Monday, April 14, 2014

Replant? Rethink!

Replant is an easy read. It is a true story, a story told simply and compellingly, a story that at some level many pastors would like to be their own.  It is the story of an old historic church with a beautiful building in downtown Kansas City.  As often happens to old historic downtown churches, this one journeyed all the way to the fringes of extinction.  When Mark DeVine became interim pastor it was dying under the weight of its glorious past. His first challenge was surviving. Previous pastors had been squeezed out by less than enjoyable processes. He describes how he discovered and conquered the shadowy clique ("the cartel") that was running the church behind the scenes.  But then he came up with the idea that the church, to move into its future, needed to give up its autonomy as a church and become a satellite church of Darrin Patrick's Journey Church in St. Louis.  The church did, and it worked.  They now have their own pastors and are bursting with people and activity.

A few things rub me the wrong way about this story:

  • It almost conveys the idea, "It worked for us, so what we did must have been God's will."  This is the danger of a book about church revitalization that is a story rather than an exposition of Scripture.
  • Pastor DeVine remarks that one reason he was able to survive the battle with the cartel is because his family was not with him at the church.  I'm sure that did make it easier for him (and for his family) as an interim pastor.  But I still think his ministry as a whole would have been enriched had his family joined him at the church for his ministry there, because pastoring is so much more than preaching and running business meetings.  In some ways, he seems to have functioned more as a CEO than a pastor.
  • In general, I'm uncomfortable with the philosophy of one church being run by another church.  There just seems no model for this in Scripture.  The closest would be the apostles running churches that were weak.  But Darrin Patrick isn't an apostle, nor is his church.  And the apostles focused on developing elders within the local church who could run the church when they were gone.  If Pastor DeVine made any serious efforts at developing elders from within the church, he did not mention it.  He seems to have condescendingly given up hope that the church would ever be able to make strategic plans for its own future.  The best thing they could do was give up control to a super church several hundred miles away.  Where did all of these energetic new members come from, and why did Darrin Patrick's philosophy and ministry team suddenly attract them?
Having shared my concerns, though, I will say that I am grateful to the Lord for using Pastors DeVine and Patrick to bring fresh life and hope to this church, and pray that it will remain a faithful gospel-preaching beacon for many years to come.


  1. Might want to do some research. Redeemer Fellowship is not, nor has it ever been, a satellite church of The Journey.

    1. Anonymous, have you read the book?

    2. I have indeed. While Mark alludes to "giving control" of the building to The Journey, the building was only in The Journey's control for a short while before they gave it to Kevin Cawley, Kris McGee, and Wes Crawford.

    3. Here's a quote from the book:
      "Such a merger would also immediately shift decision-making power to the larger parent church. I believed that divesting First Calvary of its ongoing self-determination would be one of the most troublesome but crucial steps to our recovery... Would this band of believers, in one grand final use of its collective prerogative of self-determination, surrender that power once and for all? Would this Baptist church, metaphorically speaking, fall on its sword as a church? Why would a congregation do such a thing? Why should they? To survive." (Kindle locations 644-648.)

    4. Sure, that's what the book says. And that's what happened to First Calvary. They ceded control. The Journey then ceded control to Redeemer. Redeemer is not a satellite church.
      First Calvary ceased to exist, and now Redeemer Fellowship exists. Check out