For a replant to work the key leaders must be strong. There are many historical and traditional forces at work in a local church. There is a theological foundation upon which the church was founded. There are cultural and relational issues that need to be considered. So, a strong leader or leadership team will be needed to face the reality that the local church has reached the “retire” stage and is well into the downward decline towards death.
However, with strong leadership and a sensitive and proper understanding of what was and what is change can happen and the church can once again become healthy and start to grow. As well, the leader needs to have a new vision of what can be. These are the ingredients that we have to work with as we replant the local church. We build on who we were, we take an honest look at who we are right now, and we cast the vision for who we can be with God’s help and guidance. We do not abandon our heritage and theological tradition. We build upon it recognizing God’s faithful over the previous decades and aware of His guidance in the present.
The key ingredient in all of this is outreach or evangelism. For a dying church to become healthy the members must take their eyes off of their current situation and look to the community in which they are located. This is not always easy as the main focus of those remaining is usually to “man the ship” and keep it afloat. So, they focus on internal matters and ministering to each other. If this remains the key emphasis then the church will continue a slow but gradual decline into the grave.
The leaders must refocus the members of the church so that they come to understand that the church exists to serve and win those who do not know Jesus. The reason they are in the death cycle is that they have ceased to relate to and interact with their surrounding community. And, they have lost their love for the lost. This focus and love must be reestablished as quickly as possible in the replanting process.
So, in a replant the emphasis must be The Great Commission. The believers must come to understand that they are ministers of reconciliation and ambassadors of the Kingdom (2 Corinthians 5). They must come to see themselves as people who can influence and impact their community one life, one person, at a time. They must begin to reach out to their unsaved neighbours, friends, and family members with the Gospel of the Kingdom by building relationally with them. Only as this passion for the lost – based in love for Jesus and obedience to His command – is reestablished as an important part of the DNA of the local church family is there any hope that the replant will be successful. As long as the focus of the people remaining is inward the replant will not be successful.
What this means is that the local church must stop being pastoral in its approach and become apostolic in its basic nature. The word “apostle” means ‘sent one.’ So, the church needs the foundational ministry of the apostle so that the church becomes apostolic.
Ephesians 2:19-20 “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone…”
The ministry of the apostle is to teach God’s people to be outwardly focused so they become ‘the sent ones.’ The apostle will be in touch with the people in the community whom the church is working to reach. Knowing what they believe, how they think, and their perspective on life and the church. He will be aware of what the Holy Spirit is currently doing in a local community and how the people of the church can plug in to the community ‘where it is at.’ He will train them in living a life that is focused and centred on others who do not know Jesus. As a result, he is a foundational ministry to the replant. The Scriptures even state that he must come “first” in the planting or replanting of a church.
1 Corinthians 12:28 “And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.”
The apostle will equip the saints for the work of the ministry. The ministry of the church is to the unsaved. He will lead them in becoming Great Commission minded and active.