Church planting does not always mean starting from nothing. The insights of church planters can also be applied to situations where an older congregation is in need of an infusion of new life. One church in Toronto has modeled how this kind of “re-boot” can work successfully.
In 1999, the Church of the Resurrection had dwindled to 57 people. The Rev. Chris King of the nearby parish of Little Trinity released 10% of that church to go with me to what became known as “the Rez” to do a “re-boot”.
God blended us together, the original congregation and the transplants, plus many new people who came, to be a more relevant mission-minded church. Though often more art than science, we applied the best in Church Planting thinking to shift our church culture to better reach our neighbours. Now 220 worship weekly, Sunday School is at capacity, and we are buzzing with activity.
We used a carefully planned and prayerfully executed process of transformation and re-shaping of our church culture. Many churches could use our model. A larger church (200 and above) could send people to help a smaller one turn around, if:
1) they share a theological outlook
2) there is a population near the receiving church that can be reached
3) they are determined to love each other over the long haul, and
4) they are willing to adjust how they sing, worship and “do church community” to converge with what their neighbours respond to.
Rapid growth presented challenges and blessings. Our church in 1999 was more pastoral and family oriented than were our urban neighbours. Growing meant losing some of that intimacy, as we learned new ways of forming community that had more evangelistic potential. It was hard but it was worth it.
One neighbour who visited us before we changed felt there was nothing here for him. Fortunately, he came for a second try as we were in the process of changing, and now he follows Christ, is growing spiritually, and is in leadership. That kind of blessing–and the smiling faces of children in our large Sunday School–we see daily.