by Rob Tims
There are more than a dozen evangelical churches within 5 miles of my middle Tennessee home, and we need more. Here are three reasons why we need more church plants in the deep South.
First, the Southeast is the most-churched area in the nation. I am presuming, of course, that this is technically true, but it certainly is the perception of most who live here. Believe it or not, that fact is a reason to plant more churches, not fewer. Time and time again in the Gospels, we see people of the religious establishment in love with the things of God and their performance for Him rather than God himself. Perhaps never in the history of the deep South has this subtle yet deadly form of idolatry been present in our churches. Sadly, many of these churches will so strongly resist a revival in the Gospel that they will struggle even to the point of death. Therefore, new churches are needed in an area bound to lose some existing congregations.
Second, many of the South’s existing churches are not exactly alive and well with the Gospel. Though some congregations will resist a revival in the Gospel, some will embrace it and reap the God-centered rewards. The same idolatry that leads some men to plant churches will lead to a call in some men to work through a Gospel-revitalization that will set the congregation up to succeed in the Gospel. The calling will be just as difficult as a church plant, though with a different set of problems. Asking a congregation to resource (pray, give, serve) a ministry that calls out their sinful idolatry does not come easily. Nevertheless, it is the calling of some and one that must be fulfilled.
Third, the deep South is spiritually stressed. A former neighbor once had to pay big money to have a large “male” pecan tree removed. Convinced it was diseased and a threat to their home, they hired an arborist to determine its condition. The arborist used the term “stressed” rather than “diseased.” The combination of some trimming and fertilizer would have given the tree decades of new life, yet our neighbors opted for the death sentence. Sadly, the large “female” pecan tree across the street suffered and later died due to the loss of its “mate.” Similarly, some have written off the South as “diseased” with regard to the Gospel. I think “stressed” is a better choice of words. With new church plants and men dedicated to revitalizing existing churches the deep south can become a shining example of Gospel-centered ministry for decades to come.
I can’t think of any place that doesn’t need a new or revitalized church, but I trust we won’t be tempted to write off the deep south in our plans.
Rob Tims is husband to Holly and father to Trey, Jono, Abby Jane and Luke. He’s the author of Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt, and manages the team behind smallgroup.com at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville. He writes regularly at RobTims.com and blogs every Friday at Forward Progress.