plant new churches when old churches are not growing?

Rather than old (though that may apply too) let’s use the term existing churches. The majority of existing churches are from the post-WWII era of the 1950s and 1960s. That is when they were planted by the wave of GI-grown, action-oriented Christians. These churches did a great job for their time, place and generation. They were highly contextualized to American, post-war culture. They addressed both the questions and the needs of that generation of Americans.

Fast forward to 2010. American culture today is significantly different from that of the 1950s, so much so it is best to think in terms of cross-cultural mission work for someone of the existing church culture to relevantly reach those of the new generations. How different is this new culture? You may remember I spoke of BC and AC churches (that’s Before Computers and After Computers). BC people are book people, linear, A to Z thinkers. AC people are internet, visual, multi-directional thinkers. It’s not a generation gap now, it’s a culture gap!

So, why do we need to plant new churches? Because the existing churches are ministering to people who are no longer being made. Every new person born now is an AC person. BC churches will increasingly be unable to minister effectively to AC people—unless, they become AC churches. Then who would minister to us BC people who are going to be around for another 30 years? In this seam of time we need both BC and AC churches ministering to our culture side by side.

Question 2: What kind of revitalization programs are available for existing churches?

The most obvious answer is almost anything you can think of: lectureships, any ministry, most books and magazines, etc. I think we are asking the wrong question when we ask “who will help us (the existing church)?” The better question is “How can we (the existing church) help new churches start that reach these new people so we can learn from them.” If no one does the exploring, the cross-cultural mission work of learning how to engage the new generations of Americans in spiritual conversations with Jesus at the center, then we lose. No, God’s kingdom concerns won’t lose. God has banked thousands of faithful, missionary focused people in the two-thirds worlds of Asia, Africa and South America. His mission will continue. Will we choose to continue to be part of that mission?

I hope these brief answers make sense.

In Christ,
Stan Granberg, PhD
Kairos Executive Director

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