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On Church Planting versus Church Reforming

Nine Marks Ministries has recently launched a new group blog called "Church Matters." Not surprisingly, it has been a very active blog in the three weeks or so that it has been up and running. I have particularly enjoyed a recent discussion that took place at Church Matters concerning whether it is better to plant new churches or attempt to reform existing churches. See the posts here, here, here, here, here, and here.

I am torn on this question. On the one hand, I am a huge fan of church planting and have several good friends who are planting churches in various places. Furthermore, I teach at Southeastern Seminary, where we put a great deal of emphasis on North American church planting. I have heard Dr. Akin remark on a number of occasions that his advice to seminarians is to plant churches where there are few rather than pastor existing congregations, especially close to the area where you grew up. So I greatly appreciate church planting, particularly in areas that are in great need of a gospel witness like New England and the Pacific Northwest (see Greg Gilbert's post, which is the final link above).

On the other hand, as an historian I appreciate churches with longstanding traditions of gospel faithfulness, even if some of those churches have strayed from that heritage in recent days. The church I am a member of was an absolute mess as recently as 15 years ago, and it took two different pastors and several explosive business meetings to get the church to the place it is today. We are now a gospel-driven, Great Commission congregation. If the lay leadership of our church, circa 1988, had succeeded in making their agenda normative, we could have become a gospel-denying, leftist social justice outpost. So I have a great appreciation for reforming local churches according to God's Word.

What think ye? As you formulate your response, try not to equate "reform" with Calvinism. Though Nine Marks is committed to Calvinism, I understand many (perhaps most) of our readers would not consider themselves "five point" Calvinists. So in regard to planting versus reforming, consider the latter to represent whatever you believe constitutes proper church order and a biblical approach to gospel ministry. Unless of course your convictions look a lot like Nine Marks, in which case it is perfectly acceptable to equate "church reform" with "Reformed church!"