In his book Reclaiming Glory, Mark Clifton talks about ‘Six Replanting Imperatives’. I’d like to talk about them, but first, let me tell you why I think we need to talk about them.
Churches are living things and living things are meant to grow. It’s just natural. Churches grow in two ways, spiritually and numerically. You’ve heard me say that if we plant we will grow. There is one statistic from last year that really concerns me. We baptized one person. I’m very grateful and rejoice that one has made a public statement of their desire to follow Christ. But, honestly, we can and should be doing better. We are seeing spiritual growth in the lives of our family in Christ, and for this I rejoice.
I see the calling of an elder as being ‘equipping the saints to build up the body of Christ.’ (Eph 4.11ff) And that brings us to the six imperatives that Mark Clifton writes about.
Pray Without Ceasing
We know this. We know nothing happens without prayer. But life gets in the way. We are, often, too busy to come together and pray. Private prayer is important and I encourage all of us to pray privately. But every time God does a work in Acts, it seems as though the church praying together is at the heart of that work.
We’ve attempted Wednesday evening prayer for probably two or more years. It’s not been a well-attended effort. Let’s not throw in the towel just yet. Maybe there is a better way to accomplish effective corporate prayer. Small prayer groups in homes on a regular basis? Fifteen minutes set apart at the beginning of our small groups for corporate prayer. We can do this, and do this well, if we see the real importance of it. Let’s do it!
Loving the Church’s Remaining Members
Mark Clifton has in mind a church that is nearly dead, and maybe those remaining members choose to give the building to a new plant. It would be easy for the new pastor to focus on the new folks and forget the older. We can’t do that. While we are not giving away the building, and (I hope) you are not angling for a new pastor, we still can’t forget to love those still here.
On Sunday, January 29th, Steve Burchett did a great job of reminding us how elders love the church and how the church loves elders. We’ve got to keep this in front of us. When there is the potential for change around a church some folks can get cranky! Let’s love one another.
Exegete the Community
‘Exegete’ is a big word that simply means ‘find out what’s going on.’ When we exegete Scripture, we simply discover what it says. We should do that with our community as well. We should know what’s going on in our community. What’s our community saying? That requires that all of us be listening.
The food pantry is a good example. There was a need, we heard about it and got involved. The Sparta Transitions for kids coming out of the Challenge Academy is another example. God is giving us a chance to hear where he’s at work in our community and be a part of that. That’s how we exegete the community.
By the way, this is where prayer really matters. When we ask God to show us where he’s at work in the lives of people in our community, I think he delights in doing so if we will be obedient to join him. Can you help do this? All you’ve got to do is make yourself available to him.
Simplify Your Strategy
We, the elders, want you to be free to be the hands and feet and eyes and ears and voice for Jesus in our community. You can’t do that if we’ve got you showing up for meetings and such all the time. Some meetings are necessary. But let’s keep things simple.
We focus on three kinds of ‘gatherings’, I guess you could say. We are instructed to gather corporately to worship. (Hebrews 10.24-25) We grow spiritually in small groups and I encourage you to get involved in one. And then, third, we disciple others in one-on-one or two-on-one relationships. These ‘gatherings’ are priority. We will work hard to keep other gatherings, meetings, to a minimum so that you can emphasize what’s important.
Focus on Reaching Young Men
Before the ladies get upset with me, let me explain. Mark Clifton is writing to church leaders who are going to lead in replanting a church. They should focus on reaching young men who are potential leaders. That’s how we build strong, well-lead churches. But this applies to all of us, men and women. Ladies, especially ladies who are mature in Christ, you too should be focused on reaching young ladies to lead in the church. Your place in the family of Christ is just as important as anyone. Let’s all focus on raising up those who serve Christ well! Which leads naturally to the sixth imperative….
Make Disciples Who Make Disciples
I’m thinking you’ve heard this before. We are called to make disciples who make disciples. When that becomes an imperative, we are on the way to obedience and joyous living. That simple.
It’s not enough to talk about these imperatives, we’ve got to do them. The elders can lead, but we can’t do them for you. We can model, but all of us must live these things. What’s your part? Would you pray about ways in which you can live these imperatives? There’s a lot at stake. Let’s do it.
 Clifton, Mark. Reclaiming Glory, Revitalizing Dying Churches. Chapter 4, pp.53-76.