The landscape of Kentucky has changed!
The nations are now our neighbors. Over a quarter of a million Kentuckians do not speak English at home, and nearly 180,000 citizens of the commonwealth are foreign born. Many of these are unreached peoples who have yet to hear the gospel.
Population growth in cities like Bowling Green, Lexington, Owensboro and Louisville has outpaced the growth of the church. In fact, we now have areas all over our state, both urban and rural, with inadequate numbers of churches to engage the lost.
Our towns and communities are seeing culture shifts, as our nation continues to transition and deal with the impacts of a global pandemic. Attendance in churches continues to fluctuate, and many churches are having to learn news ways to engage their community with the gospel.
The good news is that many of our Kentucky Baptist churches are meeting these challenges head on. They are working through the problems and looking for effective ways to see the gospel advance. The Gospel to Every Home and Acts 1:8 Mission Assessment Paradigm continue to help many churches and associations, as they reengage their communities with the gospel.
Is your church already playing a role in seeing our state reached with the gospel? Maybe you are strategizing to engage an unreached people group in your community, working in a partnership to revitalize a church, or preparing to launch a team to start a new church in a pocket of lostness. If so, it is time to start thinking about an exit strategy.
In Mark chapter 1, after John the Baptist was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). He calls some of his disciples, heals many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out demons. Then, in Mark 1:35-39, Jesus arises early and goes to a desolate place to pray. And when Simon and others who were searching for Jesus found him, they said, “Everyone is Looking for you.” But Jesus said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” So, Jesus went throughout all of Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and casting out demons (paraphrase vs. 35-39). Although Jesus healed people everywhere he went, he understood the purpose for which he had come, and it guided his path and influenced his decisions. Even though the Lord may not have shown us every step we should take to accomplish his mission, it should not stop us from developing an exit strategy.
Advancing with the end in mind
Exit strategies have long been an important component of how missionaries engage peoples, cities and regions with the gospel. Effective exit strategies help with ministry alignment and evaluation, bring clarity in communication, establish healthy boundaries, and create a trajectory and momentum toward multiplying gospel work.
Establishing biblically grounded, well thought through exit strategies is a valuable step in preparing your church for gospel advance in Kentucky.
Developing healthy exit strategies
It is one thing to have an exit strategy. It is another thing to have one that is effective. Here are a few considerations as you begin to think about developing an exit strategy to fit your context:
1. A biblical foundation: Start with a clear understanding of the mission and characteristics of a New Testament church. Then, map out clear objectives for church autonomy. A helpful question to ask is, “What biblically needs to be in place before we exit the work?” One reason churches lose strength, momentum and eventually die is that they do not have a strong biblical foundation. A great resource to consider as you think though the ecclesiological and missiological foundation in your exit strategy is 12 Characteristics of a Healthy Church by the International Mission Board (IMB).
2. A vision for sustainability: A good exit strategy must address sustainability related to areas such as finances, leadership readiness, overall cohesiveness of a body and other practical issues. A key question to ask is, “What practically needs to be in place for this new work to be autonomous and sustainable long term?” With the high failure rate of new church plants in the U.S. (some suggest as high as 70-80%), we need to make sure we don’t exit before the new work is positioned well to stand on its own.
3. A commitment to ongoing relationship: Exiting does not mean abandoning. When the Apostle Paul exited his work, he maintained contact and relationship with local churches. As you think through your exit strategy, ask the question, “What will the ongoing relationship and support look like after we leave?” Think through what ways you will continue to relationally support and encourage the church. Clear expectations regarding the ongoing relationship will go a long way in the flourishing of a new work.
Establishing biblically grounded, well thought through exit strategies is a valuable step in preparing your church for gospel advance in Kentucky. As we begin to think more like missionaries, let’s consider how we can best craft and develop effective exit plans for the work to which God has called us.
The Mission Mobilization Team exist to serve you and your church. Click: www.kybaptist.org/missions-strategies/ to connect with our team. Email either John Barnett [email protected] or Doug Williams [email protected] to discuss next steps. We look forward to serving you.