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I became the Director of Church Revitalization for Free Will Baptist North American Ministries in March of 2014. This is a brand new position in our denomination, and I have immersed myself in reading dozens of books, blogs and articles on the subject for months.
Just about everything I read on the topic of church revitalization involves a list of some sort:
“10 things churches need to do to attract new members”
“The 5 worst things churches do that turn off visitors”
“8 things the pastor of a struggling church needs to know”
“10 problems with church music today”
“7 questions to ask to see if YOU are the problem”
You get the picture.
I don’t know about anybody else, but sometimes I get lost in all the voices. (Especially when one “expert” gives the exact opposite advice of another “expert”!) It seems to me that it would be easy for the pastor of a struggling church who is reading all of this advice to just get so confused and frustrated, that a feeling of hopelessness and despair might set in.
Let me say right out of the box that I don’t have all the answers, and I certainly don’t consider myself to be an expert. You’ve probably figured out by now that I do NOT have 10 easy steps to church revitalization, world peace, or a cure for the common cold. However, I DO feel that I have learned a few basic things about this thing called “Church Revitalization”, and I would like to share them with you here:
Church revitalization is VITAL – I don’t think I need to bore you with a list of facts and figures on this point. The Free Will Baptist denomination has hundreds of churches that have either plateaued or are in decline. There are varied reasons for this – aging congregations, a lack of pastoral candidates, apathetic church members or leadership, etc. We will discuss these at length in the future.
Strengthening our existing churches must be a top priority, and there are many reasons for that. If we are planting one church for every one we are closing, then we are simply treading water. If we are planting one church for every TWO we are closing, then we are actually losing ground.
If we are going to be successful in fulfilling the Great Commission as a denomination, we must begin by strengthening our existing churches.
Church Revitalization is VARIED – In other words, no two situations are alike. Churches are like people in that they each have their own unique personality. The history of the church, its worship style, its leadership team, its location in the community and where it’s located in the U.S. – all these and many more are factors that make each situation unique. While there are some overarching principles that can be applied in every situation, a detailed analysis of an individual congregation will have to be done in order to really make a revitalization process successful. (We are developing tools to do just that – stay tuned!)
Church Revitalization is VICIOUS – Dangerous, harsh, fierce, brutal – Church revitalization is not for the faint of heart! It’s DIFFICULT WORK!
Think for a moment about what all is involved in turning around a church. First of all, it involves CHANGE – and generally,speaking, folks aren’t fond of change, or the agent of change for that matter!
Do a Bible study on the pitfalls of the trailblazer. Nehemiah (the leader of the first Free Will Baptist revitalization project) battled enemies from without and within, had his motives questioned, and pretty much had to wake up building and battling every day.
Before David could do battle with Goliath on the field of battle, he first had to fight through those close to him who questioned his motives, and fight through King Saul’s mind set of “we’ve always done things this way”.
Of course, the ultimate religious rebel was Jesus Christ, who came and challenged virtually every standard practice of organized religion. The religious folks were not too happy about it – they hated the message and killed the messenger!
Is it easy? Certainly not.
Is it necessary? Certainly.
Will it be worth it? Absolutely.
No, I don’t have all the answers, but I look forward to standing side by side with my brothers and sisters in Christ as we head out on this journey of revival and renewal in our Churches.
A world of lost and hurting people are counting on us. Make no mistake, they are worth it!