Keys to Successful Church Restarts, Part 2
In part 1 of this series, we examined six keys for a successful church restart. According to Mark Jobe, lead/founding pastor or New Life Community Church in Chicago, a restart can be a story of redemption rather than as a “take-over.” In part 2, Jobe uses the acronym GRACE to describe how to discern whether the restart process is right for your church and God-honoring ways to embark on a restart journey.
G—Go looking for God activity. What is God doing and how can you cooperate? If you're looking to multiply or expand, don’t look at an older church that's dying and then try to strategize how you can take that away from that congregation. That's called manipulation or takeover mentality.
Look for God activity. Is there a person of peace that's inviting you? Is there a vision that these people have? Is there a win/win scenario that can come along? What is God doing? What is God saying? How is God working?
The church needs to be smart. We need to know demographics. We need to study our communities, but the church is not IBM or Proctor & Gamble. The church is a living, spirit-driven organism that needs spirit-led leaders who listen to the voice of God, are full of the Holy Spirit, and realize this is not an organization that we're replicating. This is not a franchise that we're starting.
Learn practical tips on how to bring new life to an old church through a restart.
R—Resist spiritual colonialism. The oldest church we restarted was 185 years old. We restarted another one that was 130 years old. I’m humbled that I can step into a building where there were saints long before I was a twinkle in my parents' eyes. They were loving Jesus in their generation, and I'm humbled to be a steward of the resources they gave, and that I can walk into this place and say, "I'm taking the baton, but I take it with honor. I admire what's come before. I build on the shoulders. I celebrate their sacrifice." I remember the name of their church. We may worship differently. We may have electric guitars and drums but we're following the same Jesus. We're honoring what's come before us. Avoid downplaying what's come before you.
A—Approach opportunities with hands open. We've been given literally millions of dollars worth of property, and Chicago real estate is pricey. Some pastors ask, “How do you get people to give you churches?" We need to be careful with the stewardship that's been given to us and make sure it’s not about land grabbing. I've seen some horror stories where people go in and, because there's a resistant group, they strategize how to seed members to outnumber the old members and it becomes this corporate takeover, a battle over real estate.
Please don't drag the name of Jesus through the mud by fighting over real estate. Please don't do that to an older congregation and generation. Walk away from it if it's going to turn into a big nasty battle. Meet in a dingy gym rather than drag the name of Jesus through the mud because you're fighting over real estate. Approach with your hands wide open. When our pastors have restart opportunities, I tell them, "Don't grab onto it. Instead say, 'This may be an option, but it may not be the best option.'” If you grab onto it, you'll try to figure out how to manipulate your way into it. Go open-handed. Be very honest.
C—Consider whether or not this would be a kingdom win. Ask yourself, “Is this going to be a kingdom win? Or is this going to be a win where a lot of other people lose?” I'm visionary, motivated and high energy. It would be easy for me to run over older people and say, "Yeah, it doesn't matter. Quit squawking." But, I had a godly grandmother who died at the age of 87. I always ask myself, “If my grandmother were in this congregation, how would I want her to be treated?” That puts a check on my soul because I want to be patient. I want to be kind. I want to talk them through things.
E—Expect God to move in resurrection power. We go in assuming we're going to build on the great tradition of the older generation. Most new people at church plants tend to be younger families so it's not multi-generational. If you do a restart, you have the beauty of having older people mixed in with young families. Treat older people well and bring them into the loop of things. They find their place and can become the grandparents and mentors that young families love and need.
Learn more about New Life’s restarts.