The landscape in North Carolina has changed.
The nations are now our neighbors. Almost 1 million North Carolinians (11%) do not speak English at home. Many of these are unreached peoples who have yet to hear the gospel.
Population growth in cities like Charlotte, Greensboro and Raleigh has outpaced the growth of the church. The result is that we now have areas of our state with inadequate numbers of churches to engage the lost.
Our small towns and communities are seeing culture shifts. Attendance in churches is down and many are struggling to engage their community with the gospel.
The good news is that many of our Baptist churches are meeting these challenges head on. They are working through the problems and looking for effective ways to see the gospel advance.
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 city, 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’s time to start thinking about 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 North Carolina.
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 North Carolina. 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.