By Phil Young
Director of Missions, Knox County Association of Baptists
Oh, I could easily justify keeping things the way they were. After all, I wasn’t overweight and my regular choice of foods was fairly healthy (except for the hot glazed Krispy Kreme donuts). And in comparison, I appeared to be in as good of shape as most of my peers.
However, I knew deep down that my health could be better. I had reached the point where the conviction about what could be was overriding the justification of status quo.
I set an appointment with a trainer. The first thing he did was evaluate my current health and physical fitness status.
Within days, he presented me with a plan that would lead toward better, long-term physical health.
Of the 10 exercises in the plan, only two involved “pumping iron.” You know, the kind of weight lifting we like to do in the gym to show off.
When I asked for a few more “pumping iron” exercises, my trainer explained those were called “vanity exercises.” He was more concerned with developing what he called “trunk strength” — the type of body strength in the right places, and in the right ways, to keep me strong for life’s long-haul. He said, “Most people are just concerned about “looking good — the vanity exercises. I am getting you in shape to get in shape!”
Almost immediately I noticed the parallels between my physical fitness experience and Church Revitalization.
Here are three important considerations for churches who are trying to decide if they really want to begin the Church Revitalization process:
(1) Be willing to evaluate your current condition. You may not like what you see and learn, but an accurate evaluation of your current condition is essential. It is always easy to justify your condition. Avoid that temptation. Allow God to bring a new conviction about what “could be.” There are numerous tools available that can assist you in this assessment.
(2) Focus on getting stronger in the right places and in the right ways. Our biggest temptation can be to jump right into the “vanity exercises” — you know, the things that quickly make us look good on the surface. It is so much more important to focus on getting your church stronger in the right places and in the right ways. Here are some suggestions to build strength for the long-term.
- Love your people. It is easy to get discouraged with people in a declining or plateaued church. It is also easy to focus on the people we “wish we had” than on the people “we do have.” In order to reach people we do not have, we need to genuinely love the people we do have. Love them from where they are to where God desires them to be.
- Preach the gospel — the whole gospel. Work diligently to keep your opinions, and especially your “attitude” out of your sermons. Faithfully present the biblical gospel – the whole gospel. Jesus brings hope and healing, not the latest “self-help” advice.
- Pray. This is the step we most often skip. No strategy will substitute for fervent prayer, and no process should proceed without it.
- Commit for the “long-haul.” Just like getting in proper physical condition, there are no quick fixes. You must remain constant and consistent for the long-term. Remember, you may not see the results of revitalization overnight; you are building strength for life!
(3) Get started. Many churches and church leaders are guilty of “paralysis by analysis.” We talk about what we need to do, but never get around to actually doing it.
It is just like my decision about getting in shape. I had the desire, I had some great advice and assistance from someone more knowledgeable than me, I had a developed plan but I still had to put it into action.
For churches and church leaders considering the process of revitalization, it’s time to start getting in shape to get in shape! Not sure where to start? Call, I would love to encourage you in the process and help you get started. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— For those outside of the Knoxville area, contact Steve Holt at the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board at email@example.com.