Church Revitalization Strategist, TBC
Church revitalization is about making a “comeback.” The sports world loves a good comeback: George Foreman, Jack Nicklaus, Michael Jordan. The movie industry thrives on comeback stories: Rocky (all of them), The Wrestler, Captain America. The Bible is also known for its comeback stories: In the Old Testament we find Joseph, Moses, even Samson made a comeback of sorts. In the New Testament we see Peter boldly preaching at Pentecost, Saul of Tarsus comes back as the Apostle Paul. Of course the greatest comeback of all is Jesus resurrected from the dead! Biblical comeback stories always point us to God and give Him glory.
When a church reverses years of decline or breaks out of a plateau and begins to actively engage its community (in the process defying the predictions of its demise) God gets the glory! That’s why we work, seek, and pray for churches to be revitalized. Church revitalization is primarily about giving God the glory for the great things He has done!
The dictionary definition of revitalize is “to make (someone or something) active, healthy, or energetic again (merriam-webster.com).
The term church revitalization has been used with increasing frequency among church leaders in recent years. I, for one, am glad to witness an increase in discussion and concern for the many local Southern Baptist churches struggling to make a difference in their community. I am convinced the church revitalization discussion is seeking to answer questions many have been asking for years. One question is: “Is there hope for my church?” I believe the answer is a resounding “Yes, there is hope for your church!” I chose not to qualify that last statement because Jesus said in Matthew 19:26 “… with God all things are possible.” Church revitalization is a “God-thing.” It may be safe to say with man it is impossible. Yet if God is in it, and we do what He calls us to do, any church can be a success story for the glory of God!
The above definition implies there were once days of activity, health, and energy. Church revitalization is the dream and determination to return to such a state. Revitalization does not mean a church of 25 must become a mega-church. However, that church could become a vibrant congregation of 50, 75, or more. I would think most any church would find reason for celebration if they saw their membership double or triple! Yet church revitalization is not just about numbers. Church revitalization is about making a “spiritual comeback.”
I am aware some pastors perceive church revitalization as just another way of saying they should surrender their church property to someone else. I would respond that while some churches do decide transferring ownership of their property to another church is their best option, this is just one of at least seven unique approaches to church revitalization. Though this is often the last resort, in 2015 two churches in the Baptist association I serve as director of missions chose this course of action as their first option. One now serves as a satellite campus of a large church nearby while the other disbanded and gifted their property to the Arabic Baptist Church. Both congregations approached me about the idea and I happened to know of two congregations ready and able to take immediate possession of each property. Though the closing of both churches contained an element of sadness, God has gotten the glory in each case and both remain Southern Baptist churches which I believe is important.
On a personal note, the leaders of my home church (where I was saved, baptized, and ordained to the ministry) in Nashville found themselves a few years ago faced with a very difficult reality regarding the future of the church. Selling was an option as the property was on a prime commercial location. They could just work harder but that had not been effective. Or they could close the doors and relinquish the building to the local Baptist association. They voted to unite with a Baptist church in a neighboring city and become a satellite campus. Today, most would agree uniting with a larger church was the wisest choice if the building was to remain in use as a Southern Baptist church actively engaging their community with the gospel. Again, transferring property is a major decision. Most of the pastors I currently serve are seeking to turn things around under the Lord’s leadership and with the people they have.
As one of three church revitalization strategists in Tennessee please know that we want to do all we can to make you aware of the options, resources, and help that are available to you and your church. If you are serving a church and are praying for revitalization, you are not alone. Our first church revitalization retreat was held at Carson Springs Baptist Conference Center in early August and it was a joy to see pastors and their wives bonding together over a common burden for their churches back home.
Perhaps your church looks back on its “glory days.” If the “glory days” are 10 years ago or 50, they don’t have to remain in the past. Please, allow me to be clear: church revitalization is not a quick-fix program or a simple one-size-fits-every-church plan. It is a spiritual journey taken one step at a time under the Lord’s leadership. I will be glad to speak with you if you and your church are interested in beginning this journey.