they are. But don’t stop with just looking at your church. Look at the local denomination, how is it doing? How are other churches in your area working? Is there growth or are they experiencing much of the same issues as your church? Secondly, is the Community Exegesis? There are many similarities between what was done with the church. However, this work will pay great dividends as the community discovers that your church is genuinely interested in what they think. Community leaders are trying to find the same answers as Pastors are – specifically what is the problem with my city/church. I established a Strategic Planning Team of seven people. We then outlined an approach of how to exegete our community. We found that people were more than willing to talk with us. We interviewed Mayors, school principals and district superintendents. We talked with social service agencies, city councils and businesses. Our focus was to find out what was important to them. What issues were they struggling with? Our last question to them was “How can our
Church help you?” This all gave us insight into who our cultural community was and their needs. We did have to assess such topics as housing markets; were new houses being built or stagnant? The population had to be considered, are people moving in or leaving? The economics of the community – were businesses closing or opening/expanding? We left no area out – we talked with the police to find out what kind of crime and drug problems they faced. All these areas affected our community, but also greatly influenced our churches in the community to minister. Lastly, we did demographic analysis of our community and compared who we the church was in comparison to the community we were called to ministry. We took the data from both environments, complied and analyzed all of it to find out more of who we were, who our audience was and where we were missing the ministry mark. It was only until we could realistically see both cultures that we could develop a comprehensive plan to bring life back to the Church
and effectively minister to the community. Once we developed the plan, the implementation was more difficult. While churches will say they want to minister to the community around them; often there is an additional wall built to keep out the “undesirable” people. The cure for this attitude came about by inviting the friends we made doing the community exegesis. Once our church began to put names and faces with the community, they found that many of the issues the community was trying to correct directly related to our own Strategic Plan. All that I have written is very brief, for the whole process of getting started and accomplishing this work took months. There are no easy solutions, but there are solutions. Find out who God has put around you in your location. Community and Church exegesis is a wonderful way of beginning the Revitalization process.
Jim Grant is the Lead Pastor of Heartland Baptist Church in Alton, Illinois. He is a veteran with 25 years of service in the Air Force. His extensive travels, while in the military, allowed him the unique ability to have served in the full spectrum of churches, styles, and health. Jim is also the Gateway Baptist Association Revitalization Team Leader. 55
The Best Practices for Church Revitalization and Renewal