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DM D E ACO N MAGA ZINE ®

Fall 2016

REVITALIZATION Renewing the Local Church

8 Characteristics

of Breakout Church Leaders God Brought Revitalization to Our Family

Restoring

YOUR SOUL Disciplines to Refresh and Revitalize

The JOY

of Church Revitalization

SERVANT LEADERS IN THE CHURCH


SERVANT LEADERS WE BELIEVE STRONG ARE AN IMPORTANT PART OF MINISTRY

DM D E ACO N MAGA ZINE ®

SERVANT LEADERS IN THE CHURCH

Summer 2016

Conflict at Home

Basic Rules for Fighting Fair

Confrontation in Conflict

Help deacons learn more about their ministry role in your church and community and connect real-life current conditions in church leadership with biblical truths written by key leaders.

Biblical Principles of Peace Making Winning Over Conflict

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How Do You Handle Turmoil Within Yourself?

The Deacon & His Watch

Steadying the Ship in the Storms of Conflict

CONFLICT

& Resolution

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by Jim Henry SUMMER 2016

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DEACON MAGAZINE

develops strong servant leaders who partner with the pastor in fulfilling the church’s mission & ministry. VOLUME 47, NUMBER 1

Fall 2016 Eric Geiger Faith Whatley Amy Lowe Emily Ellis Mark Dance Nancy Comeaux Dawn Wyse

Vice President, LifeWay Resources Director, Adult Ministry Manager, Adult Ministry Publishing Publishing Team Leader Executive Editor Production Editor Art Director

Editorial services provided by Craig Webb Graphic design services provided by Edward A. Crawford & Suzanne Wade Send questions/comments to: Content Editor, Deacon Magazine One LifeWay Plaza Nashville, TN 37234-0175 Or make comments on the Web at lifeway.com

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Director, Media Business Development for Magazines

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Advertising Production Send advertising questions/comments to One LifeWay Plaza, MSN 136, Nashville, TN 37234 E-mail: mediaoptions@lifeway.com Media kits: www.lifeway.com/mediaoptions Printed in the United States of America

Cover: Corbis Images Deacon Magazine (ISSN 0045-9771; Item 005075215) is published quarterly by LifeWay Christian Resources, One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234, Thom S. Rainer, President. © 2016 LifeWay Christian Resources. For inquiries, visit lifeway.com, or write LifeWay Church Resources Customer Service, One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234-0113. For subscriptions or subscription address changes, visit lifeway.com/magazines, fax (615) 251-5818, or write to the above address. For orders with three or more issues shipped to one address, mailed quarterly, at the ministry rate, visit lifeway.com/magazines, fax (615) 251-5933, or write to the above address. Annual individual or gift subscription: $17.95. Save 12% off the cover price by choosing the ministry rate when placing your order (three or more issues shipped to one address, mailed quarterly): $3.50 each per quarter, plus shipping. Please allow six to eight weeks for arrival of first issue. We believe that the Bible has God for its author; salvation for its end; and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter; and that all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. The 2000 statement of The Baptist Faith and Message is our doctrinal guideline. Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible® Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible® copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.lockman.org) Deacon Magazine often lists websites that may be helpful to our readers. Our staff verifies each site’s usefulness and appropriateness prior to publication. However, website content changes quickly, so we encourage you to approach all websites with caution. Make sure sites are still useful and appropriate before sharing them with friends and family. This magazine may include paid advertisements for some products and services not affiliated with LifeWay. The inclusion of the paid advertisements does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by LifeWay Christian Resources of the products or services, and LifeWay accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any statement, representation or warranty made in such advertisements or for the soundness or quality of any such products or services so advertised. Purchase or use of such products or services is at the user’s own risk.

From One Leader to Another by Mark Dance

Your New Executive Editor I pray you will use what you learn in Deacon Magazine to be an encourager to those in your church who need it most. WHEN RECENTLY ASKED to become the executive editor of Deacon Magazine, I enthusiastically said “yes” for three reasons: 1. I am the proud son and grandson of Baptist deacons who faithfully loved and served their churches for decades. 2. I have greatly benefited from pastoring alongside deacons for 27 years. 3. I now serve as LifeWay’s pastor to pastors, and I consider deacons to be a pastor’s greatest advocates in the local church. Deacon Magazine also welcomes Craig Webb as its content editor. Craig is a great choice because he understands the nuts and bolts of the local church as well as good publishing. The theme of this issue is church revitalization, which is not to be confused with church growth. The numerical growth of a church is not as important as the spiritual growth (health) of a church, although a revitalized church will eventually experience both. A church’s road to revitalization is long and hard, but along the way you begin to bond with the others on the journey. Deacon friends, your clear voice of encouragement and support on the road to revitalization means the world to your pastor and the members of your church whom you serve. On this revitalization journey, I hope you see yourself in the role of Aaron and Hur, who held up the arms of Moses (Ex. 17) while Joshua led the troops to victory against Amalek’s army. Or maybe you relate better to the original deacons in Acts 6 who refereed the first widow war so the pastors could get back to praying and preaching. My hope and prayer is that you will be encouraged by this issue and use what you have learned to be an encourager to those in your church who need it most. God bless!

Mark Dance FALL 2016

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Contents

MY LIFE

15

MY WALK

19

Fall 2016

MY MINISTRY

25

MY CHURCH

33

20

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SERVANT LEADERS IN THE CHURCH


REVITALIZATION Renewing the Local Church

DEACON MAGAZINE

Features

16

12 8 Characteristics of Breakout Church Leaders

by Thom S. Rainer Revitalization takes leaders who are willing to do the hard work of leading their churches toward health.

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Out of the Darkness

by Rick Prall One deacon describes God’s faithfulness during the rebellion of his young adult son and the loss of a job of 17 years.

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20 Restoring Your Soul

by Mark Dance Three Disciplines to Refresh and Revitalize

26 The First Follower 30

by Rick Ezell The Deacon as the First Servant, the First Leader, and the First Follower

Leadership Challenges in Revitalization

by Ed Stetzer A Long and Slow Labor of Love in the Face of Resistance

34 The Joy of Church Revitalization

by Ron Edmondson The Rewards of Seeing a Church Turn Around to Become a Healthy, Growing Community

38 Revitalization Through Simplification — A Deacon’s Role

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by Craig Webb As a deacon, you can be a champion for a simpler and more effective church.

On the Cover

40 How to Assess Your Church’s Well-Being by Micah Fries A Tool for Diagnosing Health & Creating an Appropriate Plan of Action

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From One Leader to Another by Mark Dance From the Heart of a Pastor by Andy Cook Being God’s Man by Kris Dolberry My Favorite Deacon by Joe McKeever Soundbites

Fall 2016

REVITALIZATION Renewing the Local Church

8 Characteristics

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Plan of Salvation Soundbites: Revitalization Leadership by Chuck lawless Deacons Meetings (September-November) by Ron Brown Toolbox by Mark Dance And Another Thing ...

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of Breakout Church Leaders God Brought Revitalization to Our Family

Restoring

20 34

YOUR SOUL Disciplines to Refresh and Revitalize

The JOY

of Church Revitalization

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FALL 2016

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From the Heart of a Pastor

A Remarkable Friend Indeed “Two decades from today I’ll still remember what my deacon did for me.” by ANDY COOK

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HEN TIM Martin told me that he was on his way to the church to see me, part of my pastor’s personality braced for the unexpected. Tim was one of the most successful men I’d ever met and a key leader in our community. He oversaw multimillion-dollar projects as a matter of course and had the ear of political and business leaders across the Southeastern United States. Not surprisingly, Tim was also a key leader in our church, where I’d been pastor for about a year.

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For the rest of my ministry, I never again underestimated the power of a visit, phone call, or bedside prayer. Ten minutes after the phone call, Tim blew into the office suite and let himself into my office. He commandeered the small sofa, looked me in the eye, and asked how I was doing. It sounds silly now, but until I knew exactly what this very influential church leader wanted, I wasn’t sure how to answer the question. Tell me, I thought. Tell me what you want and why you stopped everything you had to do to come see me … and then I’ll let you know how I’m doing. Tim saw my confusion. Immediately, he rephrased the question. “How are you doing with your father’s situation?” he asked. And just like that, all the stress of a new ministry melted into the wonderful realization that one of my deacons was simply checking on his friend. My father had been hospitalized and was facing open-heart surgery the next day.

I was racing through a week’s worth of work that Monday morning, trying to make sure there would be plenty of time to handle our family crisis. Tim had cleared his calendar for the rest of the day. The two of us left the office and headed for the hospital. There was a visit, a prayer, and some much-needed encouragement from a man who firmly believed God was in control. It was the kind of encouragement I’d given countless times for other families. This time, however, it was my family in need of the encouragement. And this time, it was my deacon who’d taken the time to pray with us. He stayed in touch with us the rest of the week, too, as my father went through the difficult — but successful — surgery. For the rest of my ministry, I never again underestimated the power of a visit, phone call, or bedside prayer. To my absolute delight, other servant leaders like Tim came into our lives, giving just the right ministry at just the right moment. Because our church was led by strong servant leaders — by great deacons — we had a wonderful ministry there for 18 years. Maybe it’s been a while since someone’s told you how much it means when a deacon puts ministry at the top of his to-do list. Maybe you’ve grown numb to the positive impact a hospital visit can make. Perhaps you’ve forgotten what a great gift a home-cooked meal can be for a family in crisis. You might have wondered if a phone call and a prayer really matter. Rest assured, they matter. Nearly two decades after that Monday when a very busy deacon made me the focus of his day, I’m still overwhelmed by his simple act of biblical friendship. Two decades from today I’ll still remember what my deacon did for me. And someone you serve today is almost certain to remember what you did for them. Andy Cook was a pastor for 27 years before founding a new ministry called Experience Israel Now.


Being God’s Man

Being God’s Man by Kris Dolberry

MANHOOD IS LIKE FIRE

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N THE LATE 1800s, the most efficient ways to clear property for farming or railroad construction was to set small, manageable fires and let them burn and remove unwanted vegetation. It was called controlled burning. But on October 8, 1871, a cold front in Eastern Wisconsin blew strong winds through the area and fanned a small controlled burn into a raging inferno called the Peshtigo Fire. It consumed approximately 1.2 million acres in Marinette County, Wisconsin. Homes and entire towns were completely destroyed. The death toll was between 1,200 and 2,400. Fire is like that, isn’t it? When it stays within the confines of a “controlled burn” or the intention for which it was created, it is helpful, captivating, and extremely powerful. Focused, fire can even cut through solid steel. But, when it moves outside those bounds, it leaves pain, destruction, and the stench of death in its wake.

Like fire, manhood is not neutral. In my 16 years of pastoral leadership, I’ve learned that manhood is like fire. Where men understand what God designed a man to be and live that out where they live, work, and play, like fire they will warm marriages, families, churches, and communities. But, when men step outside the bounds of what the Bible says a man should be, everything around them burns to the ground. You don’t even have to be a Christian or believe the Bible to know this is true. Just look at the data. In Tony Evans’ book, Kingdom Man: Every Man’s Destiny, Every Woman’s Dream, he cites that 70 percent of prisoners

The Peshtigo Fire On the evening of October 8, 1871, the worst recorded forest fire in North American history raged through Northeastern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, destroying millions of dollars worth of property and timberland, and taking between 1,200 and 2,400 lives. Source: peshtigofire.info

SERVANT LEADERS IN THE CHURCH


and 80 percent of rapists in the United States grew up in a home with no father present, and 71 percent of all high school dropouts are from fatherless homes. Almost all marital issues are the result of a man acting like a selfish little boy, rather than pursuing the heart of his wife. When it comes to manhood, we have a wildfire on our hands. In fact, we live in a culture that is trying to redefine what it means to be a man altogether. That is why it is critical for churches to have a clearly defined, strategic, and intentional plan for reaching and discipling men. Back to the Peshtigo fire. If you’ve never heard of it, the likely reason is because it happened at the same time as another destructive blaze — the Great Chicago Fire. The nation turned its attention to a less deadly (it killed up to 300 people) yet more prominent fire. When it comes to ministry to men, for many years and in many churches we have turned our attention to more flashy flames, when the more powerful fire was smoldering in the background. Every man in your church is a flame of potential. He can be a fire that warms his home and your church or one that destroys them. We must be intentional to embed a culture of discipling men that is deep within the fabric of our churches. Imagine what could happen when we harness the power of that fire and focus it on burning hot for Jesus? Could it be that our homes, marriages, churches, and communities might never be the same? Could it be said about our churches like it was said about the early church, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here too” (Acts 17:6). Kris Dolberry is a pastor, Bible teacher, church consultant, writer, and dad of three. He is married to Vanessa, his high school sweetheart. After serving in pastoral leadership for 16 years, Kris now leads ministry to men at LifeWay and serves as executive editor of Stand Firm, a daily devotional magazine for men. He is passionate about serving churches in their mission of making disciples. Kris and his family live outside Nashville, Tennessee. THINKSTOCK

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The Chicago Fire of 1871 The Great Chicago Fire burned from October 8 to October 10, 1871, and destroyed thousands of buildings, killed an estimated 300 people, and caused an estimated $200 million in damages. Legend has it that a cow kicked over a lantern in a barn and started the fire that left an area of about four miles long in ruins. Source: history.com

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My Favorite Deacon

Guy Williams

“He just keeps growing and giving.” by Joe McKeever

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HURRICANE had decimated the region and flooded much of the city. Hundreds had died. All over the city, people were on rooftops crying to be rescued. First responders were lifting them by helicopter and commandeering boats to save them. In the middle of the confusion, the family and friends of Guy Williams panicked when they realized he was nowhere to be found. Guy Williams is a banker and a deacon at First Baptist Church of New Orleans. A native New Orleanian, he loves the city with its amazing history and diverse population. Guy is active in a local medical ministry situated in the neediest area of the city and serves on a board dealing with foster children and their families. He is a compassionate follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s why no one was surprised when they finally located him. Guy

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Williams had taken his boat into the floodwaters of the city and was busy rescuing stranded residents. A national newspaper wrote a glowing tribute to the banker businessman who worked night and day to save lives. David Crosby, pastor of the First Baptist Church of New Orleans, names Guy Williams as one of his favorite deacons. He said, “Guy will arrive home late from a business trip to Europe, but the next morning he’s in his pew at church and ready to teach his men’s Sunday School class, ignoring the jet lag. Taking care of business in his home church has just as high a priority as running his business.” Guy’s business is the Gulf Coast Bank and Trust Company, of which he is founder and president. He and his wife, Dale, have two children. Pastor Crosby says, “Guy was brought up in this church and was taught to love the Lord, honor his pastors, serve other

Joe McKeever has been saved more than 60 years, has been preaching more than 50 years, has been drawing cartoons for Baptist publications for more than 40 years, and has been retired from pastoring for more than 10 years. These days, he spends his time writing books, taking every preaching invitation coming his way, holding deacon training retreats, and cartooning for the Baptist Press.

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M Y FAVO R I T E D E ACO N

people, and tithe his income from his youth.” Pastor Crosby continues, “Guy is a mentor to our staff members, our deacons, and many others in our church. He models what he teaches in his Bible class. Guy’s Bible teaching is stellar, and his Bible class loves him. He shepherds his flock both with great preparation and with loving concern for the members. When he is forced to miss, he always recruits his substitute and alerts his class leadership. “Guy makes a priority of maintaining healthy relationships in the church. He works for peace. He will fully support a decision even when he has taken another view in the discussion. He will initiate reconciliation if friendships are strained. “His concern for neighbors who have needs is far-reaching and consistent. He reaches out to help in every way he can. “Guy does not wait to be asked. If he perceives a need, he moves to meet that need. He sees this proactive style as a deacon’s role and responsibility. “Sunday after Sunday, guests come to worship with us at the invitation of Guy Williams. A new member on Sunday mentioned one name to me that served as her connection to our church — Guy Williams. Guy has a reputation in our city for integrity, generosity, and excellence. People from all walks of life respect him for the strength of his character and the tenderness of his heart. “We look up to him, not because he is on a pedestal, but because he is ahead in his spiritual growth. “And he just keeps growing and giving. He is surprising and delightful, courageous and insightful. He stabilizes my heart with his faithfulness and blesses me with his trust and support.”


Soundbites

SOUNDBITES

24%

Statistics

Bless His Heart Here are some tangible ways your church can bless your pastor: Pastor Appre1yearCelebrate ciation Day/Month each with notes, cards,

Percentage of congregations claiming no denominational affiliation in 2012. An increase from 18 percent in 1998.

Honor Your Pastor October is Pastor Appreciation Month and Mark Dance, associate vice president of pastoral leadership at LifeWay, has three ways to honor your pastor.

People in smaller congregations give more money to their churches than do people in larger congregations. Source: The National Congregations Study, Duke University http://www.soc.duke.edu/natcong/Docs/ NCSIII_report_final.pdf

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Recognize Your Pastor Publicly. A special appreciation event gives church members an opportunity to articulate their personal expressions of love, respect, and appreciation.

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Encourage Your Pastor Personally.

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Whether they are leading successfully or failing miserably, all pastors need encouragement, love, and the respect of their church families.

About three in four women worldwide — or about 2 billion women — rate their lives negatively enough to be considered “struggling” or “suffering.” Source: http://www.gallup.com/poll/187973/gallup-topworld-findings-2015.aspx

Bless Your Pastor Tangibly. (See column to the right for ideas.)

Source: http://lfwy.co/HonorPastor

and gifts for the pastor and his wife. Take your pastor somewhere fun: game, concert, hunting, etc. Encourage at least one day of Sabbath rest each week. Take your pastor for a meal and talk about his life, not his ministry. Support and encourage your pastor’s involvement in missions. Ask your pastor how you can specifically pray for his family.

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A list of 33 ideas can be found at http:// www.lifeway.com/pastors/33-ways-tobless-your-pastor/.

The Bread of Life Most people say they can’t do outreach because they’re too busy, but surely they have to eat every day! And surely they can eat a few meals a week with [their] neighbors. Missionaries in other parts of the world use this method, and we can use it as well. Mission doesn’t always have to look “extraordinary.” It can look like a barbecue! – Tony Merida, pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, N.C., and author of Ordinary: How To Turn the World Upside Down (B&H) http://tonymerida.net/2012/ lessons-from-year-one-of-imago-dei-church-part-2-of-3/

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Revitalization

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8 Characteristics of Breakout Church Leaders Revitalization takes leaders who are willing to do the hard work of leading their churches toward health.

by THOM S. RAINER

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ITTLE DOUBT EXISTS that many churches in America are sick. The statistics paint a dismal picture. But I remain optimistic about churches across our nation because we serve a God of all possibilities. Can a dying church find life? Absolutely. But it takes leaders who are willing to do the hard work of leading their churches toward health. While conducting research for Breakout Churches, a study of churches that moved from decline to significant and sustained growth, I discovered several traits that distinguish breakout church leaders from merely good leaders. Here’s a brief look at each.

Biblical faithfulness.

breakout church leaders never stray from biblical truths or central doctrines of the Christian faith. Belief in the authority of Scripture is requisite for church leaders. But breakout leaders also passionately live out their beliefs. They are hopeful, believing all things are possible with God, including the revitalization of dying churches.

Perseverance.

declining churches are usually mired in unhealthy structures and traditions that cannot be reversed in a short time. Fortunately, breakout leaders have a long-term view of ministry. The average tenure of a breakout church leader exceeds 21 years, while the national average is only 3.6 years. Pastors who make it to their 5th year have a good chance of experiencing their most fruitful ministry at a church. A long-tenured pastor is one of the key requisites for churches to experience revitalization and long-term health.

Confident humility.

breakout church leaders are often reluctant to attribute the church’s accomplishments to themselves. While they confidently believe their leadership was critical to the health of the church, their confidence centers more on what God is doing in their lives and less on their own inherent abilities.

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Revitalization

The revitalization process is difficult and invites criticism. Despite the pains and trials they experience, breakout church leaders express an intense love for the members of their congregations.

blame people and circumstances when things don’t go well. Breakout church leaders accept responsibility for things that go wrong, and they see God’s possibilities even in difficult situations.

Christlike spirit.

most pastors experience some pain, heartache, and frustration as they lead their churches. But those who are leading a church out of a downward spiral experience more than their share of discouragement. The revitalization process is difficult and invites criticism. Despite the pains and trials they experience, breakout church leaders express an intense love for the members of their congregations. They follow Jesus’ model for their ministries and demonstrate an unconditional acceptance of all their members.

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Legacy focused.

a distinguishing mark of a breakout leader is the desire to see the church thrive and make a difference beyond the ministry of the current leadership. They make decisions that will benefit the church after they are gone.

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Persistence.

most breakout churches don’t experience explosive, overnight growth. For most, the path of growth is slow, methodical, and strewn with obstacles. Because they have a long-term perspective, these pastors are willing to lead in a way the congregation can manage — one intentional step at a time.

Outwardly focused vision.

breakout church leaders lead their churches to look beyond the walls of the congregation. They devote time and energy to connecting with their communities. These pastors are passionate about reaching the lost and unchurched, and they consistently communicate this priority to their congregations. Some pastors are born with gifts and characteristics that make them great leaders. But I’m convinced many of these traits can be learned and sharply honed. The process of revitalization includes more than the transformation of a church; it includes the transformation of a leader. Though any story or report of church revitalization is encouraging, I am always particularly encouraged to hear about pastors who are moving from a sense of hopelessness in their own leadership and churches, to an attitude of hopefulness and possibilities.

Thom S. Rainer (@ThomRainer) is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. This article first appeared in the May/June/July 2015 issue of Facts & Trends (FactsAndTrends.net). Used by permission.

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Acceptance of responsibility. weak leaders


MY LIFE

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“The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He renews my life” (Ps. 23:1-3).

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REVITALIZATION

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OUT of the

DARKNESS One deacon describes God’s faithfulness during the rebellion of his son and the loss of a job of 17 years. by RICK PRALL

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“We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). THERE’S A SONG based on Romans 8:28 that declares, “You make all things work together for my good.” It strikes a chord within me and moves me to worship. Another song declares “You alone can rescue. You alone can save.” Both have taken on special meaning in my life and stir deep emotion in my heart. gratiRarely do I sing these songs without tears of praise and grati tude flowing down my cheeks. Sometimes, as Christians and ministry servants in a local church, we get trapped in the mindset and expectation that nothing bad (I mean nothing really hard or nothing really bad) will ever happen to our family. “After all,” we may think, “I’m serving serving Christ, I’m serving others, and I’m meeting needs.” If we’re we’re not careful, we may equate service for Christ with some sort sort of spiritual insurance policy against the struggles that come come in life. Am I the only deacon who thinks like that? I surrendered to God’s call to ministry while I was in college. Everything I’ve known related to work and career, for the most part, has been ministry-based — either in a local church or through a denominational agency. Through the good and the not-so-good days, as well as the joys and the tears of local church ministry, I’ve watched God’s hand at work. I have seen God do some amazing acts of reconciliation and redemption for others and their families. In my own life, I’ve sought God’s wisdom for direction in ministry, job relocations, career path decisions, missions involvement, and even in comfort for myself and my family at the deaths of my father followed a year later by the death of my wife’s mother.

Twenty years ago, I moved from a church staff position to a role with a denominational agency. At the time of the move, our kids were ages 7 and 5. Upon arrival in a new state and our new house, we began our search for a new church home as well. It wasn’t long before we discovered the place where we belonged, the church to which we believed God had led us. We jumped right into service and ministry. We served within the student, worship, and deacon ministry. Sometimes, I think we (or at least me) interpret Romans 8:28 to indicate that God works in such a way that all the things in our lives are good. And things were good. We had a great house, a great church, great jobs, and great friends. Similar to a popular T-shirt motto, for me, “life was good.” But the verse doesn’t say everything will be good; the verse actually indicates that all things work together for good. The “all things” includes all the good things as well as all the bad things that happen in life. Sure, our kids went through some of the typical teenage rebellion and disobedience, but for the most part, we felt blessed that things were going very well. It wasn’t until our son was away for college that we began to experience the pain only parents can feel while watching a child stray from all they had been taught and all that had been held dear. Our son went to a college about three hours from home in order to play soccer. He was good, really good, when it came to soccer. He had excelled academically in high school as well as in soccer on the school team and on a select travel team. While we would have preferred he stay closer to home the first year of college, we felt that this Christian school in a small town environment would be good for him. After all, he had been FALL 2016

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Revitalization

On several occasions, while he was passed out in his bed, she would kneel beside him, lay her hands on him, and pray for him to come back to us — and to God.

raised in a solid, Christian environment and was well grounded. We were excited for the fantastic opportunity that lay before our son. In the course of 18 months, we watched our son systematically and completely throw away everything. Everything. His GPA tanked to the point that he lost all of his scholarships. His smoking and drug use robbed him of aspects of his health. A drug test cost him his spot on the soccer team. He became distant, angry, and even more rebellious toward us. We were devastated. We made the decision to bring him home with the grand intention of “fixing” him ourselves. We thought if we brought him back home and surrounded him with friends, mentors, and leaders at church, he would turn his life around. He decided to take some time off from school to figure out what he wanted to do in life. However, living at home meant he needed either to go to school or get a job. He found a job fairly quickly and things started to “feel” like they were getting back on track. However, several months in, we discovered that the drug use had continued and that he was even using drugs in our home when we were away. The rebellion escalated with the anger. When it appeared there was no change happening in his heart, we made the very difficult decision to ask him to leave our home — the home in which he had grown up. My wife and I felt like terrible parents as we faced the prospect of throwing one of our kids out of the house. We agreed to pray and seek God for several weeks before the final decision would be enforced. Throughout the dark days with our son, my wife often woke up in the middle of the night and prayed; many nights she was on her knees in our room or his room praying. On several occasions, while he was passed out in his bed, she would kneel beside him, lay her hands on him, and pray for him to come back to us — and to God. She recalls that often she prayed, “God, You can take anything, just don’t take our son.” For months, my 30-minute commute was often in tears. At the time, Matthew West’s song, “Strong Enough,” was played in regular rotation. That song, more than any other, brought tears and led me to cry out to God in my anguish. Agreeing with the song, I told God I was not strong enough to handle what I was going through. I needed Him — and I needed Him to heal my son. I told God He could do whatever it took to bring my son back to life. I said, “God, You are the only One who can rescue him. Please, Lord, bring my son back to us.” That was 2012. In July of that year, I was told that my position at my company was being deleted after 16 years. I had been laid off! Really? Now? When I called to tell my wife and my friends, everyone asked, “Are you kidding? This is a joke, right?” But it wasn’t. To say that things could not get much lower would be a fair description of how we felt.

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To make ends meet, I waited tables at a local restaurant while doing a couple of other side jobs. In those dark, desperate days, we clung to our faith in a Sovereign God who loved us, cared about us, saw what was going on, and who had good plans for our lives. Though it was very difficult to see God’s plans at that point, we placed our trust in Him. My wife and I held on to each other. Our church family, pastors, and staff surrounded us and loved on us. Their support made the journey easier. We prayed, fell at the altar in tears, talked with friends, and then prayed some more. And then it happened. God moved in a powerful way in our son’s heart and he came back to a renewed experience with his personal Savior! It was a powerful — a miraculous — change that took place in his heart and mind. He had a supernatural “God moment” one weekend that completely changed the trajectory of his life. He totally walked away from smoking and drugs, came back to the Lord, and refocused his life. Since that time, he has hit a 4.0 GPA each semester, was offered a paid position in his field of interest, and was accepted into a very difficult graduate study program. He is now married and is a fantastic example of God’s ability to bring restoration. To look at my son’s life now, it is hard to imagine how off-track his life had become years ago. To watch his genuine worship today propels me into a deeper sense of worship on my own — especially when I sing that God alone can rescue and that He works all things together for our good. As for me, after 18 months without a career job, God opened the doors to a fantastic opportunity. I have been in my position now for two years doing work that makes a difference in the lives of others. It is a perfect fit for my talents, abilities, and interests. Those several years we walked through at times felt like going through the dark valley the psalmist described in Psalm 23. All we could do was to place our trust and faith in God. We knew Him to be a good Father to whom we could turn. He proved Himself faithful as He revealed the good plans He had for us and as we watched the reality of the Proverb that instructs us to train up a child in the way he should go — and when he is older, he will not depart from it. Would I want to relive those dark days. Absolutely not. Did God teach us through those days? Yes, He did. Today, we still marvel at the way God moved, worked, and brought restoration and revitalization to our family. All we can do is praise Him — as a family, sitting side by side every Sunday morning.

Rick Prall is a deacon at Gladeville Baptist Church in Mount Juliet, Tennessee — as well as serving in the student, young adult, and worship ministries. He is the training materials specialist at Ramsey Solutions in Brentwood, Tennessee. Rick has been married to Helene for more than 31 years and they have two grown and married children. Rick enjoys biking, kayaking, and playing video games and disc golf.


MY WALK

GETTY MIAGES

“Join in imitating me, brothers, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us” (Phil. 3:17).

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revitalization

Restoring Your

SOUL

Three Disciplines to Refresh and Revitalize by MARK DANCE

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Today

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my soul finally caught up with my schedule. LIFE and ministry have been really good this year. But too much of a good thing can become a bad thing. Even busy King David needed a spiritual recharge. “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul” (Ps. 23:1-3, ESV). King David’s soul awoke beside “green pastures and still waters.” Similarly, my soul awakens in oak trees next to quiet creeks. As a matter of fact, I am writing this post 20 feet up a tree with a bow hanging next to me … and my soul is soaring! What awakens and restores your soul? Here are three disciplines which have contributed to the condition of my soul: solitude, stillness, and silence.

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Solitude is not a solution unto itself. It only contributes to the restoration of our souls to the extent that Jesus meets us there. The Christian is never really alone, but our communion with the Father must be intentional to be fruitful. As I finish writing, I am watching the sun go to sleep in the west. A few yards to the east I see the doe I harvested with my bow an hour ago. My soul is soaring in solitude right now. Of course, bow hunting is not for everyone ... which may be why I love it so much.

“When you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father” (Matt. 6:6, NASB).

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HE KING JAMES VERSION calls it a “closet.” I have always been a concrete thinker, so in college I put a chair in my dorm room closet for my prayer time. The upside to my college closet was that there were no distractions; the downside was the smell of dirty clothes. Since then, I have found more creative and aesthetically pleasing places to be alone with God — our back porch, a guest room, a park bench, a jogging trail, in trees, and in ground blinds. Time alone with God doesn’t need to feel like a time-out. Your soul will never soar if this life-giving discipline feels like you are being punitively disciplined. I must admit that it is not natural for me to be alone or quiet for extended periods of time. Yet I have realized that rushing past the throne of God on the way to work won’t produce any lasting fruit. It may satisfy a need to check off “quiet time” from my to-do list, but I don’t expect or see any lasting spiritual growth or fruit from it. Before Jesus began His public ministry, He spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness alone, seeking God. Jesus also sought solitude when John the Baptist was arrested, before He chose the twelve disciples, just after He healed a leper, and, of course, in the garden of Gethsemane before the crucifixion. Do you need to remove some distractions in your life? Start by getting alone with God before your work day begins. I pray during my 30-minute commute to my office each morning from 6:00 to 6:30. There are no distractions or interruptions because Jesus is the only person who wants to talk to me that early! Perhaps you could recharge your soul on your break by closing your office door for a few minutes each day. Daniel took time for prayer three times each day at work.

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“Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10a, KJV).

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N AVERAGE NFL FOOTBALL GAME lasts 3 hours and 12 minutes, but according to the Wall Street Journal, the players only collectively play 11 minutes. So what do the players do during the three hours of dead time as replays and an average of 100 commercials are shown? There is obviously a lot of loitering going on, but some of their down time is strategic. Sometimes the players and coaches need to rethink their strategy.

A Time-Out is a Strategic Play sometimes stopping is the most strategic move you can make. A well-known and loved Bible verse explains, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10a, KJV). The Hebrew word that is translated still literally means to stop fighting; to withdraw. Some translations say “cease striving.” The term paints a portrait of a surrendered life. The Message paraphrases Psalm 46:10 in a compelling way, “Step out of the traffic.” Traffic is especially annoying to the driven because it slows us down. We have places to go, people to see, and battles and souls to win. The historic context of Psalm 46 is that Judah (Israel’s southern region) is on the brink of war. This message was originally intended to encourage Judah’s King Hezekiah to relax in the presence of God. Hezekiah was struggling with the temptation to agree to a political alliance with the neighboring pagan kings of Assyria or Egypt. He was also being pressured into reuniting with his backstabbing relatives in Samaria (2 Kings 19:14-19). The stakes were high because Hezekiah’s army was tiny by comparison to any of his neighboring enemies. Leadership often involves pressure-filled situations like Hezekiah’s. The stillness that this king was practicing was an intentional time-out. Israel’s head coach was consulting with the team’s real owner — Yahweh. He just needed some time to find out what the right game plan was.

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Solitude.

Stillness.


King Hezekiah was surrounded by the many voices of counsel, each with a unique plan of action — Sennacherib’s intimidating voice, Isaiah’s strong prophetic voice, the psalmist’s poetic musical voice, as well as many other friends, family, and advisors. The smartest thing he did was to heed the only message that mattered, to “be still and know that I am God.” People were looking to Hezekiah for a decision, and Hezekiah was looking to God for direction. You will likely be frustrated by this admonition to do nothing. Passivity is not how you roll. I get it … really, I do. I am wired the same way. Driven people like us do not like to be still or to wait. In fact, I’m not sure which one I like less. Waiting in line and waiting in traffic feel like wasting time to me. Stillness seems to be uniquely suited for those who are unable or unwilling to move forward. But sometimes the best move is not moving. If this trailblazing king slipped and fell, everybody would pay for it. Instead, Hezekiah put on the brakes until he heard from God. He literally stopped (Shabbat = Sabbath = stop) and waited for God to lead him. Hezekiah chose to refuse unholy alliances. He decided to surrender to Yahweh instead of his pagan neighbors, who would have certainly imposed a life of idolatry and slavery on them. Sabbath-stillness may initially seem like a lack of progress, but it is a strategic lack of movement until the direction is clear. How you practice the discipline of stillness is as unique as you are. Soul stillness may not necessarily be a lack of physical motion — like a game of freeze tag. My best prayer times are while I’m walking, jogging, or hiking. Driven leaders are multitaskers by nature, so be creative in how you apply the discipline of stillness to your busy life.

Sometimes the best move is not moving.

Silence.

“Wait here until I hear what the LORD commands for you” (Num. 9:8).

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OSES WAS A STRONG LEADER who accomplished great things, but he often struggled with anger, impatience, and impulsiveness. It took several costly lessons before he learned when to act and when to wait for Yahweh to act. For example, Moses was kicked out of Pharaoh’s house and out of Egypt because of an act of vigilante justice (Ex. 2). He lost his opportunity to enter the promised land because he got so sick of the people’s whining about water that he struck a rock (twice) instead of speaking to it as God had

instructed (Num. 20). Somewhere on his spiritual journey, Moses learned the benefits of listening over talking and acting over reacting.

Waiting silently for God to speak is often the wisest choice when faced with a difficult decision. One day, Moses was busy leading the whole nation in a Passover celebration when two men who were ceremonially unclean inconveniently approached him. They had touched a dead body on the way to worship, which by Law prohibited them from participating in the festival. Instead of making a hasty decision, Moses wisely instructed them, “Wait here until I hear what the LORD commands for you” (Num. 9:8). Moses took an undisclosed amount of time at an undisclosed location to listen for God to speak. God led him to make an exception to that particular rule. The exception was for anyone who touched a dead body while “on a distant journey” (v. 10). Moses was still a highly motivated leader, but he had matured. Waiting silently for God to speak is often the wisest choice when faced with a difficult decision. It is also the hardest choice. Our culture has always been uncomfortable with silence. The average Christian in the United States spends 10 minutes per day with God; meanwhile, the average American spends over four hours a day watching television.¹ In His Word, God calls us to “Be silent before the LORD and wait expectantly for Him” (Ps. 37:7). He reminds us that, “The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good to wait quietly for deliverance from the LORD” (Lam. 3:25-26). This kind of silence is often the most effective catalyst for change. It moves mountains and demolishes strongholds. If real progress is what you are after, there is not a more proactive and practical use of your time. Mountain-moving prayer is often the result of waiting quietly and listening patiently for God’s timing and direction. The disciplines of stillness, solitude, and silence seem so passive. Often they are the most proactive and productive “actions” we can take all day. I’m praying God will restore your soul today as you get quiet, get alone, and are still before Him. ¹Frances Chan, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God, David C. Cook, 2008.

Mark Dance serves as associate vice president for pastoral leadership at LifeWay Christian Resources. A native Texan, Mark pastored churches in Texas, Tennessee, and Arkansas before joining LifeWay. He has been married to Janet Kendrick since 1988, and they have two children: Holly (married to Brandon Vining) and Bradley.

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THE ROADMAP TO CHANGE Based on conversations with thousands of pastors, combined with on-the-ground research from more than 50,000 churches, best-selling author Thom S. Rainer shares an eight-stage roadmap to leading change in your church. Not by changing doctrine. Not by changing biblical foundations. But by changing methodologies and approaches for reaching a rapidly changing culture.

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MY MINISTRY

CORBIS IMAGES

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).

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Revitalization

THE

FIRST

Follower

The Deacon’s Role in Church Revitalization by RICK EZELL

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OMEONE ONCE said that turning a church around was like turning an ocean liner on the open sea. It takes time, a wide space, a lot of work, and a dedicated team of workers. That church team is comprised of pastor, deacons, and laity. Deacons play an important role in turning around a church by praying for its future, visiting members and prospects to take the load off the pastor, administering the ordinances and fiscal responsibilities, supporting the needed changes, and defending the process for revitalization. But their most important and needed role is to follow the pastor and leadership of the church. In much the same way, the crew of the ocean liner follows the lead of the ship’s captain.

I had the privilege of leading a declining church to become a healthy vibrant congregation. The church had endured years of choppy water brought on by declining attendance, poor leadership, and a devastating split that left the church on life support. It was my first full-time pastorate. I set out to turn the church around by visiting the prospects, aligning the programs, hiring staff, putting volunteers in the right positions, following a plan, and delivering the best sermons I could write. In time, the church became healthy and began to grow. It turned around. And, as much as I would like to take credit for the revitalization of that church, I could not have led that effort without a deacon named Wilbur. Wilbur was a respected member of the church, having served in the church for years. He was admired for his kindness, wisdom, tact, reasonableness, and passion. Wilbur was an effective businessman with a great family. He had history with the church that I did not. He loved the church and had the faith to believe that the church would become a vibrant fellowship again. He and I became fast and close friends. We had a standing lunch every Tuesday. Over hamburgers we discussed the church’s situation, needs, opportunities, and next steps. Wilbur was my confidant, coach, and encourager. Wilbur would often stand before the congregation, advocating the next steps, proposing changes the church needed to take, supporting recommendations, and defending the course the church was on to become healthy. I could say people followed me, as their pastor, but in truth, they first followed Wilbur. This role is beautifully demonstrated in a TED video entitled “The First Follower.” It pictures a lone, shirtless guy, dancing at a festival with people sitting around. Soon another guy joins the first guy in the crazy dance. After a while the first follower invites others to join in the crazy dance until there is a crowd all dancing together. The crowd dancing together is an example of a movement that began with a leader but would not have happened without the first follower and the subsequent others that join in. The video states: “Being a first follower is an under-appreciated form of leadership. The first follower transforms a lone nut into a leader. If the leader is the flint, the first follower is the spark that makes the fire.” The video concludes with this lesson: “Leadership is over-glorified. Yes, it started with the shirtless guy, and he’ll get all the credit, but you saw what really happened: It was the first follower that transformed a lone nut into a leader. There is no movement without the first follower. We’re told we all need to be leaders, but that would be really ineffective. The best way to make a movement, if you really care, is to courageously follow and show others how to follow. When you find a lone nut doing something great, have the guts to be the first person to stand up and join in.” Turn-around churches require both leaders and followers. Both are important and both are required. Pastors need deacons to be their first followers who will execute the FALL 2016

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mission, strategy, and plans for the church. Without followers, pastors are lone wanderers destined to fail. Without followers, pastors can’t execute the plans for the church to turn around. The deacons can, and should, serve the role of first follower. In order for a church to turn around, it will require more than the pastor wanting and working for it to happen. In many congregations, the pastor is only the “lone, shirtless guy” of vision and change. Change is hard. It requires trusted leaders (deacons) within the church willing to step up and lead alongside the pastor. Deacons are, or at least should be, the committed people, already established in the church, like Wilbur, who love the church more than their personal agenda. Newer people don’t have the roots or credibility during times of transition. Deacons, having earned the trust and support of the church body through their longer tenure, have the credibility to lead the church to embrace a new future. As first followers, deacons support their pastor, speak up for the changes, and create an atmosphere conducive for growth. They show others how to follow the vision, strategy, and plans for the church to turn around. Your church can make that long journey of turning around. But it will require both pastor and deacons working together as a team, fulfilling their respective roles, to make it happen. Wilbur taught me that leadership is needed, but leadership is not everything. Leadership needs followers who will embrace the change and invite others to join the revitalization. Let me speak to you personally: Deacon, will you be a Wilbur to your pastor? For your church to turn around and thrive once again, your church needs you to execute that role. Rick Ezell has served with deacons as a pastor of churches in Greer, South Carolina; Naperville, Illinois; Scottsburg, Indiana; and Overland Park, Kansas.

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GETTY IMAGES —ILLUSTRATION BY SALLY ELFORD

Revitalization


Plan of Salvation

Born Again HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED what the phrase “born again” means? The Bible records that Jesus used the phrase in a conversation with a man named Nicodemus. Nicodemus approached Jesus at night. He was curious about Jesus and the kingdom of God. Jesus told him: “Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Nicodemus responded, “But how can anyone be born when he is old?” (John 3:4). Nicodemus was a highly moral man who obeyed God’s law. He was a respected leader of the Jewish community. No doubt he was a fine man. Yet something was lacking. Like Nicodemus, many people today confuse religion with new birth in Christ. Phrases like “I pray regularly” or “I believe there is a God” often are confused with a real new-birth experience.

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New birth begins with the Holy Spirit convicting a person that the person is a sinner. Because of sin, we are spiritually dead. For this reason, spiritual birth, as Jesus described it, is necessary. God loves us and gives us spiritual birth when we ask Him for it. The Bible says all persons are sinners (Romans 3:23). Jesus died on a cross and was raised from the dead to save sinners. To be born again means that a person admits to God that he or she is a sinner, repents of sin, believes in or trusts Christ, and confesses faith in Christ as Savior and Lord. Jesus told Nicodemus that everyone who believes in (places faith in) Christ would not perish (John 3:16). Jesus is the only One who can save us (John 14:6). To believe in Jesus is to be born again. Confess your sins and ask Jesus right now to save you. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21). After you have received Jesus Christ into your life, share your decision with another person, and following Christ’s example, ask for baptism by immersion in your local church as a public expression of your faith (Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:6).

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Leadership Challenges in Revitalization

A Long and Slow Labor of Love in the Face of Resistance

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I

by ED STETZER

And he was right. The more activity FELL IN LOVE with church Church revitalization is you have in a church, the more likely revitalization early in my minan opportunity to lead things are going to be broken. istry when I led a church of 35 God’s people to a renewed Any disconnected church that seeks senior adults during a brief stint focus on God’s mission. to reengage with their community will teaching at a seminary. Such an endeavor will find the experience to be messy. There The median age of the people was 68. It seemed like there was an oxygen undoubtedly change lives may be mud on the carpet, smudges on the walls, dirty bathrooms, or broken tank or a walker at the end of most pews. and communities and vases. The way of church life to which They came to me and said, “Dr. Stetzer, help have a gospel impact on your people had grown accustomed will us reach the young people.” generations to come. suddenly change. Leading a church in revitalization So there we were, Harold with his has taught me some invaluable lessons. finger in my chest and me looking at him trying to figure While the process is often difficult and slow moving, if approached correctly it can reinvigorate and empower God’s out this confrontation. Still making eye contact, he teared up and said, “I still don’t like the music, and the kids are people to produce lasting fruit. breaking everything, but it was worth it all.” In revitalization, it’s hard to transition to a missional YOU WILL MEET RESISTANCE mindset. Kids will break things. Life will change. But in the leadership, especially with church revitalization, is a end, it’s worth it all. long and slow labor of love in the face of resistance. Not every member will be on your side during revitalization. No matter how difficult, look past the resistance CHANGED CHURCHES remembering that revitalization is like basic physics. during our two years together, we saw the church Momentum results from movement against the inertia. grow from 34 to 175 people in weekly attendance. Neighborhood people were now coming to the church. We were serving the poor. We had begun a program for LOVE YOUR PEOPLE single moms. We repaired the rarely used baptistery. These in revitalization, you need to love, not drive people. changes represented lasting fruit. Talk to them. Listen to them. Get them excited about God’s Church revitalization is an opportunity to lead God’s mission for their life and their church. Love your people, and not just as a means of getting them to do what you want. people to a renewed focus on God’s mission. Such an endeavor will undoubtedly change lives and communities When I set out to love and empower a group of 34 and have a gospel impact on generations to come. mostly senior adults (one left soon after we started our In that first experience, I fell in love with church journey), they became excited and ready to go on mission. revitalization. The church recalibrated its sense of mission They wanted to love their neighbors and engage the comand reengaged in the growingly diverse community. munity around them. And that all-white congregation got I also learned that strong leadership was not driving but out from behind their church walls and began effectively loving and empowering my people to make the necessary reaching their multicultural, lower-middle to poor decisions to live on mission in their community. working-class neighborhood. Revitalization may be difficult, but Harold said it best — it’s worth it all. MESSY HAPPENS on my last day at the church, Harold, the over 80This article first appeared in the May/June/July 2015 issue of Facts & Trends (FactsAndTrends.net). Used by permission. year-old deacon chairman, poked me in the chest and said, “Preacher, I still don’t like the music. And the kids are ED STETZER (@EdStetzer) is executive director of LifeWay Research. For more, visit EdStetzer.com. breaking everything.”

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GETTY IMAGES / HISTORIC FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH, JACKSON, MS

MY CHURCH “Be alert and strengthen what remains, which is about to die, for I have not found your works complete before My God” (Rev. 3:2). FALL 2016

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Revitalization

Joy The of

Church Revitalization by RON EDMONDSON

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HEN SOMEONE from the search committee at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky, first approached me about being their pastor, I resisted. Cheryl and I begged God not to bring us here. The 100-year-old church had recently gone through a couple of very hard years. Attendance had declined considerably. There were financial concerns. On top of all that, the expectation of some members was that I would wear a tie and be at every hospital bed. That was totally different from my previous experience in ministry. I came into vocational ministry later in life. For many years, I resisted what others (including my wife) saw in my life. I felt my calling was to make money to support the church, not lead a church as a pastor. After entering ministry, I was a part of two successful church plants. Church planting suited my entrepreneurial spirit well. I love the excitement of starting something new. I never imagined taking what many considered a step backward in my career to serve in an established church. I’m a doer. I like progress. I like action and change. I’m not afraid to push the boundaries. Those qualities don’t always fit well in some established churches. Still, I love Genesis 6:22: “Noah did everything just as God commanded him.”

When I surrendered to ministry I told God that would be me. I would be obedient. And obedience, by definition, is never partial. As God made it clear that coming to Immanuel was our next assignment, ever so reluctantly, we surrendered to His call. Cheryl and I know now God knew what He was doing. Had we not been obedient to this call, we would have missed some of the most rewarding days in ministry and in life. We have seen a declining church come alive and grow again. We have seen young families come back to the church. We have seen older members serve in new ways. We know what it’s like to see an intergenerational church thrive. We have witnessed the difference an established church can make in a community when it fully embraces its mission. But it hasn’t been easy. Church revitalization is harder work than we experienced in church planting — and church planting is hard. Immanuel is one of the friendliest churches we’ve ever experienced, but there have been days when I seem to have more critics than supporters. Navigating change is never easy. I’m often asked what I’ve learned in the revitalization process. There are so many things, but the one that sticks out to me most is this: Don’t reinvent. Rediscover. I’ve found people are less resistant to change when it doesn’t take away their identity. Every church has a history and a heritage in which it is proud. There were once monumental leaps of faith to start the church. And there have been special days and seasons when the church especially saw God at work.

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The church has had to overcome challenges but has survived them. Part of church revitalization is to rediscover those parts of the church’s history and use them to rekindle the momentum to grow again. Shortly after I arrived at Immanuel, I spent considerable time in our history room and talking to those who knew the church’s history. I learned a couple of facts that proved to be monumental building blocks. First, the church sat idle for several years during World War I. It held no services at all until a group decided to reenergize the church. Second, the church was a pioneer in television. Immanuel was one of the first churches in the state to launch this still vital ministry. I have been able to use this information to better connect with the church and encourage new innovation. I can encourage people that Immanuel is an overcoming church, it’s not afraid to lead into unchartered territory in following the leading of God.

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Everything may not look the same, but we have stayed true to the core DNA of Immanuel. We’re rediscovering what it means to be Immanuel — a church that after 105 years is still alive, vibrant, growing, and obedient. And we’re leading the church to survive and thrive through its next 100 years. Sure there have been a few bumps along the way, but God has shown up time and time again. Bringing new life to a struggling church doesn’t always conjure images of excitement, clarity, or joy. But seeing a church turn around to become a healthy, growing community is rewarding in so many ways. We have seen God do some amazing things in our church the last three years. I’m humbled and honored to be a part of its history, and I look forward to our future, celebrating what I believe could be the best years yet to come. RON EDMONDSON (@RonEdmondson) is a pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church and is church growth expert in Lexington, Kentucky. Learn more from Ron about church revitalization at RonEdmondson.com.

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The church has had to overcome challenges, but it has survived them. Part of church revitalization is to rediscover those parts of the church’s history and use them to rekindle the momentum to grow again.


7 Principles

for Church Revitalization

1 2 3 4

by Ron Edmondson

Don’t hijack the church. You can change a church without taking away its DNA. That means you may not be able to make every change you want to make. And you may move slower than you want to at times. But the general culture of the church — at least the one that has lasted for generations — should not be on the table. For example, if the church has a history of loving big events, don’t kill all of them — find a way to make them work for kingdom growth. (If the culture is destructive to the future vitality of the church, then it needs to be changed.) Rediscover more than you reinvent. Help the church rediscover the

heartbeat of the times people loved — when things were healthy, lives were changing, and kingdom growth was occurring. Build momentum as you celebrate the emotions and passions from the good days of their heritage. Lead people to rediscover the joy they once had for the mission.

It will take longer than you think it will. To members of the church, it might

feel like you’re changing at a rocket’s pace, but to you it will feel like you’re moving at a snail’s pace. In church planting, you can change in a week. That’s usually not the case in revitalization. Take time to bring people along who have invested years in building the church. Over time, when trust is developed, it will get easier, and you’ll be able to move more quickly.

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Recognize the sense of loss in change. It’s the number one reason change

is resisted. Don’t ignore or underestimate how difficult change is for some people. Be humble, considerate, and compassionate. That doesn’t mean don’t change. It does mean don’t change assuming it’s “no big deal.” It is.

Don’t let a few critics determine your self-worth. Make no mistake about

it, you’ll have critics. You’ll be making changes that impact people (as all changes do) — people who have been at the church for years. You know the changes are needed. They may even realize the changes are needed. But there will be resistance. And there will be angry people. And when people are angry, they say and do things they may not do otherwise. But, if God called you to it, you can be assured there are usually more supporters than detractors, even if the detractors seem more vocal.

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Love the people even when you don’t love everything about the church. You may not like some of the struc-

tures of the church or the process you have to go through to make changes. But you must love the people. Loving the people will help you lead the transitions you need to make. Years ago, God convicted me that if I focus most on loving Him, loving people in any church, any city, or any setting will be much easier for me.

Celebrate the history while shaping the future. Don’t think This article was previously published in LifeWay’s Facts & Trends magazine. Used by permission.

RON EDMONDSON (@RonEdmondson) is a pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church and is church growth expert in Lexington, Kentucky. Learn more from Ron about church revitalization at RonEdmondson.com.

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everything old is bad. It’s not. It’s what has helped the church survive as long as it has. It may not be working as well right now, and there will likely need to be changes, but some of the old things were and still are good things in principle. Recognize that, acknowledge it, and people will be more likely to go along with the new changes you’re proposing.

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As a deacon, you can be a champion for a simpler and more effective church. by CRAIG WEBB

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Revitalization Through Simplification — A Deacon’s Role

HEN YOU hear the term, “Simple Church,” you might think “Church Lite” or “Easy Church.” However, when a church simplifies, it really means that it becomes more effective at reaching people for Christ, fulfilling the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20), and fulfilling the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:35-40). When a church is “simple,” it means the church has a clear process, is moving individuals along a path of growth, has a body aligned around a common purpose, and remains focused by saying “no” to anything that does not accomplish the church’s core purpose. The four elements of clarity, movement, alignment, and focus are vital in simplifying the direction of the church for the glory of God. If your church is “complex” or “complicated” it may result in too much “busyness” and going in too many directions. You as a deacon can help. I first learned about the concept of simple church in the book, Simple Church: Returning to God’s Process for Making Disciples by Eric Geiger and Thom S. Rainer. The authors describe a simple church as “a congregation designed around a straightforward and strategic process that moves people through the stages of spiritual growth.” The authors use the term “simple” in contrast to “complex” or “complicated.” At one church I served, I worked with our pastor and church staff to create a clearer and more simple process. I also had the opportunity to train a group of our deacons to understand and champion our church’s simple strategy. God used this as part of the revitalization of our church and led to growth and health. Whether or not your church would be considered a “simple” church, you as a deacon can support and encourage your pastor, staff, and other church leaders as you seek to keep


Whether or not your church would be considered a “simple” church, you as a deacon can support and encourage your pastor, staff, and other church leaders as you seek to keep your church focused on the task of fulfilling the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. your church focused on the task of fulfilling the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. Here are four ways you as a deacon can help.

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Ask your pastor to share the three to four things he believes your church is focused on. This is usually worship, Sunday School/small groups, and ministry/ missions. Write or email him and say, “I want to support and champion the things you are most passionate about. Would you let me know what is most important to you and how I can champion and support those main things?” Commit yourself to faithfully participating in and supporting these things. Be faithful to attend worship and encourage other deacons and persons you influence to attend and participate faithfully. If Sunday School is a priority, then attend and consider leading a group. If your church’s strategy is home groups, then be sure you are leading one in your home or at least participating. Attend and support the local, national, and international mission trips your church sponsors.

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Become a champion with your pastor and staff for providing resources for these priorities. In informal conversations and formal business meetings be a champion for providing generously for your church’s main priorities. At the same time, protect your church from expensive and time-consuming events that do not support the main tasks your church has been called to. Be a voice for saying “yes” to anything that builds up and supports these priorities and “no” to anything that would distract. Ask the question, “Does this proposed event, project, or cause lead people to worship God or connect with other believers as they grow? Will it help our members serve others and make disciples locally and globally? I’m praying for you as you help your church focus on the things that will make disciples for the global glory of Jesus.

CLARITY, MOVEMENT, ALIGNMENT, & FOCUS IN A SIMPLE CHURCH clarity: The term clarity means that a church

has a clear plan or process. Clarity, according to Rainer and Geiger, “is the ability of the process to be communicated and understood by the people.” It becomes a blueprint that persons in the church can visualize and follow. Clarity is communicating the church’s ministry process of building up the spiritual lives of the members so the people understand it. Clarity includes defining the process, illustrating it so members can see it, having a way to measure it, discussing it along the way, and finding ways to increase understanding.

movement:

Rainer and Geiger define movement as, “the sequential steps in the process that cause people to move to greater areas of commitment.” The authors identify how pastors and leaders in simple churches have removed barriers for growth, and they encourage other pastors and church leaders to do the same. Movement is removing the congestion that prevents the spiritual growth from functioning properly. The ministry process puts people in a position for God to transform them.

alignment: Rainer and Geiger define

alignment as it relates to simple church as the unity, teamwork, and agreement that a church needs to reflect the character of God, attract unbelievers to the church, and move forward around one specific approach to ministry or ministry process. Thus, alignment is defined as, “the arrangement of all ministries and staff around the same simple process.”

focus:

Focus as it applies to the simple church has to do with a commitment of leadership to say “no.” Rainer and Geiger say that in complex churches, leaders continue to embrace new options, new programs, and new events. These new options, programs, and events, however, do not necessarily lead to greater impact and effectiveness. Thus, focus means that leaders must say “no” to any new options, new programs, and new events not focused on the church’s vision and purpose. Leaders are willing to “abandon everything that falls outside of the simple ministry process.” Craig Webb has served alongside deacons for 30 years as a pastor and associate pastor in Tennessee and Hawaii. He produced LifeWay’s Pastors Today e-newsletter for 10 years and is pastor for disciplemaking at First Baptist Church in Mount Juliet, Tennessee.

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How to Assess Your Church’s Well-Being

A Tool for Diagnosing Health & Creating an Appropriate Plan of Action

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by MICAH FRIES

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S

CARED TO DEATH. That’s how I felt sitting in a small office in Burkina Faso, West Africa, where my wife and I were serving as new missionaries. I hadn’t felt well for a few weeks but had put off going to the doctor. We lived out in the bush — so a simple checkup meant a five-hour drive to the nearest doctor. Finally, during a trip to the capital city, I stopped by a doctor’s office. I ran through my symptoms — a slight fever each day for the last three weeks; zero energy; and I was sleeping a lot. He ran some blood tests. The diagnosis: malaria. And not just any malaria, but the most dangerous strain. The doctor told me I was fortunate to be alive. The only remedy was to treat my condition immediately and aggressively. If it weren’t for that doctor’s visit and diagnosis, who knows what would have happened to me. Unfortunately, many churches in the United States are facing the same predicament I faced in that doctor’s office. They’ve been sick for a while but have put off doing anything to address their illness. But what seemed like nominal pain and marginal problems are in fact signs of a life-threatening condition. Churches often face problems that are much deeper and much more systemic than they realize or want to admit.

THE IMPORTANCE OF ASSESSMENT

like the doctor and medical exam that pointed me to the right diagnosis and treatment, the church today needs an evaluation and an appropriate plan of action. Church leaders are masters of measurements — attendance, baptisms, finances, and more. But sick churches can occasionally score well on these assessments. What’s more, none of these assessments do anything to help assess the one thing Jesus commanded us to do — make disciples. Church leaders need a different scorecard for that. The Transformational Church Assessment Tool (TCAT) takes a comprehensive look at a church’s structures and systems, identifying not only weaknesses, but also clarifying strengths.

ESSENTIALS FOR TRUE CHURCH HEALTH

while this new scorecard measures the tangible — leadership training, worship attendance, and group Bible study attendance — it also measures some of the intangible elements of church life. The TCAT helps churches honestly evaluate how their members perceive they are doing in relation to spiritual transformation. The results provide them with a snapshot of perceived strengths and perceived challenges based on the seven elements of a healthy, transformational church:

Missionary mentality. Transformational churches understand the cultural context surrounding the church. And they strive for everything they do to be in the language and culture of the people they are trying to reach. Transformational churches know, understand, and are deeply engaged with their cities, communities, and people. Are your church members passionate about the people and community where God has placed them? Vibrant leadership. Transformational leaders

are focused on the mission of God for their church, are tenacious about the vision, and are people focused. Vibrant leaders lead their people to worship, live in community, and live on mission. They promote a culture of we instead of me. They expect, encourage, equip, and empower members to serve.

Relational intentionality. People find and follow Jesus through relationships. Transformational churches use systems and processes designed to provide and promote relationship development — for first time guests, new members, and long-term members. Prayerful dependence. In transformational

churches, spontaneous prayer is normal in the life of the church. Prayer is not a program, yet it undergirds everything the church does. Prayer has always held a significant role in the church, and this is especially true in times of revitalization. Is it normal to see people praying together at your church?

Worship. Transformational churches place worship at the center of their efforts. They know worship is a way of living, not an aspect of church programming. They expect God’s presence to be real and transformative in their worship experience. Do your worship leaders value participation over performance? Community. Transformational churches place a premium on involving people in small group communities within the congregation. They place heavy emphasis on getting new members immediately involved in Sunday School classes, small groups, or discipleship classes. Does your church have groups where nonbelievers feel comfortable asking hard questions and where believers can find encouragement? Mission. Transformational churches have consciously

decided that their existence is directly related to the mission of seeing people reconciled to God through Christ. Evangelism is a natural part of life for their members.

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Does your church challenge members to build significant relationships with people who are non-Christian? Does your church provide service opportunities for your people to be engaged with the unchurched in your local city or community?

CELEBRATE AND CALIBRATE

not only do churches struggle with appropriate assessments, they’re often weak at celebrating what God is doing in their midst. I recently consulted with a church that took the TCAT. I helped the leaders see how they could take their top two scores and celebrate what God is doing. This encourages the church and strengthens belief in the direction of the leaders, as well as recognizes God’s work among them. I then showed them how they could turn their bottom two areas into strategic goals for the coming year. After a year of focusing on those areas of weakness, they’ll find they’ve made progress making disciples, in substantive and measurable ways. A church that takes seriously Christ’s command to be and make disciples, and that invests in the necessary tools to evaluate its effectiveness, is far more likely to be a church where people are experiencing the gospel and where lives are being changed. Churches that don’t take this seriously are more likely to find themselves lying on the proverbial hospital bed, struggling to survive, and wondering if the doctor’s diagnosis has come too late. Don’t let that happen to your church. Take seriously the call to assess your church’s health and effectiveness as you make disciples, and watch God help your church thrive. Micah Fries (@MicahFries) is director of ministry development for LifeWay.

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FIVE QUESTIONS TO ASSESS YOUR CHURCH’S HEALTH

These five simple questions can give you a quick, initial diagnosis of the health of your church. Is the ratio of worship attenders to conversions/baptisms growing or declining? If the ratio of worship attenders to conversions/baptisms is growing higher — meaning it is taking more members to reach someone new — your church may be unhealthy. Is the percentage of worship attenders who also attend Sunday School/small groups growing or declining? In a healthy church, an increasingly higher percentage of attenders will be seeking community through your small group ministry. Do you have a clear defined disciple-making strategy? And is the average worship attender familiar enough with the strategy to repeat it, if asked? Unhealthy churches lack clarity about their discipleship pathway, and the attenders in the church will struggle to identify it. Are you multiplying leaders? Healthy churches multiply leaders. Unhealthy churches rest on the backs of one leader or only a small group of leaders.

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Have you become an internally focused church? People are like cars out of alignment. Left to ourselves, we turn inward. Healthy churches intentionally point their people outside the church, to the lost.

This article first appeared in the May/June/July 2015 issue of Facts & Trends (FactsAndTrends.net). Used by permission.

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A church that takes seriously Christ’s command to be and make disciples, and that invests in the necessary tools to evaluate its effectiveness, is far more likely to be a church where people are experiencing the gospel and where lives are being changed.


Soundbites

REVITALIZATION Thoughts/Ideas for Church Revitalization

Focus on God “One of the essential things we must do as leaders of the church in order to be agents for revitalization is help believers recapture a focus on the person and work of God. This church is God’s church, this work is God’s work, and apart from the overcoming, enabling grace of God we are nothing and we can do nothing.”

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Don’t hijack the church. You can change a church without taking away its DNA.

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Celebrate the history while shaping the future. Don’t think everything old is bad. It’s not. It’s what has helped the church survive as long as it has.

3

Love the people even when you don’t love everything about the church. You may not like some of the structures of the church or the process you have to go through to make changes. But you must love the people.

Graying Churches

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60% of people age 65 and older report attending religious services at least once a week; among 18- to 30-year-olds, just 28 percent go that often. Source: http:// abcnews.go.com/US/ story?id=90372&page=1

– Adam W. Greenway, dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry, Southern Seminary (SBTS) Source: http://www.sbts.edu/blogs/2014/06/26/church-revitalization-restoring-the-churchs-first-love/

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In the Southern Baptist Convention, 90 percent of churches are plateaued or declining. Estimates reveal only 10 percent of all SBC churches are healthy and multiplying. Source: LifeWay.com/Pastors http://www. lifeway.com/pastors/2014/10/13/threeessentials-for-revitalization/

None of the Above

27%

of men describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated up from 20 percent in 2007. Fewer women are religious “nones,” but the religiously unaffiliated are growing among women at about the same rate as among men. Nearly one in five women (19 percent) now describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated, up from 13 percent in 2007. Source: http://www. pewforum. org/2015/05/12/ americas-changing-religiouslandscape/

Mud Creek Baptist Revitalization Ideas Revitalization is never easy and can be a multipleyear process. Here are eight observations from revitalized Mud Creek Baptist Church in Hendersonville, N.C., that can be replicated by any church. 1. Commitment to evangelism and discipleship 2. Leading with people, not over them 3. Longevity in leadership 4. Willingness to adapt 5. Consistent vision casting and outward emphasis 6. Positive, worshipful atmosphere 7. Regard for heritage without being tied down by tradition 8. Dependence on God but not pharisaical super spirituality Source: http://www.lifeway.com. pastors/2014/10/09/8-observations-about-arevitalized-church/

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Leadership

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Y D A E R T ’ N E R A S R E

N O I T A Z I L A T I V RE

D A E L E SOM

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by CHUCK LAWLESS

BELIEVE IN CHURCH PLANTING, and I also believe in church revitalization. We need to do both if we want to reach North America. I’m particularly interested in revitalization because of the people and property resources available for kingdom work, but I’m not convinced every church leader is ready to lead through a revitalization effort. Here’s why:

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REVITALIZATION REQUIRES A LONG-TERM VISION FOR A CHURCH. It demands that leaders see into the future, seeing what they’ve never seen: a church genuinely reaching non-believers and discipling new believers. Some leaders simply struggle seeing anything beyond their current situation. IT REQUIRES FACING REALITY. This struggle is especially true if the revitalization leaders are the same leaders who have led the church into plateau or decline. When a call for revitalization is also a recognition of a bad trajectory, that’s hard to face.

IT DEMANDS PATIENCE. Revitalization is never an overnight process. For leaders who want results yesterday (and who serve in a denomination that seems to reward results), the wait required for church turnaround can be too much.

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H G U O R H T D A E L O T

IT REQUIRES PRAYER. More than one study has shown that pastors pray less than they want and likely much less than their church might assume. Revitalization, though, often demands a miraculous move of God — and that requires consistent prayer. The pastor or church leader who begins to crank up a life of prayer only during revitalization isn’t likely to maintain that prayer pace. Adapted from “8 Reasons Some Pastors Aren’t Ready to Lead through Revitalization” on ThomRainer.com.

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IT MIGHT REQUIRE ASKING FOR HELP. Many denominations and private consultants are focusing on revitalization — but some church leaders are unwilling to ask for help. Doing so, they think, is an admission of failure. I encourage these same church leaders to look at video-based resources like Thom Rainer’s resources at ChurchAnswers.com and RevitalizedChurches.com.

IT REQUIRES “STICK-TO-IT-NESS.” Revitalization often means casting a new vision, getting members on board, overcoming obstacles, and working toward change. That’s a lot of effort with seemingly several opportunities to just “bow out gracefully.” Sometimes it’s just easier to leave than to try to redirect a church that’s already been difficult to lead. IT MIGHT MEAN HURTING PEOPLE YOU LOVE. Churches in need of revitalization are often marked by sacred cows, inefficient systems, and an inward focus. Dealing with those issues always means dealing with people, and they’re usually good people. Some church leaders would rather plow around these issues — but that approach seldom fixes the problem. IT REQUIRES TAKING A RISK. Let’s face it: Some revitalization attempts don’t work. It’s possible a leader will throw himself fully into this task only to learn that his efforts make little difference. If this fear invades and dominates a leader’s mind, he’s probably not ready to lead a revitalizing effort. So, should church leaders facing these concerns choose not to lead a revitalization? Perhaps, but not necessarily. They may simply need to recognize tendencies, admit them, ask God to redirect the thinking that is going in the wrong direction, and build a team that helps to keep the church focused. Leaders may not be ready now, but they can get ready with the right support.

Chuck Lawless currently serves as professor of evangelism and missions and dean of graduate studies at Southeastern Seminary. His daily blog posts are available at chucklawless.com. FALL 2016

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Deacons Meetings

September Devotion Revitalization — Proclaim the Word

T THE MEETING AGENDA Important Note: Some items require prior preparation by the person who leads the meeting. Good preparation will increase effectiveness and generate greater interest.

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HE WELL-KNOWN STORY of Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones represents the restoration and reunification of Israel after the period of exile. Without doing injustice to the passage, we can identify some principles that apply to the revitalization and reinvigoration of the church. The Lord led Ezekiel to a valley filled with dry, disjointed bones. Obviously, bones indicate the depletion of life and absence of potential — hopelessness. The Lord asked Ezekiel’s opinion. “Can these bones live?” Ezekiel’s answer expressed his conviction in the sovereign will of God and his belief that life and the future are in His hands. Thus, he answered, “Lord GOD, only You know.” The Lord had a plan — a plan that included Ezekiel. He gave Ezekiel a series of instructions that would lead to the restoration of life in these dried up bones. “Prophesy … and say … hear the word of the LORD.” To prophesy is to preach or proclaim. In this case, that which was to be proclaimed was the powerful, life-giving word given by the Lord. In response to Ezekiel’s preaching, the dry bones came together, took on flesh, and came to life. Potential and hope were restored. One key principle for revitalization of a church is obvious; that is, the necessity of clear and direct proclamation of the Word of God. God’s Word is a message of life. It is powerful in its effects. It reveals the truth about God. It makes known His holy purpose, plan, and promise concerning His people. A church will not be the church the Lord intends unless the Word is proclaimed, heard, and then heeded. As deacons, what are some ways we can encourage our pastor as a preacher of the Word? Can we relieve him of any tasks that may hinder him from having adequate time to study the Word and prepare for preaching (see Acts 6:2-3)? How can we increase our support for our church’s ongoing Bible-teaching ministry?

SERVANT LEADERS IN THE CHURCH

• Ask a deacon to lead the devotional on church revitalization from Ezekiel 37:4. Ask each deacon to pray for personal and corporate revitalization. • Lead the deacons in a discussion of a pertinent article on the theme of church revitalization and consider how it speaks to them as spiritual leaders. • Invite the pastor to give suggestions for how deacons can increase their support for his preaching ministry and the ongoing Bibleteaching ministry of the church. • Discuss other agenda items and hear from those who have reports to present. • Close with prayer that preaching and teaching God’s Word will increase as a priority.

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“He said to me, ‘Prophesy concerning these bones and say to them: Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!’” (Ezek. 37:4).


Deacons Meetings

October Devotion Revitalization — Be Filled with the Spirit “So I prophesied as He commanded me; the breath entered them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, a vast army” (Ezek. 37:10).

E THE MEETING AGENDA

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Important Note: Some items require prior preparation by the person who leads the meeting. Good preparation will increase effectiveness and generate greater interest.

ZEKIEL DECLARED the word of the Lord. The bones came together and were covered with flesh; thus, the bones became bodies. However, “there was no breath in them” (v. 8). The word for breath carries several meanings: breath, wind, spirit. The bodies still did not have life, vitality, and the ability to function as they were intended. They still were devoid of the empowering, enlivening presence of the Spirit of God. Therefore, continuing to act in obedience to the Lord’s instructions, Ezekiel appealed for breath to enter “into these slain so that they may live!” (v. 9). As a result, life, vitality, and ability were restored. The bodies became fully alive, capable of standing and ready to move forward as a mighty army. Here is another key to revitalization and restoration in a church. Be indwelt by the Spirit of the Lord. Appearances can be deceiving to those outside as well as those inside the church. Although a church may have all the appearances of being alive — well-organized, good facilities, staff in place, ample resources, and so forth — without the presence of the Holy Spirit, a church will continue to lack vitality and be incapable of effective action. So how can we, individually and as a body, have such a revitalizing, spiritually refreshing experience? At least one way is to ask for it, as Ezekiel did. Another way, as the early church in Jerusalem did (Acts 1:4-5), is to wait in faith on the Lord to make good on His promise to endow us with His Spirit. Finally, we need to purge our lives of those things that are unclean and submit to the Spirit’s filling over and over again, just as Paul appealed for the Ephesians to do (Eph. 5:18). Let’s pray now that the Holy Spirit will move in our church — beginning with us as deacons — enabling us to stand as the church He desires for us to be in our community.

• Ask a deacon to lead the devotional on church revitalization from Ezekiel 37:10. • Lead the deacons in a discussion of a pertinent article on the theme of church revitalization and consider how it applies to your church. • Invite the pastor to give his perspective on practical ways the church can position itself to be renewed by a filling of the Holy Spirit. • Discuss other agenda items and hear from those who have reports to present. • As a prayer, read the lyrics of the hymn “Breathe on Me” or a similar hymn or chorus.

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Deacons Meetings

November Devotion Revitalization — A Work of the Lord “‘I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I am Yahweh. I have spoken, and I will do it’ This is the declaration of the LORD” (Ezek. 37:14).

• Ask a deacon to lead the devotional on church revitalization from Ezekiel 37:14.

N EZEKIEL 37:12-14, the Lord explained to Ezekiel the meaning of the vision of the valley of dry bones. Israel dwelt in what appeared to be hopeless exile, but the Lord had plans to revive, restore, renew, enliven, and enable them as a people. Though Ezekiel had a vital role in what the Lord planned to do, the Lord is the One at work; He was the energy behind the restored life. That truth is evident from the beginning of the story and sustained throughout. The hand of the Lord was on Ezekiel and He was carried out by His Spirit (v. 1). The Lord led him all around (v. 2). The word Ezekiel was to proclaim was the Word of the Lord (v. 4), a message about what the Lord would do. Notice in verses 5-6,12,14 the number of times the personal pronoun I is used in reference to an action of the Lord. The story would be a hopeless one indeed if it were only about Ezekiel sitting down in a valley of dry bones. The story takes on life only because the author of life goes into action to give life. We are called on to be faithful to our calling. We have sought to be faithful in encouraging the preaching and teaching of the Word. We have prayed for the Spirit to fill us. But at the end of the day, if our church is to be revitalized, it will happen because of what the Lord does, not what we do. And when it is accomplished, He is the one who is to be acknowledged and given the glory. Identify where you currently see the Lord at work in our church. However, are there issues we need to address that may be hindering the Lord from working among us even more?

• Lead the deacons in a discussion of a pertinent article on the theme of church revitalization and consider how they might implement a lesson learned from it.

I THE MEETING AGENDA

• Discuss other agenda items and hear from those who have reports to present. • Conclude with a season of prayer focused on submitting to the Lord and asking Him to do a mighty work in your midst.

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Important Note: Some items require prior preparation by the person who leads the meeting. Good preparation will increase effectiveness and generate greater interest.

• Invite the pastor to share what he desires to see the Lord do in one or two specific areas of the church.

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Toolbox

Resource Review by Mark Dance

Can These Bones Live? A Practical Guide to Church Revitalization by Bill Henard (B&H, 2015)

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S WE WRAP up the “Church Revitalization” issue of Deacon Magazine, I want to recommend a new book by Bill Henard Can These Bones Live? A Practical Guide to Church Revitalization. I wrote the following about the book in a review for LifeWay Pastors … “Church revitalization is hard work. Bill Henard is the kind of equipper who understands this from personal experience and desires to do more than analyze

church challenges. This revitalization book achieves a rare balance of biblical scholarship and practical application. Bill reaches back into Scripture to dig deep into the timeless truths about revitalization. But he won’t abandon you there to dig without some usable tools that any pastor can use, first for himself, then for his church.” Here’s a brief excerpt from Can These Bones Live? where Henard discusses requirements and standards for church revitalization in the light of the prophecy of Ezekiel 37:

“The first requirement necessitates the preaching of God’s Word. God tells Ezekiel, ‘Prophesy concerning these bones’ (37:4). As Ezekiel obeys, the Scripture unveils this magnificent vision of bones taking on tendons and flesh. Note carefully that the bones described are dry bones. These soldiers who died in battle were not afforded the privilege of a proper burial. They experienced the great disgrace of open decay. Yet God intervenes, and Ezekiel speaks to the bones. The second standard for revitalization set by God involves the work of the Spirit. The word breath occurs in a variety of ways in this passage. That issue causes the reader to remain somewhat in the dark concerning its meaning as God says that He ‘will cause breath to enter you, and you will live’ (37:5). The word for breath in the Hebrew (ruah) is actually translated as three different words in English, namely, breath, wind, and spirit. The writer resolves this question as God declares, ‘I will put My Spirit in you, and you will live’ (37:14). 1 In order for the church to be revived, it will demand a mighty work of God’s Spirit. Following a particular methodology or program does not guarantee success. One might greatly desire for the church to revitalize and grow, but genuine church growth calls for more than personal passion. It requires the Spirit of God. Church revitalization begins with laying the foundation of God’s Word as it is preached and followed through a movement of God’s Spirit. The two are inseparably linked. Can these bones live? Only God knows, yet He instills hope in those who desire to see the established church thrive and revive. Just as God miraculously returned Israel to her home, He can bring restoration to a declining, dying church.” 1 Stuart Douglas, Ezekiel, vol. 20, The Preacher’s Commentary Series, ed. John Lloyd Ogilvie (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1989), 335.

Mark Dance is associate vice president for pastoral leadership at LifeWay. He is married to Janet, and they have two children.

FALL 2016

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And Another Thing …

WORSHIP

Jeremiah 29:11-13 50

SERVANT LEADERS IN THE CHURCH

VEER / CORBIS

“‘For I know the plans I have for you’ — this is the Lord’s declaration — ‘plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.’”


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