The New Old: Thoughts on Rebranding

Fusion BannerTraditionalists say:  What’s the CABC coming to?!  No more Regional Ministers?  New staff and website?  And now new slogans and catchwords like “Healthy Churches. Missional Churches.” Well, that’s not too weird, but what about “Fusi3on” (I had to take a tutorial just to type it) and “Impact Leaders, Ignite Mission and Infuse Culture”?

Innovators say:  Where’s the CABC going?!  Nowhere fast.  “Healthy Churches” sounds like “stable, same old, same old churches” and hasn’t “missional” run its course (Why does spell check still not recognize that word?!).  And what’s with all the “I’s”?  We’re getting i-phoned, i-podded and i-padded to death.

“New wine needs new wineskins… but others say the old wine was better.” 

Some recognize God and his kingdom in new initiatives.  Others see the tried and true more clearly in the past (where it’s been tried and proven true!).

Good news: This blog is for us all!  Then again, perhaps the innovators will say, It’s still too tainted with traditionalism and the traditionalists will say ‘taint enough.  Oh, well, here goes…

As a “new guy” with the CABC my take is that the new structures, staff and slogans are not just capturing what’s happening on the ground and what needs to happen much more but they are also recapturing what has happened in our history.

  • God is taking us from maintenance to mission.
  • We’re not settling for our dwindling market share.
  • We’re creatively crossing-cultures for Christ, not waiting for people to join and become like us.
  • We’re leaving our confines and communicating with our communities, realizing that we must change (as we expect overseas missionaries to do) before we can invite others to Christ and change.
  • We’re counting on a Jesus movement to redefine our community and churches.

And none of this is new. What we now see as “maintenance” used to be “mission”.  Mission is our history, our DNA and dominant gene.  Many of our churches, churches now considered stayed at best and stagnant at worst, owe their existence to the likes of Henry Alline (1748-84) and, for the African United Baptist Association, to David George (1743-1810) and Richard Preston (1790-1861).  They were anything but stayed and stagnant.

They were imaginative, charismatic and unconventional.  Essentially they were missionaries not a churchmen, though churches followed in their wakes.  They connected people to Christ.  As Alline said on his deathbed at age 35, “I long that poor sinners should have such views of the Lord Jesus as I have.”

Though the descendants of that movement are now seen as an out of touch sub-culture, Alline, George and Preston’s congregations were the cutting-edge cusp of confused cultures finding renewed identity in Christ and coming to see themselves as the “favoured people of God” Isn’t that what we want for our neighbours?

I’m uncomfortable with talk and effort on church growth and even church planting – it’s neither old or new enough for me.  Churches started and grew back then because we weren’t trying to start or grow them.  We wanted Jesus Christ – for ourselves and for others.  He’s the new old – the Alpha and Omega.  In Alline’s words he’s the One Eternal Now.

No matter how we rebrand and revamp, may Christ’s love and intimacy be our deepest identifying mark, always driving our mission.

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion… Each of you should not only look to your own interests but also to the interests of others.   Philippians 2:1,4

**The info about Henry Alline comes from George A. Rawlyk’s Henry Alline (1987)


4 Responses to “The New Old: Thoughts on Rebranding”

Stephen BuddFebruary 12th, 2014 at 10:12 am

Thanks for the article Paul. I can say a great big AMEN to your insights. I appreciate your statement about the position of our convention, our current situation as a convention is not new. We so quickly forget that men and women like David Livingstone and our own Maria Norris went out into the world as innovators. David Livingstone was quoted as saying that, “The best remedy for a sick church is to put it on a missionary diet.”He was also quoted that, “This generation can only reach this generation.” May we be apprenticed to Jesus as Dallas Willard so aptly described it, May the outpouring of missional people who are connected to Jesus, connected to his church, and connected to our communities bring glory to God as he adds to His church, daily those who are being saved.

Leo FletcherFebruary 12th, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Hi Paul,

For some time now I have been somewhat troubled by some of the comments that have come from our Convention Leaders. One leader, a few years ago, stated that he was not concerned about church revitalization as his focus was about church planting and replanting.

When I look at our Convention Website I see a focus on Church planting (65 churches by 2025) but not much mention about revitalization. I am wondering if our Convention leadership has given up, to some extent, on our traditional churches, with the belief that they will just die a natural death. A church dying a natural death (in my personal opinion) cannot be supported by scripture (at least I don’t think it can).

You mention in your article that our churches today exist on the shoulders of such mission minded-people as Henry Alliane. Do you not also give credit to our existing churches as carrying convention on its shoulders? What would we be without our traditional churches. (By the way, I was talking to an elderly person from my church the other day and he feels that his generation has been “given-up on”. He claims that they would be willing to change under the right, trained leadership).

I am not touting a banner for a traditional-maintanance-ministry type of church. I am not a new guy on the block. I have been in ministry for over 30 years. I have studied over the last 7-8 years to learn about church revitalization. I believe revitalization is not only possible within our traditional churches; but also, many of our traditional churches crave the pastoral leadership to accomplish just that. This has been the case in my last three ministry charges.

I am currently finishing an MA on this very topic under the supervision of Dr. Stephen McMullin. My MA project focuses on a five stage process (2 + years before implementation) toward church revitalization. My current situation (pastoral church) is the third time I have used this process. I have seen a progression of success from one church to the next.

I would love to hear from you what the objectives are of your department toward church revitalization, toward transitioning traditional churches into thriving ministries into the 21st century.

Thanks, Leo.

Nancy StretchApril 10th, 2017 at 3:09 pm

I like the sounds of this, Leo, though I don’t know you I don’t think. I’m not sure convention is as much “all” new focus and “no” revitalization but perhaps you didn’t mean it quite that strongly. In any regard, being part of an established church, it surely would be helpful to figure ways to bring it up to speed, as it were. We are aiming in that direction but finding it difficult to find pastoral leadership to assist, willing to come to a r-urban (rural urban) church to reach our community in ways that perhaps wouldn’t have made sense 20 years ago. I’m just agreeing with you, realizing the solution isn’t a simple matter. Hoping this new meeting of minds will help in that regard.

Paul CarlineFebruary 13th, 2014 at 3:22 pm

Thanks, Stephen. I wrote the blog knowing I myself had far to go on this journey of really knowing Jesus and knowing how to help others know him. But I’m thankful for God graciously calling us and the world to himself and that I’m not on the journey alone.