By José Cortes, Jr.
“Our Churches are old and dying and now you are encouraging us to plant new ones? That is Ok in places where the Church is growing, but here, why should we have to do that?” - These were tough question asked by one of my colleagues during a recent Pastors’ Meeting where I had the privilege to attend and present. He was not being negative, he was just struggling with reality, which is also the reality in several places in North America. This question is a valid question for many Pastors, Lay Leaders, Church Members, and Conference Administrators; why should we plant new churches if our existing churches are old and some are dying?
Experts tell us that churches that reach maturity, have a life expectancy that spans between 70 - 100 years, just like us humans. Although very sad, it is normal and expected that churches will get old and die, there is no dishonor in a church dying with dignity after having served its purpose.
My paternal grandparents had my father. My maternal grandparents had my mother. My parents got married and they had my brother Josue and I. Please bear with me, this is not about to turn into a genealogy chapter we all “enjoy” reading, I am going somewhere with this. Both, my brother and I, got married to gorgeous girls and now we both have children. Now my question for you is: what would happen if our children decide that they will not have children? What would happen to our family? Exactly, if we want to be around, make a contribution to this world, if our family is to survive, thrive, and make a difference, each generation must do its part to add family members. I hope and pray that our kids will have or adopt children one day. I would like our family to survive, thrive, fulfill a purpose, and bless many in this world till Jesus comes.
The same applies to the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America and across the world. The reality of death among our older congregations should never be used as an excuse to stop giving birth to new congregations. The fact that some churches are going to die must embolden us to plant more, so we can live. No Adventist Church in North America should get to its farewell service without having planted or adopted the planting of one or more congregations. If we are the movement, we believe we are, if we are to survive, and thrive by bringing hope in the future by our actions in the present, if we are to proclaim the beautiful message entrusted to us by God, we cannot just sit down and wait for our older churches to disappear in irrelevance. If we believe we are whom we say we are, we must plant new congregations so people, who need Jesus across North America, are able to experience Him in our fellowship, accept Him, and be saved by Him.
Dying is part of life, as we know it, and so is being born. As a church, we need to understand death, while we live on this earth, even though it is sorrowful and depressing, but we must also embrace new life, which is jubilant and hopeful. One day your church may die, but please make sure that before that happens it gets to experience the joy of bringing new daughters into the world, and seeing granddaughters, which have been intentionally delivered and joyfully and selflessly supported. This is expected of mature Adventist Churches in North America, and by the way, birthing new churches, makes the mother church healthier.
Will your church cease to exist once its days are over? Or will your church live on through new Church Plants which lead people to Jesus? These are questions worth asking in our Church Boards and Conference Executive Committees.
We need more Baby Churches in North America! When is your Church due?
Pastor Jose Cortes Jr., is an Associate Ministerial Director and Leads Evangelism, Global Mission, Church Planting for the Adventist Church in North America