July/Aug 2020 Vol 7, Issue 4
Revitalizer A Revitalization Retreat in Every Issue
When the Church
Doesnâ€™t Want to Change
â€œThe only magazine dedicated to Church Revitalization.â€?
From The Editor Welcome to the Church Revitalizer Magazine! Have you heard of the term “Kainotophobia?” It means the fear of change. Have you ever seen churches that avoid change and lock themselves up because they fear the new and unknown? I have. In fact, I see it all the time in declining churches. Churches all over North America have “Kainotophobia.” In plain English, this means that churches and their memberships sometimes are afraid to change because they do not desire to challenge or change the way they think. Churches are always anxiously wanting to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound in the past unable to embrace future. Any change for the membership of these churches, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by obstacles and irritations. Many churches have simply told me: • We don’t want to change. • We don’t feel courageous enough. • Our environment is holding us back. • We fail to see why we are stuck. • We have always relied on quick fixes. • We feel like giving up. • We don’t feel enough pain yet to do anything in renewal. When we as pastors try to convince someone to change for the betterment of the church, we call it persuasion. When a church member tries to get you to do something that you don’t want to do, you call it nagging. I just checked on Amazon and there are no published books that showcase nagging as either a leadership skill or an effective influence strategy. So, with the vast supply of nagging produced every day in the world, you’d think there would be a massive body of research demonstrating its efficacy. But there isn’t. Why do people change? Oftentimes I think they have simply had enough. When the pain of staying as you are becomes too big, you seriously start looking for a positive way forward. A blossom sitting in a vase understands that remaining tight in a bud is more painful than the risk it takes to blossom. Within this edition we want to look at:
What Does a Church Revitalizer Do When the Church Doesn’t Want to Change? Keep Staying connected, more is coming! Dr. Tom Cheyney is the Founder and Directional Leader of Renovate National Church Revitalization Conference and Executive Editor of the Church Revitalizer.
Help the Church Stop Clinging to the Status Quo Tom Cheyney
Leading Change in a Change-Phobic Congregation Ken Priddy
The Brick Wall
2 Donâ€™ts (& 1 Do) to Change a Resistant Church
Lighting Wet Logs
What Does a Revitalizer Do If the Church Doesnâ€™t Want to Change? Terry Rials
Also in this issue: How to Lead Through a Crisis p. 30 Ron Smith Charting a Change Path in the Face of Opposition p. 42 Pete Tackett 4 Steps to Change that I Learned Accidentally p. 44 Matt Henslee
July/Aug | Vol 7, No 4
Starting a Church Within a Church
10 Steps for Revitalizers in Reluctant Churches George Thomasson
Being a Moses or a Joshua When to Shake the Dust off of Your Feet
The Leadership Link: Being a Change Agent Even When You are Standing Alone p. 58 Michael Atherton Do the Two-Step on the Doorstep p. 64 Tracy Jaggers When the Church Pushes Back Instead of Moving Forward p. 68 Desmond Barett
The Three R’s of Change Mark Weible
How to Share the Gospel in 5 Minutes or Less Harry Fowler
Walk—Don’t Run p. 70 Steve Sells The Pastor’s Furniture p. 74 Joel Breidenbaugh Are You Sent … Or Are You Invited? p. 80 Rob Myers
Revitalizer Volume 7, No. 4
The Church Revitalizer Is published bi-monthly by Renovate Publishing Group 1906 West Lee Road Orlando, FL 32810 Email: ChurchRevitalizer.guru
PUBLISHER Executive Editor Dr. Tom Cheyney Associate Publisher Mark Weible Associate Publisher Circulation & Marketing Ashleigh Cheyney
The Church Revitalizer Q&A: What is The Church Revitalizers purpose? To help churches that need to be reinvigorated and renewed effectively receive help in issues that revitalizers face everyday. Articles, resources, and information are gathered from authors all over the country who have been through, or may currently be in, the revitalization process and we want to share their knowledge. How can I write for The Church Revitalizer? Contact us at email@example.com How do I get help with subscription issues? Go to churchrevitalizer.guru to renew, order a gift, or resolve any issues. May I reprint articles? Yes, if itâ€™s for church education, for small group purposes, is less than 1,000 copies and is not offered for resale. Please contact us for more information.
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Help the Church Stop Clinging to the Status Quo By Tom Cheyney This article originally appeared in The Church Revitalizer as Change Agent by Tom Cheyney. Used by permission from the Renovate Publishing Group. Change is everywhere except in many local churches. Countless churches are full of countless church leaders who fear change. There is a serial killer of declining churches on the loose. It is the status quo and it is coming for every slow-moving and change-resistant church around the world. Change can be summarized in sixteen words: Change is hard yet necessary. Everything tends to work out if you get good at it. To survive and thrive in our fast-paced world, church revitalizers must embrace reinvention of their churches before there is no other choice. Change is hard. Irrelevance is harder. Change is not risk, it is opportunity. The declining church should change before it has to. Change comes with roadblocks. Speed is your ally in crashing through them. The surest way to stay true to who you are as a church is to continually reinvent yourself. If you are reading this, you might also be asking yourself if you fall into the rut of fright when it comes to church change. When churches fear change there appears to be a rising sense of insecurity that is prevalent in the majority of the leaders within that church. Holding on for as long as they can to the security blanket of the recent past only hinders a churchâ€™s ability to rise above the mire of stuckness. A changeless church is usually a monotonous one. The excitement has left with the majority of its past membership who were at one time willing to be involved in the turnaround efforts of renewal. As the fear thermometer began to rise by those pro-
ponents of the status quo, the willing members for renewal and revitalization after a time throw up their hands in disgust and begin looking for ways to make the graceful exit. Eventually, all that is left are those who are locked in fear of change. We all understand that God has instructed us not to fear but, in our humanity, we do lapse into fear and sometimes negativity. As Jesus taught His disciples how to build the church, His command was to love people that no one else loved. Since they were to love even their enemies, this included loving people when they were not very lovely. Even people who are always negative. Negativity will draw negativity. You know the saying: Birds of a feather flock together. Ron Edmondson Lead Pastor and Church Revitalizer says there are seven ways to respond to negative people in the church. As pastor, a church leader and the planter of two churches, he is passionate about planting churches and helping established churches thrive. He says: Filter negative talk. Ask yourself if what they are saying lines up with truth. Is it true? If not, dismiss it quickly so it wonâ€™t begin to control you. When you own falsehood about yourself or the church, you validate the person offering it. And, you fuel them for further negativity about you or the church. Learn when necessary. We should not refuse to listen to any criticism. There is an element of truth in most criticism, even among things you need to ultimately dismiss. Letâ€™s not be arrogant. Be humble and teachable always.
Surround yourself with some positive people. Some people are negative about everything and would never encourage anyone. That’s the reality of working with people. Every leader needs to find a core of people who can encourage them to walk closer to Christ, to believe in themselves in Christ, and who genuinely care about their best interest. Remember negative people spread things about others too. It often helps me reconcile what a negative person says about me when I realize they are always spreading something negative. If it were not me being criticized, it would be their next victim. Do not give as much weight to the voice of the consistently negative person. Sometimes we tend to give them the most attention. The only way you will ever shut down the person who is always negative is to refuse to give them an audience for their negativity. The fact is if they are given a continued voice they will bring people into their negativity. If the same attention is placed on people who are a positive influence, then they will bring people along into positivity.
new directions for ministry. None of what I have envisioned for the future should cause us to fear change. Why do many within the local church become nervous and apprehensive regarding future change? Take a moment and put this book down and on a legal pad actually write what you believe would cause you fear as your church began to change for the future. This is a time for honesty so try to be the most transparent you can be before the Lord. Benjamin Franklin once said: “When you are finished changing, you are finished”.
“Do not give as much weight to the voice of the consistently negative person.”
Confront untruth. You do not have to go on a witch-hunt for untruth - nor should you - but you should try to stop the spread of falsities if you hear them being repeated or told to you. This is especially true if it is going to get in the way of doing what you know God has called you to do. Don’t be bashful about doing so. Don’t embarrass people or treat them harshly. Treat everyone with love. Be an example of how to handle disagreement Biblically. But, don’t ignore it either. Be truthful and positive around others. Decide you will always be a positive influence. Don’t repeat untruths and avoid being a hypercritical person. Look for the good in situations. A positive attitude is equally contagious. Remind yourself of truth. Ultimately you are looking for truth, not one person’s opinion on truth.1 Negative saints are still saints and they need a shepherd. Instead of writing them off, fulfill your duty as a pastor and pastor them. As the Church Revitalizer of a church in need of change you have come to understand that if you allow a no-change mantra to become the norm in your church, then the taste for freshness and the sweet taste of the Holy Spirit guiding will begin to become distant from your weekly experience. Church change opens us up to the new opportunities that the Lord might be providing. Embracing change allows us to adjust our sails and discover 1 Ron Edmondson at: http://www.ronedmondson.com/2015/11/ dealing-with-negativity-in-the-church.html used by permission of author.
You perhaps have around seven things on your list of fears if you were open with your feelings before the Lord. Now try to envision a positive side for each of these items on your list. Write them down and carry them with you for the next month on a piece of paper. When you pray, begin by praying over the fears first and the possible outcomes if the church was successful in bringing about change. Then begin to pray the scriptures you find in your daily Bible reading time and see what the Lord might do with providing you some inspiration for change and passages you could call upon during the church’s renewal efforts when you become apprehensive. Ask the Lord to give you a spirit of Joy for the next thirty days and plead that He help you when you fail to be one of joy in the Lord during that length of time. I firmly believe that for the majority of you who are fearful of change, it often reveals that you believe you simply do not have the necessary strength to cope with the changes required to do something new. The Lord might begin to challenge you to hand over your fear and lay it on the altar so that He might stretch you and show you the great things He can still do in your church and with you as a servant of that church. Choose joy for these days and do not allow negativity to proceed from your mouth relating to the church and its renewal leadership team. You only are giving thirty days, simply one month to allow God to do something new. You did not seek this but were given the task. But it is up for you to use this time to pray for God to do something great in your church once more. If you tarry, your church might lose the opportunity for God’s continual presence. You will give account if you abuse this opportunity. Just thirty little days that might bring God praise. Harvey Robbins and Michael Finley in their book Why Change Doesn’t Work, share a thought-provoking list of seven unchangeable rules regarding change. They state this a little tongue-incheek, that this list has not changed in forty thousand years: 1. People do what they perceive is in their best interest, thinking as rationally as circumstances allow them to think. 2. People are not inherently anti-change. Most will, in fact, embrace initiatives provided the change has positive meaning for them.
3. People thrive under creative challenge but wilt under negative stress. 4. People are different. No single “elegant solution” will address the entire breadth of these differences. 5. People believe what they see. Actions do speak louder than words, and a history of previous deception outweighs present suspicion. 6. The way to effect long-term change is to first visualize what you want to accomplish and then inhabit this vision until it comes true. 7. Change is an act of the imagination. Until the imagination is engaged, no important change can occur.2 Reasons Churches Fear Change Why do we often fear making changes in our churches? Fear is a grip that often speaks to the church’s inability to let go of harmful tendencies, which are causing its plateau or rapid decline. The writer of the Psalms declares: “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom should I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom should I be afraid?” 3The casual contemplation of even making the simplest of changes repeatedly overwhelms many within the church, so the preferred option becomes either avoidance of the issues needing to be changed or eventual settling for much less than could be achieved. Notice the causes of fear and how it can paralyze a church: Stop Paralyzing Yourself with The Unfamiliar There are many unknowns in church revitalization. People are often locked in the past because they are not open to changes and willing to take the necessary risks. The result is that churches also become locked in the past and experience many conditions that they are not pleased about but feel powerless to do anything different. Change challenges often cause church members to fear their ability to make the necessary changes required. We are individuals with our own particular set of comfort zones. Being led by even a loved and respected pastor is still hard for those who are locked into the past and relaxing in the comfort that the present state of affairs in the church brings. The fear of change causes some to become unwilling to be led out of the things that are creating stagnation in the fellowship, and also causes failure in sustaining the church as a place where new people would want to participate and belong. The fear of the unknown is what stops most people in the church from ever making positive changes. Stop wasting so much of your time as a church leader thinking on the things that could hurt the church if it made changes, and start thinking about the positive things that could occur. Focus on the future rather than live in the past. Make the choice to work towards becoming less paralyzed as a church about the unknowns. God brings opportunity to the church serious about church revitalization and He opens new paths towards eventual growth and health. Embrace the new opportunities for renewal and begin something today and stop putting things relating to change off any longer. 2 C.f. Harvey Robbins and Michael Finley, Why Change Doesn’t Work (Princeton: Peterson’s, 1996), 52. 3 C.f. Psalm 27:1.
Stop Mistrusting Yourself as the Church Leader Pastors and parishioners often mistrust whether they are up for the challenge. The concept of turning around a declining church seems gigantic to most pastors and difficult to the majority of most individuals within the fellowship. Remember revitalization is a journey and not a quick sprint. While there will be times when you become overworked and overwhelmed, keep your eye on the prize of renewal and a healthy church. Most of us overestimate what we can do in a day and underestimate what we can do in a year. We begin to mistrust ourselves because the mere mention of renewal seems so large and encompassing. Most churches live in their closing days a life of regret because they never stepped up and walked forward into church renewal efforts. You may be surprised to discover that the Lord carried you through the revitalization efforts and all you needed to do initially is to trust in the Lord and stop mistrusting your abilities as church members to renew your church. Stop Quarantining Yourself as Church Leaders Isolation is a dangerous ingredient when it comes to church revitalization and renewal. Get out to training events with other pastors and church leaders. You just might discover that you and your church are not the only ones struggling with issues of plateau or decline. As churches work together and leaders of churches in renewal efforts embrace each other, there becomes a safety net of support among them. It is usually a lot easier to move forward in renewal efforts when you have others becoming the sounding board for your ideas and efforts. The weight that you have carried alone becomes much less and you sense liberation in beginning to start something new for the renewal efforts of the church. Find church revitalization and renewal leaders who can coach you and walk beside you and your church. It will allow you to get out of your self-imposed rut and start the effort of revitalization. Stop Painting Yourself into a Corner of No Way Out Pastors and church leaders forget many times that every church has options. When you paint a church into a corner it is easy to become frustrated. Fear often pushes you into a corner because of your inability to push through the daily challenges of renewal. “I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all fears.”4 In church revitalization you have various options so remove the feeling of having no place to go in the leading of the church. There is always a way if the Lord is in your midst. Stop Shackling Yourself to the “Stuff” of Ministry Pastors and church leaders often cannot get away from the stuff that consumes them in ministry. We are shackled to the things that consume our time in ministry that leave very little time for doing the work of revitalization. We chain our actions to preconceived things which have proven over time to not work in our church. Yet, we seem powerless to get out of these defeating practices. The stuff of doing ministry becomes the crutch for not embracing the new things that could bring renewal. The crutches are the things that shackle many from ever gripping 4 The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009), Psalm 34:4.
renewal. We create the easy safety net of doing what is required over what will bring growth and renewal. You will develop a trapped feeling if you do the stuff of ministry over doing the work of ministry and renewal. Stop Drowning in Your Fear of Failure Churches and church leaders who are drowning in fear of doing anything in renewal cause their church to plateau more quickly. When you spend every moment as the leader in fear of making the wrong step, you begin to sink further and further into the fears that perpetuate failure. It is not as much that they want to succeed as it is that they do not want to fail, so they hold on to yesterday’s traditions and live in fear of trying something new. Fear is a powerful anchor that can cause leaders to drown in the work of ministry because it creates an unwillingness to boldly try new things. Many pastors admit that part of their fear is that if they actually do grow their church and lead them into renewal that they do not possess the skill sets deemed necessary to grow the church. Some intentionally try to keep their church small because success can show one’s weaknesses and lack of sufficient training.5
It is correctly assumed that they are the informal decision makers because they have been either given or earned a high degree of influence. These patriarchs and matriarchs are often the ones that are keeping the church afloat financially. You will not be able to get ahead as the revitalizer if you fear these people. Work with them and at times, yes, for them. The end goal is to revitalize a church, not delineate clearer structures of leadership. Stop Fearing the Monthly Bottom Line Money is necessary in the revitalization of any church. Placing too much fear on the nickels, numbers, and noses in your initial renewal effort, however, can cause you to develop a defeatist mentality. It will take some time to begin drawing the community into your renewal efforts, so fearing the slow addition of participants should be avoided. As the church creates a new thing, new people will check it out and you will begin to add to the number of participants slowly at first. Attendance in renewal often surges rather than in slow gradual steps. When the prospects start coming and staying you are in the initial phase of revitalization. Dollars are also a large portion of the things we fear in the monthly bottom line. It takes financial resources to revitalize a church and many times the declining church has waited too long before they begin the renewal process so finances are strained from the start. Wisdom is suggested when it comes to the monies expended during the journey. Overspending is a sign that you have not figured out if you are in renewal or in a last-ditch effort to keep the doors open. A Church Revitalizer must not fear the monthly bottom line but work towards making it better in all three realms. Remember the Lord said He would always be with us, so get to work and rest in His hands.
“When you spend every moment as the leader in fear of making the wrong step, you begin to sink further and further into the fears that perpetuate failure.”
Stop Fearing Your Criticizers Almost every pastor has those who do not like either his leadership, preaching, or him in general. Do not let what people think about you affect what you think about them. A Church Revitalizer’s work is difficult and there will be those who would rather hurt you than follow your leadership. These individuals look for ways to complain or criticize your work almost weekly. Even the best of pastors have their antagonists. Your nemesis wants you to take your eyes off of the Lord and focus your thoughts and efforts towards all of the draining rhetoric that they spew. The reality is that any decision you make is likely to displease someone who is a critic. It is better to anticipate objections than to spend your time putting out fires, and knowing how to overcome resistance to change is a vital part of any plan to manage change. Being the one who is called to lead a church towards revitalization and change translates into you having your fair share of critics.
Stop Fearing Your Patriarchs and Matriarchs These older, long-time members are always part of the makeup of a church that is needing to be revitalized. Tenure of their ministry is part of the reason and the other is that they have risen to such a level of authority that they believe they are entitled to make the critical decisions regarding the direction of the church. 5 For more on the subject of skill development go to www. RenovateConference.org/resources and review; The Skill Sets Deemed Necessary for Church Revitalization and Renewal by Tom Cheyney.
These are the causes of fear and how it can paralyze a church and its leadership. The other name for fear of change is Metathesiophobia. If you find yourself shaking when you are dealing with change issues you just might be that type of individual. Fear moves you towards not being able to speak or think clearly when confronted. When you experience full-blown anxiety attacks and breathlessness in the midst of confrontation you are dealing with fear issues. Feelings of utter helplessness might surface when you deal with the expectations of your membership. Ones fear can destroy the creativity required for renewal. Genuine change takes a lot of work over time and usually involves the church and its leadership facing the pain of reflection upon why the church has fallen into such decline. While most of us want positive change for our churches, we also know that the giving up of the status quo means confronting the untried and all the unknown feelings that might arise. Change comes slow to most, but even slower to the older individual. Their fear of
change tends to embarrass them because, they do not want to feel that they are out of touch or have been left behind. They tend to become hostile toward new concepts, not because the new concept is a bad idea but because they do not understand them. Embarrassment is a product of fear. Change freaks us out even more than speaking in public. It comes in many forms in our daily lives. How Should We Cope with Change? There are some key areas we should consider relevant to change: Change requires that we look at a specific situation, change is affected by our mood the moment we encompass it, and change is aligned with how it will impact our individual lives. Dealing with the onslaught of multiple changes is hard. Surviving change is not. Change is usually easier for the younger generations than it is for the older ones. We get stuck in habits that are difficult to change, and the same is true for the declining church. For the younger generations, change is like adding a new app while the older generations are unclear how to use the old ones. We are wired to resist change and yet we will be better off if we do not oppose it. Many churches full of older members fixate on what they will lose if the changes actually happen. Seldom do they think about the positive that could come from these new situations. Coping with change often requires a new way of seeing things. Remember that positive people hang with positive people, so remain positive towards change. Shift your focus towards change, remembering that it is very hard to embrace change when you have to and quite easy when you want to. Find the positive in the changes your church is making. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”6 Focus on the good things that are happening as the result of change. It is easier to cope with change when you get the necessary rest you need. When a person feels drained it is easy to be negative towards change. Your church is nothing more than a reflection of its membership, so if you need to change work toward making a glorious reflection of the Savior. You cannot change others in the church initially, you can only change yourself and by doing so you will be given the opportunity to change the church. We often underestimate our control to change ourselves and overestimate our influence to change others. No matter how many obstacles you will face in church renewal and no matter how many negative and difficult people you will have to deal with, it is always better to take a look at what you could do better instead of pointing out what they are doing wrong. Avoid stooping to their level and instead show them how to be a better person. Your faith does not require you to put up with rude, unkind, nasty people. You are entitled to stand up for yourself and not be walked over. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that caring for other people means putting up with their negative impacts on you. 6 C.f. 1 Corinthians 13:4–7 ESV.
Wrapping it up! The worst part about being afraid of change is that you can end up settling for doing nothing and maintaining the status quo. The Psalmist states: “When I am afraid, I will trust in You.”7 Carey Nieuwhof lead pastor of Connexus Church in Barrie, Ontario says “change is hard because by default, we cling to the status quo. In many churches, as long as the bills are being paid and people are still showing up, the motivation to change remains too low to really push ahead on the issues facing the church. The greatest threat to your future success in leadership is often your current success.”8 For some Church Revitalizers there is safety in that direction and decision. Having the confidence to take action in the face of fear not only provides you with a sense of control; ultimately it will also provide you with a life full of purpose and joy. Understand the challenges of being the change agent. Older members are fearful of change. Younger church members are fearful if there is no change. You as the leader might even be fearful if you cannot keep the members working together. Church members vote their fears no matter where they are in the continuum. It is not easy to be the one who is leading the revitalization efforts of the church but never the less press on. Work strategically with everyone and pastor the entire congregation as you lead them towards change. Be brave and allow the Lord in His good time to perform the miracles that will lead to the renewal of your church. 7 The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009), Psalm 56:3. 8 Carey Nieuwhof, Lasting Impact: Seven Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow (Cumming, GA: The reThink Group, 2015), 135.
Tom Cheyney is the Founder & Directional Leader of the RENOVATE National Church Revitalization Conference (RenovateConference.org). Some of Tom’s books include: The Church Revitalizer as Change Agent, Slaying the Dragons of Church Revitalization: Dealing with the Critical Issues that are Hurting Your Church; and Church Revitalization in Rural America: Restoring Churches in America’s Heartland. Tom lives in Orlando, Florida with his wife Cheryl and travels all over North America assisting declining churches by bringing revitalization and renewal to the congregations.
Leading Change in a Change-Phobic Congregation By Ken Priddy Solomon gave us this truth, “Where there is no vision, the people perish,” (Proverbs 29:18a, KJV). Here’s a corresponding truth, “Where there are no people, a vision perishes.” Consider that any vision for a congregation is at risk until that congregation buys in and supports that vision in word, deed and resources. However, for buy in of a vision to be realized fully, pastors and leaders must help congregations navigate change and most congregations, especially those in long-term plateau or decline, tend to be change-phobic. What’s a pastor, what’s a leader, to do? Change is a sensitive and highly complex undertaking, and successfully and effectively navigating change is much too demanding to say all there is to say in a short article, so I am going to zero in on two concepts that I have discovered to be significant when attempting to navigate this dangerous terrain. The first concept is this: Quantify the Resistance, and the second: Leverage Conversation, NOT Presentation. Quantify the Resistance: Human nature leans in the direction of voicing complaints, dissatisfaction, opposition and all manner of negativity, while support, alignment and all manner of positivity remain lost in silence. Perhaps this is a subset of the Squeaky Wheel Syndrome. In this context, a vision might be well supported by many in a congregation, but that support hovers beneath the surface, while resistance, even small resistance, tends to be given voice such that the only voice that pastors and leaders are hearing is negative. So, let’s say that 15% of a typical congregation is not supportive but is resistant to a proposed vision. Often, that small percentage, in this case 15%, manufactures close to 100% of the comments, and those comments are negative, suggesting a false negative of strong resistance. Add to this dynamic the tendency for pastors and leaders to generalize their perspectives in regard to this resistance. When this happens, which is often, I hear groans from pastors or leaders such as, “They’re all against me,” or, “No one seems to get it,” or, “We’ll never get the green light to move ahead.” This combination of negative voice and positive silence, wrapped in generalization, can lead to a defeated paralysis among pastors and leaders who sense that the Goliath that stands before them is not going down with a simple slingshot. So, again, what’s a pastor, what’s a leader, to do?
The answer lies in quantifying the resistance; distinguishing real resistance from perceived resistance. When doing so, more often than not, the juggernaut of resistance that seems to be there turns out to be an illusion. Here’s an example: Years ago, a pastor turned up at a ReStart training event that I was presenting. This was training in revitalization that spanned several days and this pastor had come in hopes of gaining insight into leading his small congregation out of decline and into missional productivity. His circumstances were challenging. The congregation was down to nineteen members, over the years the church property had been surrounded by light industrial businesses such that there were no residential areas nearby; money was very tight, barely able to support a pastor. However, the church had surprisingly received a large bequest and this pastor saw this as the opportunity to make changes and move forward, so, he had come for training. He left our training event with mixed feelings. On one hand, he was excited about new possibilities, but, on the other hand, he was very apprehensive about garnering buy in from his congregation. I extended an invitation for him to keep in touch with me and assured him that I would be willing to provide whatever help and support that I could from a distance.
Months went by with no word but then I got a call. It had been nine months since the training and he had made no progress. He was very discouraged and the problem, as he explained it, was that, “Everyone is against me. They won’t even hear me out.” I suggested that he quantify the resistance and that I would talk him through it. I asked how many of the nineteen members on the roll were actually engaged in the life of the church. He said, “Thirteen.” I asked him to number 1 through 13 on a sheet of paper. I told him to write the name of the most supportive person in Slot 13, the second most supportive person in Slot 12, and so on. As I recall, we were down to Slot 8 or Slot 7 before we ran out of supportive people. I then asked him to list people who were more or less ambivalent or benign, and that took us down to Slot 2. So, at this point, he had identified eleven out of thirteen people who were either supportive or benign, offering no quantifiable resistance. In Slot 2, he identified the first person with serious resistance, the lone Elder of the church, and Slot 1, the most resistant person, turned out to be that Elder’s wife. This boiled the real resistance down to one household, one married couple in the church. Quantifying the Resistance often turns the myth of overwhelming opposition into the reality of manageable resistance that leads to removing obstacles and moving forward with change.
Leverage Conversation, NOT Presentation: Vision casting has two platforms, public vision casting and private vision casting. By far, pastors and leaders tend to go with public vision casting that proves ineffective. We follow a logic that tells us that the most efficient way to get the word out is to do so publicly through platform presentations or information distribution through email, etc. While this might be efficient in terms of getting information to large groups of people easily, this is not effective in garnering buy in. Consider the Town Hall Meeting, for example. A group of leaders has formulated a vision that will require change and schedules a town hall meeting, a congregational meeting, so that the vision can be cast with everyone present. Everyone will have the opportunity to hear the presentation and there will be ample time for anyone to make comments or ask questions. Not true! Most people will never speak in a large group, so comments don’t get made, questions don’t get asked. Others won’t NOT speak in a group, so they dominate the floor, often with negativity. A vote at the end renders a negative or a false positive and the vision is dead in the water. Casting vision privately through conversation is far more effective and renders much better results. Leaders truly hear from people and have the opportunity to correct misunderstandings, answer questions and remove obstacles. Buy in is established one person, one couple, one small group or ministry team at a time, and the vision with its rationale is more widely embraced. Consider this turn of phrase: Don’t use the large group meeting at the front end of vision casting to SELL the vision. Use the large group meeting at the back end to CELEBRATE the vision. Quantify the Resistance and Leverage Conversation, NOT Presentation. That’s how vision through change makes real progress. Ken Priddy (D.Min., Ph.D.) is Founder and Executive Director of the GO Center, a training and consulting ministry committed to church vitalization and revitalization. Ken also directs LEADERTOWN: A Laboratory for Organization & Leadership Development. His thirty-plus year journey in church planting and revitalization has grown into a national presence among evangelical leaders. He’s an effective trainer and consultant, but perhaps his most significant contribution is his extensive development of training curricula.
The Brick Wall By Bill Tenny-Brittian The Revitalizing Pastor went with all the right intentions. Before the call, he’d done his research, knew what the church needed in terms of revitalizing, and had discovered the church had the resources necessary to navigate both the time and the needed changes. They wanted to be a church that averaged more than 300 in worship each week, a far cry from the 800 they used to host, but times were different now. The 125 hearty souls said they were committed. And the pastor believed they might actually be. For the first two years, things went well. Changes were made without major warfare. Intransigent staff was replaced with mission-aligned leaders. And the General Board seemed to be, shall we say, on board. The results of his work had been slow, but methodical and systematic. Because there wasn’t much pushback to the changes he’d proposed, he believed things to be moving steadily in the right direction. In fact, the church began to experience real growth. The modern service, AKA the second service, had seen significant gains. In fact, it had become the biggest worship service of the two. The leadership team seemed genuinely pleased with the way things were going. It was when the attendance started bouncing around 225 that the pastor began to feel, rather than hear, rumblings. There wasn’t any real conflict, as far as he could tell, but
there seemed to be some tension, especially with the seniors. He began to hear the occasional “What about us?” and “He likes that modern worship stuff more than traditional worship” kinds of comments. Although he tried to allay their concerns, it became clear that a culture of discontent was beginning to get a foothold. His leadership team had a suggestion. “Let’s hold a series of cottage meetings and ask people whether they want to continue the course we’re on – a growth course to revitalize the church – or not.” They put together a short presentation on the congregation’s mission and vision, a document that had been overwhelmingly approved by the congregation at the outset, and the pastor provided demographic material that showed the church’s potential and how the church had been effective in reaching their targeted audiences over the previous couple of years. The team was confident the church members would see the wisdom in continuing the course. The first couple of cottage meetings went well. The pastor led the first two and trained key members of the leadership team to lead further get-togethers in order to meet with all the members in a timely fashion. The “ayes” seemed to have it, until one of the participants in one of the groups said, “We’re tired. Can’t we just do both? We want to grow, but maybe not so much, not so fast, and not now.” It caught the leadership team member off guard and he didn’t stick with
the script. Instead he offered, “Well, maybe that could work.” That night the phones went crazy and by the next day it was clear that pressing “Pause” was the majority’s preference. “We want to grow, but just not now.”
has doubled in size, it may mean they’ve realized that if the growth continued they’d no longer be in control, that they could be outvoted by the new members – and that they don’t yet know them well enough to trust them.
The pastor resigned that afternoon.
As you consider your options, begin by asking yourself what you’re called to do and who you’re called to be. Yes, your congregation may well be filled with good people, people you care about, but the question is whether you’re called to revitalize a church or to prepare a congregation for a revitalization effort later … presuming the church lasts that long. The fact is, once a church has rejected a revitalization effort, a second effort isn’t possible for a generation (those who turned their backs have to either pass on, leave, or be disempowered … similar to those in the Exodus who wanted to return to Egypt – the generation must pass before the “nation” can embark on their entrance to the Promised Land).
It will probably come as no shock to you when I say that there are churches that aren’t willing to endure the changes necessary to revitalize. You may not even be shocked to learn there are some churches that aren’t interested in revitalizing at all. But what may seem shocking is the number of churches that truly believe that God is calling them to revitalize but change their minds and sabotage the effort once it gets started.
“As you consider your options, begin by asking yourself what you’re called to do and who you’re called to be.”
There are a number of reasons churches change their minds and sabotage the change efforts, but that’s the subject for another article sometime in the future. For now, let it suffice to say that it’s likely that, if you stay on the revitalization track long enough, you’re going to experience it – probably more than once. The burning question is, though, how will you respond when their chips are down, their backs are to the wall, and they’ve cast their vote, either officially or by their actions, to not grow, stop growing, or to take a U-turn to go back where they were before you started meddling?
There are really only three responses to a congregation that seems bent on destruction, which one you choose depends primarily on you.1 1. Take Your Lumps and Lumber On Your church is filled with some really wonderful, God-fearing people who need a shepherd. If they’ve turned their backs on revitalization it might mean they’re still immature disciples who put themselves and their personal desires above the commands of the Lord. It might be that they’re frightened by the changes that have been made and simply don’t understand that the days of VCRs and pipe organs really are gone and aren’t coming back. And if the church 1 The following options are relevant primarily for those revitalizers who have launched a project, experienced some measure of success, and then come up against the brick wall of resistance.
That said, you have to decide whether God’s called you to be a Moses to the congregation, leading the majority to their chosen destiny while preparing the next generation for the new vision. In other words, has God called you into a chaplaincy position or a revitalization position? If the former, then it’s time to change hats from revitalization leader to put on the mantle of pastor. 2. Lead a Coup When I was last visiting Disneyland, years ago, I bought a Jack Sparrow Pirates of the Caribbean t-shirt that has the message, “When all else fails, Mutiny!” This is perhaps especially true when it comes to revitalization. The fact is, there is rarely a successful revitalization effort without some sort of a coup. The most successful revitalizations have almost always begun with the loss of upwards of 50 percent of the congregational members. Indeed, in nearly two decades of research, we’ve yet to find a successful revitalization project that didn’t lose significant numbers of the congregation before growth took hold. That said, a second option you have when the congregation turns their backs on revitalization is to lead a coup. Before jumping onto this option, you’ll need to do some honest evaluating of the situation and the church’s resources. Not every coup is successful, in fact, the odds are against
you – but you already knew that. The odds of a successful revitalization are less than 20 percent – and that’s with a trained revitalizer and a coach, so tilting at windmills is likely a part of your DNA anyway! The questions you need to ask include: • Can you build enough support to overturn the naysayers? • Will those who support the revitalization have the necessary willpower to willingly jettison those members who are adamant about not moving forward with the revitalization? • Does the church have the necessary financial resources to sustain the loss of your biggest givers and still have the investments necessary to pay staff, purchase needed equipment, remodel those spaces that are mission critical, and so on? In other words, can the church afford to significantly run in the red for three to five years? If the answers to any of those questions are marginal, then opt out … as confident as you are of your abilities, this option is not an option for the congregation. If you try, you’ll almost certainly be guilty of ekklesia-cide – you’ll kill the church. Yes, the reality is that the church may be self-selecting their own demise by walking away from revitalization, but that’s at their hand, not yours. Church killing doesn’t look good on a resume, let alone on your conscience. However, if you can answer those three inquiries with a resounding “Yes!” then you have yet one more question you must answer for yourself: Do you have the backbone to look a church leader in the eyes and say, “I’m sorry, but this church isn’t for you. You and your family will need to find somewhere else to worship.” To be honest, there are very few pastors with that kind of gumption and if you’re not one of them, then leading a coup isn’t for you. Hopefully, it wouldn’t come to that, but it is more than just a little likely that it could. Could you do this without losing sleep? (For a related article, see Bill Easum’s “On Not Being Nice for the Sake of the Gospel” at https://bit.ly/NotBeingNice. Again, if you can answer all four questions in the affirmative, then the next steps are to begin developing a coalition outside of current leadership and then nurturing and training them to be the next leaders. Expend your primary efforts on growing this group on the side until you’ve built up a new leadership team and have the support needed to overturn the former decision. Note, this is a process that can’t be adequately proscribed in an article of this scope. There are plenty of resources both within the Revitalizer magazine, Net Results magazine, and at the Effective Church Group’s website, to name just a few. Plus, if you’re seriously considering this option, you’re going
to need a coach, so be ready to find one who believes in the process and can help you effect a successful coup. 3. Tap the Dust Off This isn’t the last option because I believe it’s the last option you should consider … it’s last because it’s the most important and I want you to leave with this option firmly in your mind. Approximately 85 percent of all churches in the US are in some state of decline. This is even more true in the COVID-19 days and professional estimates are none-too-optimistic about the post-COVID scene. In other words, there are a lot of churches that are in desperate need of revitalizing … conservative estimates put that number at around 280,000 churches. Statistically speaking, of those churches only 20 percent have the necessary resources and attitudes to successfully engage a revitalization, however, that still leaves over 56,000 churches that are excellent prospects for turnaround. But those 56,000 churches need a particular caliber of church leadership, a caliber that is rare in the pastoral pool. The men and women who are touched by God (called) and equipped to lead a successful revitalization project are few and far between. If you’re genuinely one of them, then you must take Jesus’ admonition to his disciples in Matthew 10:14–15 seriously. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. In other words, if God’s called you to be a revitalizer, don’t waste a moment on either of the two previous options. Instead, like the pastor of the church I described in the opening paragraphs, don’t hesitate. You’re too valuable of a kingdom asset to do ministry with a congregation that has to be convinced the Great Commission is the primary mandate for the church … and doing “whatever it takes” to save some (1 Corinthians 9:22) is the biblically ordained model for growing a church. Go Ye … even if you have to go ye somewhere else.
Bill Tenny-Brittian is the managing partner of The Effective Church Group. For over thirty years, The Effective Church Group has been equipping churches and church leaders so they can be successful in reaching their mission. He is the co-author of The Role of the Senior Pastor and also teaches Pastoral Leadership for Phillips Seminary with an emphasis on leadership.
PO Box 1102 Salisbury, NC 28145 (866) 847-0252 (336) 301-2502
2 Don’ts (& 1 Do) to Change a Resistant Church By Bob Whitesel Most of my clients in the past 30 years have been congregations that don’t want to change. Small churches, rural churches, urban churches or mega-churches, they all have the same thing in common: the leadership wants to bring about change, but the congregation doesn’t. The solution is understanding two don’ts and one do. DON’T force change. Change proponents usually force change arguing that is necessary for the survival of the church. They also suggest that if people don’t want change, they should go elsewhere. But researchers1 have found that status quo members won’t usually leave a church. The status quo just quietly waits for the change proponents to make a misstep and then they reappear to cry foul. Because the church is the status quo’s social environment (e.g. extended family), they can’t go elsewhere. Therefore successful change involves getting the status quo members involved in the change. See how below.
or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.” (NIV). But theologians such as R. V. G. Tasker remind us this verse is about Jesus sending out the 12 on a short-term mission which requires “such haste that they must not linger at any house which will not receive them.”2 Today’s long-term and evolving relationship between pastor and congregants, usually requires working through change rather than quitting in protest. DO these 8 steps. So how does successful organizational change occur? There are actually eight steps first formulated by Harvard management scholar John Kotter.3 I adapted them to church change while completing my Ph.D. research in church change at Fuller Theological Seminary. In fact, these eight steps are a key element of the D.Min. course I wrote and have taught at Fuller Theological Seminary titled: “Leading Turnaround Churches.”
DON’T quit in protest. Change leaders often leave a church with metaphorical protest, citing Matt. 10:14: “If anyone will not welcome you
Here are the steps summarized from my book: “re:Mix Transitioning Your Church to Living Color,” Abingdon Press (2017) with Mark DeYmaz. Learn more details of each step at: www.8steps4change.church
1 Bruno Dyck and Frederick A. Starke, “The Formation of Breakaway Organizations: Observations and a Process Model.” Administrative Science Quarterly (1999), 44:792822. I have applied the Dyke-Starke model to the church in Bob Whitesel, Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change and What You Can Do About It (Abingdon Press, 2003).
2 R. V. G. Tasker, The Gospel of St. Matthew, Tyndales new Testament Commentaries, 1961, p. 103. 3 John Kotter, Leading Change, (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1996), John Kotter, “Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail,” Harvard Business Review (Boston, Harvard Business Publishing, 2007).
1. “Establish a Sense of Urgency.” Begin with a period of time acquainting the congregants with the need and biblical mandate for change. Because of the urgent situation, many church leaders will be tempted to ignore this step and launch headlong into transition. Yet, in my consulting work I have found that this step is critical. Pray, study, research and dialogue on the importance of a church transition first. But don’t make plans yet. Your task is to increase awareness of the urgency for change. How that change plays out is in the next steps, which for success require input from many church factions. Scripture; Ezekiel 3:17-19. 2. “Form a Powerful Guiding Coalition.” Even though you might think you know the situation the best, due to history, education or background: a church is a communal organization and leadership works best when there is a communal consensus. Find those who resonate with the transition and help them take the vision to the rest of the congregation. These may be “persons of peace” (Luke 10:6). The Greek word here for peace is derived from the word “to join.” It literally means a person who helps people from different viewpoints and even warring convictions to join together in unity whereby oneness, peace, quietness and rest result.4 Scripture: Luke 10:6 3. “Create a Communal Vision.” The step 2 guiding coalition creates the vision, thereby taking into consideration concerns and insights from various segments of the church. This guiding coalition helps you draft, refine and edit the vision. People must see the future before they can work toward it. The goal is to have an easy to read, clear vision statement in no more than a paragraph that is crafted by persons of peace from varying church segments. Scriptures: Proverbs 15:22, 29:18. 4. “Communicating the Vision.” Take your guiding coalition as well as congregational members to places where turnaround ministry is being done and let them experience it firsthand. Also use stories to help people picture change. Atlanta mega-congregation, 12Stone(c) Church, found that the story of the miraculous crossing of the Jordan River (Joshua 4) inspired their attendees to trust God for “many bold crossings” in their faith journeys. Scripture: use a story that illustrates your church’s spiritual waypoints. 5. “Empowering Others to Act on the Vision.” It is important to delegate your power to others (or burn out). Too often passionate church leaders are tempted to go it alone. One pastor said, “Jesus had to do it alone.” And atonement and redemption were definitely things that only the Son of
God could accomplish. But remember, Jesus rounded-up and delegated to his disciples his power. Scripture: Matthew 10, Mark 6, Luke 9. 6. “Planning for and Creating Short-Term Wins.” Probably the most overlooked step, short-term wins help people see the validity and direction of a new vision. Short-term wins are projects and programs that can be undertaken quickly and temporarily. They usually won’t change the long-term outcomes (yet). But they demonstrate the validity of the new direction in a quick way. So, use temporary “task forces” instead of semi-permanent committees to launch new projects in ministry. Scripture: Luke 10:17-20. 7. “Using increased credibility to change systems, structures, and policies that don’t fit the vision.” Short-term wins will give the guiding coalition the social capital to make long-term structural changes. Don’t start with structural changes. You haven’t enough buy-in from hesitant members. Only after short-term wins validate your approach will you be able to change systems, structures and policies. Scripture: Matthew 8:1-22. 8. “Institutionalizing New Approaches.” Finally, it is time to adopt a church personality that reflects these changes. Now your church vision statement might be changed. Now your church’s personality in the community might change. Your logo and byline might change. Don’t be tempted to do these first (most leaders do and fail because of it). The church’s new personality is the last thing to jell and it comes organically from the church’s new direction. I remind clients that “Vision won’t bring about change, change will bring about vision.”
Bob Whitesel is an award-winning author/consultant on church health and growth. He has been called “the key spokesperson on change theory in the church today” by a national magazine, co-founded an accredited seminary (Wesley Seminary at IWU) and created one of the nation’s most respected church health and growth consulting firms: ChurchHealth.net
4 James Strong The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Thomas Nelson, 1990), 1515.
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Lighting Wet Logs By Lee Kricher I once asked a pastor how he felt about a few people in his church who were a bit “over the top” in how they expressed themselves in worship and during the sermon. He shrugged and said, “I’d rather have to tone down a fire than light a pile of wet logs.” I think that is a pretty accurate analogy when it comes to church revitalization. Often, the people who are still in the church are relatively happy with the status quo. They may verbally agree with the need to reach more people or to reach the next generation, but they are not willing to embrace the changes that are needed to do so. Leading a church filled with change-resisters is definitely like trying to light a pile of wet logs! In 2019, I handed off Amplify Church, a healthy, multi-generational church of over 2,000 people, to my successor. The church had been in a very different place sixteen years earlier when I became the pastor. In 2003, church attendance and giving had dwindled to the point that the church was on the verge of closing its doors. We were an aging, dying church. The people of the church voted for me to become the next pastor knowing that I was planning to lead the church into a much-needed season of change. But when I began to implement those changes, there was not a lot of excitement. Even simple changes—relaxing the dress code, putting young people
in visible positions of leadership during weekend services, and creating spaces in our facility devoted to children and youth ministry—were met with resistance. In my observation, it is unlikely that a church will experience genuine revitalization if the pastor does not embrace the role of change leader. I know that many pastors are more comfortable embracing the role of shepherd rather than the role of change leader. However, people need their pastor to lead them through the challenges involved with church revitalization. In their book Your First Leadership Job, Tacy Byham and Rich Wellins use the word catalyst when defining effective leadership, Much like an ingredient that induces a chemical reaction, a catalyst leader is someone who ignites action in others. The common characteristic in great catalysts is their passion to become better leaders. They’re constantly building their leadership skills. They’re also introspective – looking in the mirror every day and asking what they could do to become better leaders. The pastor is the primary earthly catalyst when it comes to church revitalization. If you are a pastor, do not shy away from leading change even if you feel, “That is just not who I am.” Your love for the people and your passion for the future of your church will provide all of the neces-
sary motivation for you to step out of your comfort zone and become a catalyst leader. Ask God for the wisdom, favor and courage that you need. He will answer that prayer. When you look at Moses, Joshua, Deborah, Nehemiah, Peter, Paul and other leaders who are profiled in the scriptures, you don’t see people who led with timidity. They may have been initially hesitant to take on the role of leader, but they ended up leading with God-inspired boldness. Bold changes seldom occur without bold leadership. I decided that I had to lead in a way that rallied the congregation to embrace the necessary changes – and to support the changes with their finances and their time as volunteers.
left our church or those who were not yet attending. The value of a person is determined by the value God places on them – the blood of His Son. I considered every message to be a critical opportunity to help our church move onto a different course. I did not use that time to criticize the past or to criticize those who disagreed with change. Instead, I cast a positive vision about what the future could hold. I asked people to imagine a church that their children and grandchildren would actually want to attend with them. When all was said and done, my messages were a major catalyst in shifting the direction of our congregation.
“Bold changes seldom occur without bold leadership”
I actively championed the principles and strategies that I was convinced were necessary for us to be transformed from an aging, dying church into a healthy, multi-generational church. I took our board of directors and other key lay leaders on “field trips” to experience healthy, multi-generational churches first hand. I initiated small groups that focused on the importance of reaching people in our community – especially the next generation. I had countless one-on-one conversations with people who were struggling with change emphasizing the “whys” behind each change. But it was my weekend messages that were the single most powerful vehicle for changing the trajectory of our church. From the moment I was voted in as pastor, I spoke regularly during weekend services about God’s heart for our community and the next generation. I challenged church members to start thinking in terms of doing whatever it would take to reach our community and the next generation. I emphasized that God was calling us to be more concerned about reaching people than we were about keeping people. I also spoke regularly against the quote that was common in our church – “God cares about quality—not quantity.” I preached about the fact that God DOES care about numbers since every empty chair in our church represented someone in our community for whom Christ died. I pointed out that the people who remained in our church were not “higher quality” people than those who
The bottom line is that pastors cannot afford to adopt a neutral “wait and see” attitude. Step out in faith and become a change catalyst! Trust that God is at work. Don’t give in to your fears that the church will never change. And don’t be discouraged if you feel like you are trying to light a pile of wet logs. God’s fire consumed Elijah’s offering even though it was soaked more thoroughly than the wettest logs you will ever find. Visit futureforwardchurches.com/free-resources for free resources related to church revitalization and pastoral succession planning
Lee Kricher is the Senior Pastor of Amplify Church in Pittsburgh, PA, a church that experienced a dramatic turnaround from an aging, dying church of under 200 people to a church of over 2,000 people with every generation well represented. Lee is the author of For a New Generation: A Practical Guide For Revitalizing Your Church and founder of Future Forward Churches. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
How to Lead Through a Crisis By Ron Smith Do you know what would be very sad? A full church filled with empty people. “I have dwelt forty years practically alone on Africa. I have been 39 times stricken with the fever, three times attacked by lions, and several times by rhinoceri; but let me say to you, I would gladly go through the whole thing again, if I could have the joy of bringing that word “Savior” and flashing it into the darkness that envelops another tribe in Central Africa.” -William Hotchkiss Take some time and review Paul’s Resume found in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28. When I think my times are bad, I can learn from Paul. Let’s review some familiar texts that can help us.
Fix Your Focus
Spiritually Preach Christ alone. Pray, plan and prepare for people to experience Christ. Display a passion for Christ. Crisis is an obvious distraction. Crisis shifts our agenda and interrupts a normal schedule. When this happens the mind and calendar are refocused on the events at hand. If we are not careful, we can allow our spiritual focus to be divided. Remember, we area called to “preach Christ and Him crucified.” Keep Christ in front of people. No matter what life brings Christ is the answer. In the midst of crisis people need to see the hope of Christ and Christ alone.
Practically Find reliable sources. What is needed most in our life is credible sources of information. Crisis reveals a lot about people and information. When critical decisions need to be made having the right information is crucial. Now is a good time to look around and establish what sources are credible and value those voices and sources of information. Sit, listen, interpret, wait, and pray as information is being dispensed and received. The best thing you can do is to take it God in prayer. Form a trusted crisis team. I have learned that God has gifted some people to be able to operate in crisis. When life is interrupted there will be those who have the gift and ability to think clearly. Surround yourself with clear thinkers. Establish a realist view. This season of life has revealed the myriad of opinions. If I am not careful, I can be tossed between two extremes – “The sky is falling,” and, “This is just imaginary.” In crisis we need to clear headed with a steady heart and sure hand.
Narrow Your Interests “This ONE thing I do”
I Corinthians 10:23, “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. How do I practically do this?
Personally -Evaluate the drain - Unresolved conflict - Unbalanced schedule - Out of focus life Eliminate the Strain - Mute the unneeded toxic voices - Lose the weight - Cut back on media carbs - Make sleep, rest, and recreation a habit Pastorally - Keep the main thing the main thing. - Add balance instead of busyness. - Learn to Dial: Dial up or dial back (plans, ministries, events). - Cast vision for Out of – Through - and Into. Keep a vision of hope in front of your church. Our God is a God that leads us out of bondage, through rivers, and into new land. Our God is a delivering God.
Share the hope of being able to share Hope. Replace their hopeless thoughts with thoughts of hope. This is so important. In crisis people are looking for hope. The only hope our world has is the hope of Christ. Hope in hope is not hope. Preach the hope of Christ. Preach the joy of having joy. Preach the blessing of being blessed in Christ. The church was made to be present in crisis! Be Real Look at Paul’s lists and requests found in the book of Philippians. His lists: I have been shipwrecked, beaten, imprisoned, rejected, stoned, and sleepless on the water. Requests: Prayers for them. Here’s the point, be real about where you are and what’s happening around you, but don’t be so down in the mouth that you fall victim to the circumstances. Be real! Times are tough, but God is good and let’s pray.
Know this: most people have no idea they have an unteachable spirit. They will need the teaching of the Holy Spirit to open their eyes. Only the truth of the Word of God can bring understanding. The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Psalm 111:10 Be Excited Be happy, smiling, optimistic, humorous, helpful, and healthy. These characteristics are usually uncommon expressions during crisis. As Pastors we are called to be share the hope of Christ. Sometimes we communicate this with behaviors as much as we use words. A strong, biblically healthy attitude is a powerful thing. “Have this mind in you which was in Christ Jesus,” (Phil. 2:5). Be an Encourager “People like cheerleaders more than bosses.” I would rather be cheered on than bossed around. People need massive doses of encouragement in crisis. Here are some ways to express encouragement: - Watch your church and point out the good. - Use your Words: Share stories. Bless your people. When you bless your people, you are actually building the future. Today, find hope in Christ alone. This is what the church was made for. Times like these are when the church shows up. Lead on Pastor! Ron Smith is the Lead Pastor of WaterStone Church in Longwood and serves as Co-Leader of Renovate One Day Training as well as serving on staff of the Renovate Coaching Network. Follow Ron at RonBSmithJr.com for leadership material and sporadic blogs.
Be Realistic Deal in the truth. Constantly keep your communication biblically grounded. Remember, where there are two Christians there are three opinions. Guard yourself by keeping true to the truth found in the Word.
What Does a Revitalizer Do If the Church Doesn’t Want to Change? By Terry Rials That is a really good question. I would like to answer it somewhat Socratically. In order to answer this question, let me ask some other questions that serve to reframe the scenario. (I would like to hear your thoughts as you ask yourself these questions. My contact email is below, so feel free to share them with me.) Please allow me to add my answers to yours. Since there is victory in a multitude of counselors (Proverbs 11:14), please ask these questions to other learned colleagues and revitalizers as well, as you formulate your answer. Here is the first question: Is there anything that I can do to make the church change? Go ahead and answer that. We all know the proverb that you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink. That sounds like too simple an explanation, sort of an “oh well, I tried.” I have tended to rely on a sage piece of advice I was given by an older man in the church I attended in my youth. After surrendering to the pastoral ministry, Bro. Carol Johnson walked up to me and said sharply, “Boy, I want to give you one piece of advice – just remember, you can’t push a rope.” With that, he turned around and walked away. He was exactly right. You cannot push a rope, but
you can pull it. If the church is like a rope, you can lead it along, but you cannot push it. Shepherds walk in front of the herd, leading it; they never try to push sheep from behind. If the sheep are willing to follow, then they will follow. Here’s another question we must consider: Do you as the revitalizer still have vision, direction, and passion for leading your church? As I work with churches, I see so many pastoral leaders who are visionless, directionless, and passionless, which saddens my heart. I truly believe the enemy has gained a foothold in the lives of pastors who are tired and who have forsaken their personal time alone with the Lord. I am talking about more than your daily quiet time. I am talking about getting alone with God for substantial periods of time to know the Father and discover His will and direction. Moses and Jesus both spent forty days alone with God, Moses up on the mountain and Jesus out in the wilderness of Judea. One would hardly expect forty days from a modern pastoral leader, so let me make it easier - when was the last time you spent 24-48 hours alone with God without any other human contact (including electronic)? We wonder why
we don’t know where we are going. We are the proverbial blind leading the blind! Let us look at the next question: Is it the revitalizer’s fault if the church does not want to change? Take a moment to give an answer. We could argue that the ultimate responsibility for the church lies on the shoulders of the pastor. Think about the numerous prophets God sent to Israel and Judah in the Old Testament. Many of the speaking prophets have a book in our Bible, but there were countless other prophets God sent to preach to them. Was it the responsibility of those prophets that Israel had a rebellious and idolatrous heart? Was it the prophets’ fault that Judah relied upon the presence of the tabernacle (and later the temple) in Jerusalem to ward off their enemies? We all know the answer is no. The Galilean city of Chorazin had so many miracles performed in it, leading Jesus to conclude that if Tyre and Sidon had the same number of wonders performed there, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes (Matthew 11:21). Was it the fault of Jesus that Chorazin did not repent? Hardly.
If your train is at the end of the tracts, it may be time to consider your own Iconium. In full disclosure, I am not the Holy Spirit and have no right to tell you that you should or should not leave. Jeremiah prophesied for forty years with absolutely no results. Yet God wanted him to stay right where he was and be faithful to that call for the remainder of his life. That was God’s plan for Jeremiah, and Jeremiah was faithful to that calling.
“We may accept that the churches we lead need to change, but perhaps we are the ones who need to change the most.”
Another important question to consider would be this: How long do I wait until I go do something else, somewhere else? Think carefully and pray earnestly about this answer. This is harder to answer hermeneutically. Jesus gave explicit direction to the twelve whom He sent out, “Any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you go out from there, shake the dust off the soles of your feet for a testimony against them” (Mark 6:11). When Paul and Barnabas were evangelizing in Pisidian Antioch, the Jews revolted against their preaching in the synagogue and even persecuted Paul and Barnabas for ministering to the Gentiles there. When Paul and Barnabas were no longer able to see benefit from their time and effort, they shook the dust off their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium (Acts 13:51). When a substantial percentage and the most influential portion of the people refuse to follow you as you lead out, it is probably time to consider a move. From my experience in a long-tenured pastorate, I would advise you as a pastor to know when you have taken the church as far as you can take it.
Perhaps if we could answer these questions, we would know what to do if the church will not change and move forward. Many churches cannot or will not change, so inevitably they will die. We may accept that the churches we lead need to change, but perhaps we are the ones who need to change the most. How can we expect the church we serve to change if they do not see us doing it personally? I often argue that the church will respond to change when they see that change sparked in you at the direction of the Lord. One last question: Why did people follow the most unlikely leaders in the Bible? Look at a brief list of them: Moses, Deborah, Gideon, David, Josiah, Nehemiah, Peter, Paul, Agabus. People followed them because they had been with the Lord.
Dr. Terry Rials has been in Christian Ministry for thirty-one years. He serves as the Director of Mission for the Concord-Kiowa Baptist Association in Western Oklahoma. He earned his doctorate (D.Min.) from Midwestern Baptist Theological in Church Revitalization. His dissertation project involved training associational pastors in the principles of revival and revitalization by equipping them to begin a revitalization project in their churches. Contact Dr. Rials at email@example.com.
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Does God really set people free? Or are we just talking? Transformational Discipleship was developed to train leaders how to guide both brand-new and longtime believers towards deep spiritual change. This training is foundational for every believer. It guides people who are stuck on their faith journey due to unresolved, often hidden issues in their lives towards true spiritual, emotional and mental freedom through intimacy with God.
“It’s not like anything I have been through before.”
Pastor John Wright, Titusville, FL “This is life transforming. I’m going to teach the socks off this thing.”
Dr. Phil Phillips, Ft. Myers, FL
Starting a Church within a Church By Steve Smith More than 70% of all churches are stuck. Assuming that you pastor one of these, you have been given a challenging assignment by God. Not all of you will see positive change. Between 3,500 and 5,000 churches across the country will close their doors this year because their members, for various reasons, decided to resist renewal. One of the best interim pastors I know spent three years working with an older congregation seeking to prepare them for future revitalization. On his heels they hired a younger pastor who believed the groundwork had been laid and they were ready to move forward. Instead of growing, the church went into a steeper decline. The people didn’t mount what you might call an overt pushback against the pastor’s leadership. Rather, they were convinced that sticking to the tried and true, which didn’t require changing anything, was a better solution. Their church had an Old Methods Culture. Here traditions aren’t just valued. They are ‘validated’ by Scripture. People point to past glories in the church’s history and long for the return of that golden area, which was brought about by the old methods. Being this kind of church is like sending out snail mail in a texting world. They think what worked in the past still would work today—but the world keeps leaving them behind. They just will not see it. Having an Old Methods Culture isn’t the only reason your congregation might resist your leadership. Your congregation may have Indifferent Culture. They feel they are big enough, have done enough, and are content enough to leave things as they are. This kind of congregation will
not follow a revitalization pastor because it means caring for people who will come in and take up their space, their resources, and make them uncomfortable. Or your church may have a Fear Based Culture, one where the congregation is afraid of the world and all the changes they see taking place. Not allowing their church to change gives them security in a confusing world. Another type of church that will resist following your leadership in revitalization has the Out of Touch Culture. This congregation often is full of older people who have deep roots in the church, which cause them to drive long distances to continue to attend. They no longer identify with the lost in the community around the church building, who may now be of another generation or have a different social, economic, or racial background than themselves. They just cannot conceive of why they need to change. So what should you do? You could resign. You may realize that you don’t have the time or desire to wait this congregation out until they die off. Your pastoral abilities and relational influence may not be robust enough to help them to shift their thinking. If you are thinking about taking this step, get an assessment by a trusted leader outside the congregation who can objectively help you weigh your abilities against the church’s pastoral needs. But I suspect that if you are a revitalizer, this kind of advice doesn’t resonate with you. What do you do if you stay with a stuck congregation whose leaders don’t want to follow the path you want them to take?
What I advise pastors in this situation is to start a new congregation. Not a new church plant, mind you, nor a restart (you will never get them to agree to that). This will be a new congregation made up of people you are reaching in the community. Let me first tell you why. Then I’ll talk strategy. Starting another congregation is going to take time—maybe up to 3-5 years before it becomes fully sustainable. In the meantime, you have to live and be able to take care of your family. Your best resource for being able to do this is the congregation you currently have.
Keeping them apart will save you from having to extract them later. Your long-standing attenders are looking for new people to fill ministry slots. The more integrated your new disciples become with the current old congregation, the harder it will be for you to develop them as a new congregation.
“More than 70% of all churches are stuck.”
This doesn’t mean you are ‘using’ them. It means you will take on a dual role. While starting a new congregation, you will continue to chaplain those who are already there. You will continue to teach, shepherd, and love them throughout this process. The goal is to rebuild the congregation, not to chase them off or get fired by them before you can do this.
They may never totally approve of what you are doing. But by serving them well, you get to do what God has you there to do. In the meantime, you have a financial platform from which you get to serve Him. Let’s talk strategy. First, pray. Not just for those who aren’t working with you. Pray for the harvest field God has for you. Pray that God would use you to develop a new congregation and bring you to the people in your area who need the gospel. Then put legs to your prayers. Go out and find the lost. Build relationships with them. Serve as the community’s pastor. Go out and pastor people who need a pastor— business owners, people in your neighborhood, kids, waitresses, coaches, baristas, the police and other first responders. I am not speaking about believers from other churches, but lost people who have no idea why you are offering to spend time with them. In short, do the work of an evangelist, as Paul advised Timothy. This will demand time from you, but like a church planter, 80% of the time you have available should be spent building relationships so you can sow the gospel. As people become open to you, invite them to your home. Your home, not the church’s weekend gathering. You should not seek to integrate these potential believers with your old congregation. You are preparing them to become the core of a new congregation. As this group grows and gains confidence as believers, you can bring them together with the members of your church—just not on Sundays.
The choice of keeping them apart from the others may appear to be potentially divisive. It need not be. Let your non-following leaders know you are meeting with new believers in your home. Call it a discipling group, which is what it is. Teach the new people to invite friends from their personal networks to come and learn so the group will grow, leaving you time for the old congregation.
When this group gets bigger to the point of not comfortably fitting in your home, choose a night apart from church activities and start meeting at the church building. When you reach 30-35 people, they will be ready to launch the new congregation on a Sunday morning. It is always strategic to defer to the old congregation’s needs. Don’t disrupt their gathering time, space or worship style when you start the second congregation. However, make sure the leaders know about the launch before you start it or you may receive a lot of pushback and questions about your integrity! Let them know, “Yes, I am still your pastor.” Also let them know, “This service will be a different style to minister to different people.” Sometimes you just have to approach revitalizing your congregation differently. Starting a church within your church may be the best way to breathe life back into.
Steve Smith Dr. Steve Smith is the Founder of Church Equippers Ministries, equipping churches to make and retain more disciples. He trains pastors by coaching them in Church GameChangers, which includes training in transformational discipleship and the step-by-step building of church ministry systems. For more information, go to: www.churchequippers.com
By George A. Thomasson I am an avid bass fisherman. Most people don’t fully grasp what that means. I don’t simply sit in a comfortable boat seat, drop a line in the water, watch a float and wait on a fish to bite. To be successful, I must become a serious student of every facet of the experience. I have discovered, however, that even professional bass fishermen still have days when the fish refuse to cooperate. In fact, it often seems like the fish have “lockjaw!” No matter what they do, the bass simply will not bite. Pastor, is that how you feel sometimes? You know that your church is declining and in need of revitalization. You understand what it takes to “catch” people for Christ. But when you try to get your people to join you in a plan to revitalize, they have “lockjaw” and won’t bite. They seem to be just sitting on the bottom of the lake uninterested in any lures you cast, satisfied to just “have church.” What is a pastor to do when his people are resistant to revitalization? Since I pastored several churches with this spiritual disposition, allow me to suggest “10 Steps for Revitalizers in Reluctant Churches.” Step 1 – Prayer Ministry I am convinced that God can do more in 5 minutes through believing prayer than we can do in 50 years in our own strength! Don’t talk about revitalization, just look for one prayer warrior in your congregation. Share
your heart and ask them to lead a prayer ministry. Help them define a strategy and encourage them to enlist a prayer team. It can start as simple as sending weekly emails of prayer requests to the team. They could also set up a team schedule to pray during the worship services for the Spirit’s anointing; for people to be saved and for a spirit of revival to break out. Step 2 – Pastor’s Accountability Group Ask the Lord to lay on your heart 5-7 men in your church. They should be F.A.T. – Faithful, Available and Teachable. Personally, invite them to be a part of your Accountability Group. Let them know that you will meet weekly (probably early mornings to accommodate work schedules). Explain that the purpose is to encourage and challenge one another in your walk with God. Set up a schedule with the men taking turns sharing a devotional. Include a time of sharing needs and praying for one another. Step 3 – Befriend “Influencers” In every church there are highly respected members who have the trust of the people. I would suggest that you connect with them. Become their friend; go out to breakfast; ask them to share the history of the church; gain their trust. As your relationship develops, begin sharing your vision for the church and your passion to reach and raise the next generation. When the time comes to address major initiatives in your vision, they may well be your “cheerleaders.”
Step 4 – Deacon Ministry Consider developing a “Deacon Family Ministry.” Your deacons and their wives are usually perceived as the spiritual leaders of the church. Unfortunately, I have observed that most deacons have never been trained or utilized to serve in their churches. Given this vacuum, they tend to become a “deacon board” and focus on administrative functions that the pastor and his staff should be doing. If you will take the time to develop a family ministry led by the deacons, amazing things can happen. (I would be happy to assist you in this effort. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org) Step 5 – First Impressions or Guest Services Experts tell us that a guest will decide whether they will come back in the first 11 minutes of entering the church campus. Wow! That’s BEFORE they hear the worship music or even listen to your sermon. Work hard to set up a comprehensive First Impressions or Guest Services ministry. The size of your campus will determine how many volunteers you need. First, enlist two couples to lead the ministry and share your vision for what it should look like. Some components are: designated GUEST parking places near the entrance (don’t ever call them “visitors”); parking lot team (with big smiles and umbrellas); greeters at all entrances (even bigger smiles); hosts to take families to rooms; coffee bar; ushers; etc. Step 6 – Your Personal Evangelism As pastor, you need to set goals for your personal witnessing. Mark off times on your calendar to go and keep those times. Be alert to opportunities to share your faith. ALWAYS have gospel tracts with you. Just having those tracts quickens your sensitivity to lost people. Text all guests each Sunday afternoon or evening. Try to make appointments for visits. Find a hot-hearted man in your church and take him with you. When he is trained, both of you take another man. Step 7 – Identify Lost Family Members Every church has members who have lost family members – husbands, wives, teens, kids. Gather 5-7 longtime members who know the people. Have copies of two documents: (1) Church membership role and (2) Sunday School/Small Group roles. Look at every name and list the names of lost family members. Then decide who in your church already has a relationship with them. They will be the most logical, effective person to reach them. Assign the people accordingly to these members. Explain that this is NOT for a one-time contact BUT for an ongoing effort to share the gospel and win them to Christ and the church.
Step 8 – Pastor’s Discipleship Class Many of your members never received intentional discipleship after receiving Christ. They are hungry to learn and grow in their faith. Announce that you will teach a class on personal discipleship. It could be on Sunday afternoon or Wednesday evening. There are many fine tools that you could use. Whatever you choose as your study materials, I would suggest that you begin by teaching the group how to share their personal testimony (CRU has the best helps on this.) Have one or two share their 3-minute testimony each week and do “sandwich” criticism. Bread=something good in the testimony. Meat=what can be improved. Bread=more encouragement. During the class, identify someone who is passionate about discipleship and coach them to take the class next time. Step 9 – Community Ministries Plan 3-4 “Make-a-Difference” weekends per year. These will be opportunities for your people to get “hands-on” involved in meeting needs in your community. It may be something like: “Feed the Need;” “Teacher Appreciation Day;” “We Love our 1st Responders;” “5-K Run” to benefit a ministry in our area; “Light Up the Night” on Halloween (Make it missional asking your members to host block parties with free hot dogs, candy, kid’s gospel tracts, etc. in their front yards.) Step 10 – Special Baptism Days Plan your annual calendar to include 2-4 “Baptism Days.” If you are close to the beach or a nice lake, have one in the summer. You can save up those receiving Christ and encourage those in worship to be baptized that day. You will need a larger team on these days for decision counseling, helping with dress and towels, etc. Lead your people to celebrate over every precious person who is baptized. Final thought: Don’t try to do all of this at once or you will overwhelm your people and your volunteer base. You know your situation better than anybody. Move forward sensitively as the Lord leads and trust Him to bring revitalization amid reluctance. George Thomasson is a native of Arkansas but spent most of his ministry in Florida and Texas. He holds degrees from Palm Beach Atlantic University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He presently serves as Mobilization Pastor for Christ Place Church in Flowery Branch, Georgia.
WHY SMALL GROUPS?
From the Old Testament to the New Testament small groups are used in very significant ways. Small Groups have always been part of God’s plan to develop and grow believers. In modern times from Sunday School to the contemporary Small Group movement the churches that embraced small groups in a significant way experienced the most growth in evangelism and discipleship. Small Groups should be a fundamental strategy for every church that seeks to be a Biblically complete church.
OUR VISION – Why We Exist
To see every church develop significant small groups that are healthy and growing.
OUR MISSION – What We Do We come to the church and partner with the pastor and staff to evaluate the current condition of their Small Group Ministry and then develop a custom plan to renovate and reinvigorate their groups. Our plan includes developing comprehensive goals and strategies. We also provide training and custom resources for the churches we serve.
Charting a Change Path in the Face of Opposition
By Pete Tackett A friend of mine says church crises are a lot like the red dot on the map as you enter a mall. It simply says, “you are here.” It does not matter how you got here or where you want to go, for the moment you are here and you have to deal with it. Like when standing at a mall map, you have some decisions to make based on the reality that “you are here.” You can turn around and leave. You can give up and wander aimlessly, or you can use the info at your disposal to chart a course toward where you want to go. What do you do when you’re “here” is the realization that your church needs to adapt and move forward and either the power brokers or the satisfied majority simply do not want to do it? You face the same choices. Do you leave, wander aimlessly with them, or chart a course toward revitalization? Most of you would not be reading this if you did not want to move down a path toward growth and health, so what do you do? Presupposing that you are committed and in it for the long haul, there are some very helpful things you can do. It is rare that a pastor is the only one that sees the need for change. Identify the leader(s) who long for change and develop them, with a particular emphasis on those who are next generation family members of the gatekeepers. Those gatekeepers may be opposed to change, but don’t assume their children and grandchildren won’t have some holy dissatisfaction with the status quo. Spend time with the one, or
however many there are, and work to stretch them. Don’t try to incite rebellion, but see where they are on the change meter and try to walk two steps ahead of them and pull them your direction. While I understand the uncertainty of this, another way to seed change is to develop non-adversarial relationships with the gatekeepers who are not for change, but do not appear to be sinfully opposed to it either. They are just comfortable with the way things are. Those relationships can be built on common likes. The person who is opposed to change in worship style or preaching model might share your passion for children’s ministry or short-term mission projects. Working side by side allows conversations to happen organically and over a long period of time. They may never completely agree with you but its hard to oppose a friend if you are only mildly against it or just indifferent. (I acknowledge there are people who you can’t and should not do this with, but we are not talking about them here.) Once you have your potential change agents identified and are ready to start shining up these diamonds in the rough, you need a deliberate, slow plan. Everyone has heard of the “3 R’s.” I refer to this plan as the “3 E’s,” – Education, Exposure, and Expansion. Education can be as informal or formal as you want it to be. Remember, the goal is to develop leaders who are moving from an old way of thinking to a new way
of thinking. Most of them have never even thought about the positives of church change. It is your job to change that. The most laid back, and a very effective approach, is to share a book with them, asking them if they will read it and offer you their opinion over lunch when they get finished. I recently introduced a new model of discipleship into my church and this is the tool I used. It has caught fire in a way no other model I have used before has. A more formal tool I have used is targeting 6-9 leaders and inviting them to a weekly leadership cohort that includes research, reading, and evaluation of leadership and change models. I commit to them that whether they wind up serving in leadership at our church or not, they will be better equipped at the end to lead in their families and careers. However formally or informally, the goal is to nurture those latent change agents.
unused classrooms. Let them hear the excitement of greeters and parking lot attendants. Willingness to change is caught through exposure to an environment where it is being done right. Finally, let those younger and more willing to change get some small wins under their belt. Let them try some smaller ministry changes that fly under the radar and see how it feels to be used by God to reach people again. Many years ago in church revitalization, there was a mantra about “some stumps you just plow around.” Expanding the ministries and programs of the church without forcing a critic to support it or engage it is today’s model. Don’t try to dismantle what they hold so dear, but let those who are willing to go with you notch some wins and strengthen their change muscles.
“It is rare that a pastor is the only one that sees the need for change.”
The reason many of these potential young leaders and “old soreheads” are opposed to change is that they have never been exposed to change done right and they have heard lots of horror stories about pastors taking over a church and messing things up. It does not matter if those stories are accurate or not as perception is reality. They have never met a pastor from a church similar to theirs who is leading a change process well. Your job is to let your key leaders meet pastor friends who are capable and gracious and leading well. They need to hear some good stories of how God is working change in a once declining church. Many revitalizers have a subset of friends from their church and a different subset of professional friends and they never cross paths. Think of a Venn diagram where your church leaders engage successful revitalizers in churches similar to your own. Another key opportunity for exposure is to take your targets to a healthy revitalized church with a similar history for a special event that is not focused on revitalization such as a men’s event, an evangelism rally, or a special training of some kind. Make arrangements for them to hear the revitalization story of the host church organically. Let them walk around and smell the fresh air that has replaced the staleness of
At the end of the day, we know that there will almost always be a showdown of some kind over change in a dying church. However, doing that as a lone ranger is career suicide and nothing good ever happens. If your church as a whole does not seem to want change, identify the faint, almost imperceptible heartbeats of change that are there, and spend the coming months and years educating, exposing, and helping them expand their change skills.
Pete Tackett is Lead Pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Johnson City, Tennessee, and a Pastor Connector for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. He regularly partners with churches and pastors engaging in revitalization. He is the author of re.Vital.ize: Lessons Learned in a Recovering Church.
4 Steps to Change that I Learned
By Matt Henslee Three years ago last month, we were in the middle of moving to our new home in a new city in a new state. Previously, I had been driving up, crashing in the church’s mission home, staying a week, and then driving back to be with my family for a week. That was my rhythm for three months as the new pastor of Mayhill Baptist Church, a tiny church in the mountains of southern New Mexico. With my family staying behind, I was able to throw myself into relationship-building every other week, which was helpful. Still, it was hard to be alone in the middle of nowhere with infinitely more elk than friends. I longed for the day we would all be together again, which finally (almost) came on Memorial Day weekend 2017. “Almost,” because my dear wife wouldn’t be able to make the trip until the following week. I had four daughters, three dogs, and a Ford Expedition filled with odds and ends. As I recall, we got in on Saturday night, and the movers would arrive on Memorial Day. I didn’t care––I was just happy to be gathering for worship the next day with all but one member of my family. Better yet, we were having the first two baptisms of my ministry the next day, so I was on cloud nine and could barely sleep a wink. The hours between our arrival in Mayhill and the time we’d leave for church in the morning seemed like days,
though that might have been because the thermostat in the house read 90º that night (few homes here have air conditioning). Nevertheless, 9 AM eventually came, and we made the .25 mile trek on foot to the church for our (almost) first time to worship together as a family. Back then, I think we were running 60 to 70, but the two I was set to baptize had a few extra family members in tow. I remember the excitement of seeing at least one person in every pew! I baptized the two new believers, we sang, prayed, gave, I preached, and then left for lunch with members of the church. We got home, changed, and played cards until our evening service. That night we slept in the church’s mission home and tucked in early so we’d be ready to meet the movers the next day. And then it happened. While I was impatiently waiting for the movers to call with their ETA, I got a call from our administrative assistant. Weeks before, I’d given her my only request: I don’t like to be surprised; if you know something, tell me. Well, she was calling to tell me there was someone “madder than a wet hornet” at me. “Why?” I sheepishly asked. She said, “Two words: Memorial Day.” Scan back up to my second paragraph. Do you remember me saying the time we finally got to worship to-
gether “came on Memorial Day weekend 2017?” I didn’t. Not that Sunday, at least. Amid the move, having our girls by myself, and the two baptisms, I’d forgotten it was Memorial Day weekend. What’s more, I had no idea how much our church used to do for patriotic holidays. Previously, there’d be all patriotic songs, a patriotic sermon, the pledges, and all that jazz. In hindsight, I could have looked at a calendar AND should have asked members about some of their traditions. I asked my assistant to set up a meeting, which ended up being the next day. He let me have it. • “You’re what’s wrong with this country.” • “Are you a communist?” • “Do you hate what we stand for?” • “I’ve never been more hurt in my life.” I listened intently and took the tongue-lashing like a man, though every word cut deeply. I love our country, every man in my family served our country, and I never want to hurt a church member. It kept going for a while, and then I finally had the chance to speak: “I’m so sorry I hurt you, brother, and I apologize for forgetting such an important holiday. The brave men and women who died in the fight for our freedoms deserve to be remembered,” I began. Then, by God’s grace, I share my heart: “I would never intentionally forget days like this. However, we are here to worship Jesus, not America. We will build our worship services around praying, giving, singing, preaching, and the ordinances. We can take time to remember the fallen, thank God for our freedom, and show our gratitude for veterans––much like we honor mothers and fathers––but they will not and cannot be the focal point of the worship gathering. I want to offer you a compromise.” To be honest, I was just winging it now. I had no idea what was about to come out of my mouth, but I said, “I want you to give me another chance. For our next holiday, we’ll go all out AFTER the service. I’ll recognize the day in the service, but afterward, we’ll have a patriotic celebration with BBQ (that was a stretch, I’d briefly forgotten I wasn’t in Texas anymore), bluegrass, and so forth. See what you think and promise me you’ll let me know.”
July 4th came, and somehow it all worked. We brought in the VFW to present the colors, say the pledges, and my wife led us in singing the national anthem with her flute. We had BBQ (it was a far cry from Texas BBQ), bluegrass, and everyone had a good time AFTER the service. Even better, this gentleman grabbed me in the line and said, “This was the best thing this church has ever done.” In our worship gathering, we celebrated Jesus; during lunch, we celebrated our freedom. For us, it was the perfect compromise, and has brought about needed change, allowing me to highlight the importance of the main elements of worship, and what true worship is (and isn’t). Now, I don’t recommend THIS as a model of change: ticking off a member, and just winging it. However, by God’s grace, He picked up the pieces and made it work. Nevertheless, when you are pastoring a church, particularly early on, you notice certain things need to be changed. When you do, I suggest: 1. Know your people (I could have avoided this mishap by knowing our people’s expectations better). 2. Communicate the why (Knowing them, I could’ve communicated why we need to change our overemphasis on patriotic holidays). 3. Take your time (some things need to be changed like you’re ripping off a Band-Aid, but not all things––implement the change slowly). 4. Seek honest feedback (we don’t need to lord our position over anyone, we truly are in this together as a family. Request their take and consider it). Matt Henslee is the pastor of Mayhill Baptist Church, a church in the middle of nowhere in southern New Mexico. He is a D.Min student of expository preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, co-host of Not Another Baptist Podcast, and manages social media for One Disciple. He is also the 2nd Vice President of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico, co-author of Replanting Rural Churches, author of Path to PEACE, Evangelize to Revitalize, and Jonah Over Coffee.
When to Shake the Dust off of Your Feet By Bud Brown After more than five years of trying to lead the church off plateau, Pastor Art was fed up with the church’s passive-aggressive behavior. The final straw came during discussions about re-opening the church after the COVID-19 quarantine. Church members were clear—they insisted things go back to the way they were. They wanted the “old normal.” Any talk of making a few changes for the sake of more effective ministry was met with a passive silence that signaled resistance. Many members were more concerned with their First Amendment rights than with the mission. They would not look beyond themselves to accommodate fellow believers who have been devastated by all this. Art had had enough. He would go the distance with a church that embraced revitalization. He would not waste time on a church that rejected God’s mission. So, he made the painful decision to look for another church. He plans on quitting his church when the right opportunity comes along. What would you do in Art’s position? Is resigning when the church refuses to be revitalized the right choice? If you find yourself in a similar situation but aren’t yet ready to pull the plug, you’ve got two options for dealing with your church’s refusal to be revitalized. But before settling on a strategy you must ask yourself, “What’s the minimal change I’ll set-
tle for?” It’s better to know what the end of the road looks like before so you can prepare rather than crashing headlong into disaster. Now, let’s look at the two options available to the pastor who isn’t ready to leave that recalcitrant church. The first option is to woo them. The second is to warn them. In either case you haven’t given up; you’re changing tactics because what you’ve been doing hasn’t worked. Option #1: Woo them I’m certain misalignment is the primary reason for many a church member’s apathy about God’s mission and the church’s ministry. When gathered, Christians agree that making disciples is the church’s top priority. But priorities shift on Monday when everyone returns to their private lives. Pastors would like to blame this on aspirational versus actual values, and that’s often the case. Pastors share a fair amount of the blame, however, because they often fail to identify the link between biblical truth, shared corporate values, and daily living. The average Christian in resistant churches doesn’t see how his or her life’s purpose is connected to God’s mission, which his Church is to be about the business of advancing. Jesus does not have kind words for pastors who, while offering sound biblical preaching, fail to nurture the saints’ love for Christ (Revelation 2:1-4).
And yet this is what the cold-hearted need. As John puts it, “We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).” When we reconnect with the depths of God’s love for us, our natural response is to become channels which direct that love to others (1 John 4:20-21). Many stories in the Gospels concern those who experienced the gracious, redeeming love of God and then couldn’t wait to tell others about it. Pastor, if you find your church unwilling to change and get back on the mission, look at what you’ve been preaching and teaching these past few years. How often have you led the saints to reflect on God’s love for them? What have you done to help the cold-hearted draw near the warmth of God’s gracious moves toward them? When was the last time the audience was touched by God’s mercy?
I suspect that some of us may have to explain why we failed to warn a church. This will be among the issues we must answer for at the Bema Seat judgment (cf. Hebrews 13:17). This puts most pastors in a tough spot. None of us like conflict, and many of our member are so caring of others that they shrink from conflict. But a tender-hearted pastor does no one any favors by withholding a stern warning when it is merited. It is required when a church steadfastly refuses to be revitalized.
“At some point you must deal with your church’s indifference to God’s mission and the plight of those who have not believed the gospel promise. ”
For years I was puzzled by Paul’s desire to preach the gospel in Rome (Romans 1:15). They were already saints (1:1617). In time I came to understand that the gospel is for all people, including believers! I need the occasional reminder that God loved me even when I was an unbeliever (5:8). My hard heart is softened when I reflect on my brokenness and confess my sins to the Father. In those moments profound love sweeps through my heart and mind.
At some point you must deal with your church’s indifference to God’s mission and the plight of those who have not believed the gospel promise. If you’re thinking the kinds of thoughts that Pastor Art has been experiencing, it means that your past preaching and teaching haven’t gotten the job done. Option #2: Warn them If wooing doesn’t work, consider warning them. There’s biblical precedent for alerting churches to the consequences wandering off the mission. There’s also Jesus’s instruction to put them on notice. The seven letters to the churches in Asia Minor are addressed the churches’ messengers (aggelos) (Revelation 2:1, 8, 12, 18, 3:1, 7, 14). Since context determines whether aggelos refers to angelic beings or human envoys, Jesus must have had the pastors of those churches in mind because spoke to them in terms that could not apply to angelic beings. He said to the messengers, “I have this against you” (2:4), “I know your tribulation and your poverty” (2:9) and so forth. Each time he spoke he used the singular pronoun “you.” He warned each pastor and told them what to say to each church.
Other pastors, and I include myself here, need to check their egos at the door before walking into a church meeting to dispense stern warnings. Warnings are best delivered with tears because our hearts are broken (2 Co 11:28). The warning borne of frustration and anger falls on deaf ears. Before slipping into the prophetic voice, do the hard work on your knees to make sure your heart is aligned with God’s. If the people resist, be sure they’re resisting the Lord’s commission rather than your relationship and leadership failures.
Pray Regardless of which option you choose, don’t do anything that hasn’t been bathed in prayer. You’re dealing with serious problems rooted in sinful human nature and dysfunctional church systems, many of which are decades in the making. The onslaught of recent development in our culture may reveal deep rifts and old wounds that have never been treated. Dealing with the church that refuses to be revitalized is the Holy Spirit’s work. You’re just the face up front. Be sure you understand your place, the church’s mission, and God’s role in all this. And when it becomes clear that nothing will change, just remember Matthew 10:14. As you’re driving out of town for the last time, stop, get out of the car, and shake the dust off your feet. Bud Brown has ministered in a wide variety of settings, from small rural to mid-sized suburban to rapidly growing megachurches. He has trained and mentored international students, intentional interim pastors, doctoral students, and now serves as president of Turnaround Pastors (www.turnaroundpastor.com).
The local church is the only organization that can facilitate eternal hope, lasting change, and total transformation in the lives of people and communities everywhere. Even so, todayâ€™s local churches are often in desperate need of renewal and revitalization themselves. In The Revitalized Church, Pastor Michael Atherton uses his firsthand experiences to show how a local church community can once again become vibrant. The Revitalized Church shares Athertonâ€™s eighteen-month journey merging two church communities with a common vision and discusses the challenges and the victories he encountered. In addition, he examines the key biblical leadership principles that were used to help sustain the church community.
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Being a Moses or a Joshua By Jim Grant
I have come to understand in the world of church revitalization, there really is not a question about WHAT needs to be done or about where, when, and why. The biggest struggle in revitalization is the WHO. Are the people who need revitalization willing to take the necessary steps to restored health? Revitalization would be much easier, if congregations, leaders, and church members enthusiastically jumped on board for the hard work of revitalization. But there is always fear and push back from folks who are genuinely afraid of what the unknown future might look like, with or without them. I have had several situations where all the steps were slowly taken to build trust and confidence in the work to be accomplished and the leader/catalyst do the work, only to have a church or pastor balk at taking the first step. What does a Church Revitalizer do? He knows what, when, where, why, and how-but the WHO says no. I will list below how experience has shown me what to do. But before I get too far, let me explain what I mean by being a Moses or a Joshua.
firsthand what He was supposed to do but decided to stay with the people of Israel and die with the defiant generation. Fast forward 40 years to Joshua 1:1-2; “Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise and cross this Jordan, you and the people.” Moses decided to live and die with a generation that chose to disobey God – very pastoral, but not good leadership. Joshua was told to cross over Jordan with the people. Of course, there is a new generation of people now because everyone else died. Joshua tells the people in 1:11 “you have three days and we are going across.” Joshua the leader did not put the decision up for a vote again. He obeyed God’s instruction. So, when a church says no, the Church Revitalizer has two options–be a Moses or a Joshua. I would hope as a Church Revitalizer they would choose being a Joshua.
In Numbers 13-14 we have the story of Israel coming to the Kadesh-Barnea area, Moses sends in 12 spies to check out the land. After spending 40 days scoping out the Promised Land, the 12 spies brought a report along with some of the fruit from their journey. The “Church Business meeting in the Wilderness” voted 10-2 to not go into the Promised Land. There is a lot of similarities between that “church vote” and what happens in a church revitalization vote. Fear is a paralyzer. People could not, or would not, go forward in obedience to God because of visible and invisible giants. At this point, Moses had a choice to make; go in anyway or stay with the decision of the people. Now Moses rightly knew
1. Say yes and mean no 2. Say no and mean no 3. Say yes and mean yes
When it is decision time; after all the talking and cajoling is done, the church has to make a definitive decision. They have options because the are autonomous.
It is absolutely essential for a church revitalizer to have BUYIN from the church and its leadership. When we look at the three options, we have to ask what exactly the vote is saying. The Church Revitalizer needs to find out who is saying no and why. If there is a resounding no, then you can probably assume that there was not enough groundwork done so the people understand are comfortable with the proposal.
Possibilities: 1. Pastor must be a risk taker and able to make a tough decision 2. Staff – Must staff for future, not present 3. Power Brokers – emotions, power base losses 4. Older People – congregation tired, “unmovable” 5. Lay Leaders – fear of change Change brings opposition. It cannot be overstated, the revitalizer must find the source of opposition. Here are some possibilities of what a no vote may mean: 1. The no may not be to revitalization, but to the plan/approach. The people are ready, but not with the specific action plan presented. 2. A no could mean that too many unanswered questions remain. As a rule of thumb, the church revitalizer needs to try to answer questions before they become questions from the people. I know this can seem like an exhausting task, but providing as much information up front will alleviate questions and no votes later. 3. Find the barriers. In any proposal there will be barriers or non-negotiables that will pop up. The Church Revitalizer must find these and deal with them before a vote is taken. That means the revitalizer has to do his homework of exegeting the church and the community. Sometimes the Revitalization Team could be the hindrance to a positive yes vote. So, the structure and substance of the Revitalization Team must be established with the right people. Revitalization Team 1. Careful selection of people; get the right people on the bus, even though you do not know where they sit 2. Communication lines clearly established; one cannot over communicate 3. Creating Buy-in; the team must own and believe the work before the congregation will. The spies mentioned earlier did not have buy-in into the Promised Land as a personal possession. 4. Church task not staff task; this is vital, for if the church only sees revitalization as something the staff is going to do then there is no ownership. Leaders have to be on-board, lay, and professional staff 5. Clear idea of what is being asked. The people need to have a clear understanding of WHAT they are being asked to do. To try and get buy-in without a plan, the revitalizer will be
asking the people to buy something but have no idea what they are buying. This result is a no vote. 6. Assessment of the church’s spiritual health and resources. The Revitalizer has to know who he is dealing with. If you look at Moses’ situation, we find that they were all a bunch of stiff-necked grumblers. Not really conductive to a position decision. Handling Opposition How a revitalizer deals with this area is crucial. Instead of trying to “win the argument” use tools at your disposal to confront and deal with conflict and opposition. Keep the goal and vision of health before the people. Do not let someone become the main distraction! Use the tools available to defuse opposition. Obviously, a Church Revitalizer has to present accurate information without prejudice or manipulation. Some of the tools listed below will circumvent a wild card looking to derail the train. 1. Use health assessments [Transformational Church] 2. Perform SWOT analysis of ministries 3. Perform community demographics analysis 4. Create vision for a future 5. Get the “elephants” on the table – a Revitalizer will deal with either a dinosaur or an elephant. Dinosaurs go extinct but elephants can adapt. Make sure you know which one you have. Finally, No Means No In the end; an autonomous church may very well say no and mean no. As a Church Revitalizer, you cannot become their Moses! Even the pastor may have to evaluate who he is in light of a no vote. Ultimately a church will decide. The revitalizer cannot become an obstacle to possible future decisions. No may mean no for now. If the door is closed, do not bust it down. Some churches will just die. Just as a church will have to count the cost of moving forward or staying the same, so does the Church Revitalizer.
Jim Grant is the Executive Director of the Galveston Baptist Association. He is an Air Force veteran, retiring with twenty-five years of service. He has a master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Doctorate of Ministry degree from Midwestern Baptist Theological seminary with a concentration on Church Revitalization.
The Leadership Link:
Being a Change Agent
Even When You are Standing Alone
By Michael Atherton Isaac Newton’s first law of motion states: Everything continues in a state of rest unless it is compelled to change by forces impressed upon it. Churches just seem to naturally gravitate to a state of rest, if they are not inspired to change. Even when confronted with change, some will resist it, others will tolerate it, while seemingly only a few will embrace it. Nevertheless, it is the responsibility of a church revitalizer to seek God’s direction for the church body and to impress change upon the people in a way that brings honor to God and expands the Kingdom of God.
mately, the Israelites wanted to go back to Egypt. Can you believe that? They prayed for deliverance, yet they had come to the place where they had rather live in slavery then experience the prospects of freedom. So, with a climate of negativity and with the spirit of grumbling abounding, in Exodus 14:13, Moses found himself having to be a change agent despite having to stand alone. Let me offer you three words that will help you as you lead change, standing alone.
“Churches just seem to naturally gravitate to a state of rest, if they are not inspired to change.”
Exodus 14 is the story where Moses is leading the Israelites out of Egypt and out from under the heavy hand of Pharaoh’s oppression. The people had been praying for many years for God to send someone to deliver them from their bondage. God raised up Moses. Though to be fair, Moses was not necessarily interested in leading God’s people. He offered many excuses to argue he was not the right person. Yet, God affirmed, reaffirmed, and then affirmed His call again. So, Moses reluctantly agreed to go back to Egypt and lead God’s people to experience freedom.
As the Israelites left Egypt, it did not take long for the people to begin grumbling about their new reality. Scripture says that Pharaoh had a change of heart and regretted allowing the Israelites to leave. Therefore, he assembled his army and pursued them. The Israelites found themselves hemmed in by the Red Sea as the Egyptian army surrounded them. They turn to Moses and ask, “Were there not enough graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to the wilderness to die?” (Exodus 14:11). Ulti-
1. Dedicate When God has given you a vision moving forward…dedicate yourself to that vision and don’t let go, regardless of how tough things get. The key to this principle, however, is that God must be the author of the vision. If you have come up with your own vision and days get tough…you might should consider aborting the mission. But not when God speaks!
In Exodus 14, God had moved. He told Moses what He was going to do, but the people got extreme cold feet, driven by fear. The shackles of fear are apparent. Fear can discourage, even paralyze. Christians today, like Israel of old, sometimes find themselves trembling on the shore of some uncrossable sea. The strength which dispels fear comes not from within us but from above us. It is the reassurance of the Lord of the universe, who ultimately told His children, “Fear not.” Only He can truly dispel fear. If God is for us, who can be against us? For Israel, their fear was rooted in two obvious sources. A) They feared their past. The chariots of Egypt were on a tour of revenge. They were coming to round up those who had run away. When they returned them to Egypt,
there would have been little chance that Pharaoh would have dealt with them in an honorable way. In fact, when Moses first came to Pharaoh requesting him to let the Israelites go, Pharaoh’s response was to make things more difficult for the Israelites. B) They feared their future. They were facing an uncertain reality. It is challenging to live amid unanswered questions. How often do our churches engage in conflict and negativity because the unknown details of the future overwhelm us? The work of revitalization is an exercise in leading change. Change is the conduit that will often bring about criticism and negativity in the church. When people are forced to consider change, things can often get tense. In those moments, as a leader, do not fear. If God has led you to your position and guided you to this crossroads, He has a plan and will not leave you. Fear not! 2. Diligent Standing where the Israelites were standing was difficult. I am certainly not suggesting it would have been easy to have walked in their sandals. The temptation to run when they began to see this unfolding storyline would have been great. They could have run backward and retreated into the security of their past. Egypt had not been kind to them, but at least it was consistent. At least they knew where they would lay their head down. At least they knew from where their next meal would come. They could have chosen to run away, to scatter. Maybe it would have been better for everyone to try and make it on their own. When a spirit of negativity descends upon the church, it is ever so easy to see people respond the same way. In situations like this, people tend to long for the good ole’ days. They desire to go back to a place and time that they found to be particularly pleasing. Therefore, they will strive to halt the work of revitalization. They will try and impede the work of change. Often they will use any mechanism available to accomplish their goal. Therefore, churches will split, pastors will leave (whether voluntarily or involuntarily), relationships will sever, or financial practices will be abandoned (whether in the area of giving or spending). The thought process is that the end will justify the means and the detractors are therefore doing everyone else a favor. Amid this perilous situation, what is the word from God? Stand firm. We, as leaders, may be surprised by what we are seeing unfold before our very eyes, but God is not surprised. He knows what the heart of man is fully capable of. He understands our plight. It is when we are taken right up to the brink of the sea’s edge, the armies of the enemy surround us, and there is nowhere else for us to go, that
He does His best work in our lives. Does that give us the option to ignore all the leadership principles in life that help to ensure that we lead well; communication, servanthood, vision casting, conflict management, etc.? Certainly not. However, in that same vein, we must remember there are some battles that we face in ministry that are not ours to fight. Therefore, stand firm. 3. Deliverance God had a plan for Moses. I am not suggesting that plan met the threshold of conventional wisdom, but who ever accused God of acting with conventional wisdom? We must acknowledge God’s ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts. Moses is to move forward by lifting his staff and stretching his hands out over the sea, and God will part the water so that the Israelites can pass through on dry ground. Not only that, but God would then drown the entire Egyptian army in that same seabed. It was on this precarious precipice that the Israelites found themselves that ultimately God brought about their deliverance. It is never easy to walk through these difficult seasons of life. However, God often brings us as people and churches to these difficult seasons to demonstrate His power to save. The sea that once represented disaster now became the threshold of deliverance. Why? Because man’s extremity is God’s opportunity! Leading God’s people to experience a better tomorrow is certainly not for the faint of heart. The journey may be long, tough, or arduous. However, it is ever so worth it!
Michael Atherton has served as the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of O’Fallon, O’Fallon, MO for 15 years. Leading a church in a church merger, he has learned firsthand the challenges of a revitalizer. Mike is the author of The Revitalized Church. Mike leads a Mentored Master of Divinity program at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and is past President of the Colorado Baptist Convention.
The Three R’s of Change By Mark Weible Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12: 2)
lives. Deutschman explained that the reason for this is that most people are not motivated by negative facts. Instead, real lasting change happens most often when the person advocating for change offers hope for a better future.
You may remember an attention-grabbing magazine cover from 2005 on Fast Company warning “Change or Die!” The author of that cover story was Alan Deutschman and two years later he expanded the article into a best-selling business book. In the original article, Deutschman asked this gut-wrenching question:
In church revitalization, it seems to make sense that if we lay out all of the facts, if we show the people declining trend lines, if we simply tell church leaders and congregations that they need to make significant systemic changes to their church in order to keep the church from dying, that would be enough for them to want to embrace change. However, we know from experience that most churches are more likely to die than to change. Perhaps, we’ve been going about it the wrong way. Instead of trying to motivate people to save their churches with the cold, hard, negative facts; we should be pointing them to a better, brighter future.
“What if a well-informed, trusted authority figure said you had to make difficult and enduring changes in the way you think and act? If you didn’t, your time would end soon — a lot sooner than it had to. Could you change when change really mattered? When it mattered most?” 1 According to the Fast Company article the odds of you, or anyone making life-saving changes to their¬¬ “normal” way of life are 9 to 1 against survival. For example, if 100 people were warned by their doctor that they needed to go on a diet and start exercising in order to stay alive, only 10 people would make the lasting changes needed to save their own 1 https://www.fastcompany.com/52717/change-or-die
There are numerous, well-documented, reasons why people and organizations resist change. However, some people and some churches do change. Some churches, although a small percentage, do survive years of decline and are able to thrive after making needed changes. In his book, Deutschman talks about the “Three Keys to Change.”2 He gives some real-world 2 “Introduction.” Change or Die, by Alan Deutschman, Regan, 2007.
examples of why he believes these are the true “keys” to change and churches would do well to pay attention for that reason alone. However, I propose that we look at each of these from a Biblical perspective as they relate to church revitalization. Relate Jesus spent three years preparing his disciples and apostles to carry on His mission. While reading through the Gospels, one can’t help but notice Jesus’ relational approach. He was advocating radical personal and social change and He, as the creator of all mankind, knows that people are more likely to accept lasting change when they have a personal relationship with the one advocating for change. Jesus himself said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life…”3 He gave himself in a very personal way to bring about radical changes in the lives of those He led.
Reframe When a Biblical vision is properly cast and recast by a relational leader, the followers can begin to re-frame their thinking to rework their actions. A frame is a point of reference or a way of looking at life. Reframing is like getting new glasses that help you to better see what has been there all along. As I am getting older, I find it necessary to visit my ophthalmologist every couple of years to get a new prescription so that I can visit my optometrist and order a new frame of reference for my eyes. Not only do new glasses help me to keep up with the prevailing styles, they help me to see better. The role of the church revitalizer at this point is to help the church to refocus on a new sense of God’s mission for the church. Jesus constantly did this with his followers. He had to show them how to see the world around them:
“But we must recognize that people tend to be motivated more by future vision than past facts.”
When we lay out the cold hard facts to people who need to change, we can appear to be cold and hard on ourselves and that makes it difficult to build a personal bond. I am not saying that we should sugar-coat the facts or even ignore them. But we must recognize that people tend to be motivated more by future vision than past facts. Jesus’ followers had a personal relationship with the Truth and He constantly pointed them to a preferred future. Nowadays, we call the process of developing trust and instilling hope in people: vision casting.
Repeat Rick Warren said that you must re-cast vision to your church every 26 days, because that is how long it took for the returning Israelites to lose their sense of purpose when they were rebuilding the wall.4 Half-way through the project, Nehemiah had to gather the people together and remind them of their preferred future. I don’t know who originated it or who first wrote about it, but I’ve heard many leaders say that it only takes about 30 days for the leaders to lose sight of the vision and even less time for their followers to do so. Therefore, it is a good practice for church revitalizers to constantly remind themselves and their people of their preferred future. 3 John 14:6 4 https://pastors.com/the-nehemiah-principle-vision/
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36) I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. (John 4:35b) “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. (Mark 16:6)
From looking at scripture, we see God constantly reaching out to His people to draw them closer to himself while pointing them to a better future. We see Him repeating His promises over and over again all the while calling people to a new way of thinking and acting. This is the model that church revitalizers need to follow in order to turn around declining churches even when the people would rather die than change. Mark Weible serves as the Church Planting Director of the Greater Orlando Baptist Association and the strategic Director of the Renovate National Church Revitalization Conference. Mark has a wealth of experience as a church planter and local church coach. Mark is passionate about church multiplication, renewal, planting, and coaching.
Do the Two-Step on the Doorstep By Tracy Jaggers I have been asked by church leaders over the last nine years how I would respond if their church refused to enter into the church revitalization process I had just finished presenting? The second question posed to me was very similar in nature – How would I respond to a congregation that stated unequivocally that they wanted the process but stopped it midstream? I try to explain by being gracious and congenial, which is not normally my reaction to anything. Every church has the authority to function as they see fit, even if they are wrong. I have had pastors refuse by avoiding my initial interview question. I ask, “Are you certain you are the person to lead this revitalization process?” If they answer the question any other way than passionately affirmative, I can usually chalk that one up as a no. I had a pastor who resisted answering the question affirmatively in the first and second meetings and by our third contact he informed me that he had been terminated by his congregation. People can sense when there is no vision and/or weak leadership. But what should be our response to those who go through the interview phase, agree to the surveying and observations, and actively participate in the congregational workshop weekend? They select a future vision team and work studiously through the hours of training to lead the body into a strategy to get back on track for a healthy and vibrant future, but then, the pastor, the vision team and/or the congregation, balks at making the adjustments that are needed for the church to move upward and forward. So, what can we do? Can we force the agreement made prior to the launch of the process? Should we guilt them into following through with their commitment? What should be our response?
I believe scripture gives us a glimpse into how we should respond to an unwillingness to change. The context of Mark 6:11 follows right on the heels of Jesus attempting to minister in His hometown of Nazareth. But, because of their unbelief He was unable to do mighty works there. Next, it is recorded that He was sending out His disciples, two by two, with power over the demonic to spread His Word to others. Mark 6:11 (NLT) says, “But if any place (topos - occupied location) refuses to welcome you or listen to you, shake its dust (spiritually and physically) from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate.” This may not seem like the “Christian” thing to do, but there comes a time when we must discontinue wasting time on those who do not want to change or refuse to be changed. There comes a time when we must move on to those who are pliable, receptive and eager for a healthy ministry. I love automobiles and I am certain we can learn a thing or two from them in a situation as well. Learning when to change gears in a manual transmission car can be difficult and painful, but it leads to smoother travel and faster results. When the car is stalling or getting out of control, it is time to shift gears. The clutch allows the transmission to shift smoothly from first to second; second to third, and so on. If you try to force the gear selector without the clutch, you will hear loud screeching and you could come to a jolting stop. The same is true when dealing with a dysfunctional church. Do not force the issue of continuing the process. The last sound you may hear could be the screech of disgruntled members and a monkey wrench being tossed into the gearbox. A stalled vehicle is one thing but breaking down on the side of the road, is something altogether different. The congregation needs to admit and accept
the findings of the survey and observations, and they have to own their desperate need for revitalization. But, if they have already determined to park the process, no amount of force or guilt will terminate their ruin Our task is to keep the momentum going when the Lord gets hold of a church family and they are desperately striving for a healthy church body and a community-impacting ministry. The Holy Spirit is the one who convicts and teaches; we are the assistants to keep the gears lubricated and point the wheels in the right direction. We can train; He can transform! So, what should we do when we are hampered by an unwillingness to move toward the goals they have disclosed during the observations and the congregational workshop? First, remind them that the findings were uncovered and displayed by them. When we receive the answers from the survey, we do not manipulate the findings and we do not give the report in a manner that sways answers to our desired end. The findings reveal their concern for their church; the weaknesses and strengths they have seen displayed in church leadership and ministry and the hopes and dreams they have for the longevity and perseverance of the church. How they answered is what the report reflects. I have had members disagree with the findings, but the answers belong to the members not to the consultant. Second, unpack once again the characteristics of a healthy church and ask which characteristics are regularly demonstrated in their church ministry. It is at this point that people begin to defend their church family and minimize the results of the survey. Once again, we remind them that the answers were theirs. Third, we show the post-it pads; post-it notes and group notes that came out of the congregational workshop. These items show the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities for future effectiveness, and the barriers that could detour or defeat the opportunities they found through discussion and interaction within their groups. Then those findings are compiled and summarized by all the groups. Sound like chaos? Yep, it can be and sometimes is! But it is their labor and their terminology that can be reviewed at a later date. These recorded discussions and findings are priceless. In summary, the method for keeping the church body and the future vision team on track, and focused on their findings, is to regularly display the major needs found in the workshop. The future vision team needs to keep these before their group as well as the church body as a whole.
If we forget our original starting point and to where we sensed God was leading, we will wander around in mediocrity, ineffectiveness, and stagnancy. But, with all that being said, what if they choose not to follow? What if they choose to stop the process and “go back to Egypt?” Some will choose to go back to what is normal and comfortable, even though it means bondage. What shall we do then? I feel very bold in proclaiming, we need to be confident and comfortable in knocking the dust off of our shoes as we head out the door; letting them know clearly and compassionately that we are “abandoning them to their fate.” We should leave warning them that a ministry that is not characterized by evangelism, discipleship and obedience to our Lord’s final commands (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8) will lead to decline and death. But we must also leave weeping. Weeping for the congregation as a whole because there are surely those who have been silenced by the nay-sayers. Some desire their church to be faithful to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment but they were out voted. We should weep as Jesus wept, wishing they had allowed us to draw them into the protection and provision of the revitalization process. Weeping for those who may be overlooked because the ministry will falter and maybe even fail. Weeping because our Lord has taken the backseat to the selfishness of a group of people who claim to be followers of Christ but are lovers of men rather than lovers of God. I write this article with a heavy heart because I have worked with those who said no. I weep for the family of God when a local body chooses comfortable and convenient over the transformation and deliverance of the lost souls of humanity. May our Lord never have to shed a tear over you or me!
Tracy Jaggers is the Associational Director of Missions of Gateway Baptist Association, Edwardsville, Illinois. He has held the Senior Pastor, Associate Pastor, Minister of Music, Youth Pastor and Minister of Education roles. He is a contributing author for the book entitled, Practical Tools for Reinventing the Dying Church. His website is: www.churchoverhauler.com
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When the Church Pushes Back Instead of Moving Forward: Everyone has a Part By Desmond Barrett Every pastor has had to face the problematic acknowledgment that they can no longer inspire the people to move from their seat to the street to serve others. For many pastors, this is when they send out their resume as they realize that their calling to the church is over. But is it? Research shows that the spiritual and physical growth of the church happens in years five through seven. Yet the average pastor stays half of that. What would happen in God’s church if the people and the pastor decided to work together to achieve God’s glory for the local church? A church revitalizer must understand the value of long-term strategic-progress. The fact that the church requires revitalization means that it needs a leader who stays and not strays from the calling in the hard places of ministry. I get it; no one wants to serve in the hard positions of ministry. Like any revitalizer, I want the site where I help to be a Christian utopia. Where there are no complaints, the offering plate filled weekly, families with children are everywhere. The reality for the undersized struggling church is that the hard place is the right place for a revitalizer ministry.
In my devotions, I read in Exodus (Exodus 35:4-9) that challenged my spirit and reminded me that God calls and equips all of us for the place where we serve. Moses would go on to face some challenging people in serving God, and I bet where you are, you have met some similar obstacles in the path to helping revitalize the local church. But don’t give in to the temptation that if you find the right people in the proper town, you will be happy. When the church pushes back on a revitalizer’s leadership instead of moving forward on their own, the revitalizer needs to pare down his ambitions. Moses learned that he could not lead alone. He was called by God to build the tabernacle (the Church), but the materials and human resources would have to come from the people he served. In a revitalization assignment, the leader is called to serve with, not against, the people. The revitalizer has to provide vision, encouragement, and help in sharing and showing the people’s gifts.
The church is for everyone, and there are four ‘everyone’ principles that the leader should be encouraging. 1. Everyone has a heart to serve. Through prayer (Exodus 35:2021), Moses realized that each person had a part to play in developing a heart of service for the kingdom. A revitalizer who is going to help change the culture must tap into the spiritual power only found in plugging the people into prayer. Prayer cannot be an afterthought in service, but there needs to be dedicated prayer times and services to help break the yoke of bondage that some may carry into the tabernacle to become free to serve God with a sanctified heart.
4. Everyone is called to give freely. Everything done in a revitalizing effort is for God’s glory, not the revitalizers. Moses did not take credit for how the people received the message and responded. God used the faithfulness of the people to meet the need (Exodus 36:6-7). The church’s needs can be achieved by the church when the people fully surrender to the call God has on the lives that make up the church. Churches are unique and should be viewed as such. The revitalizer cannot do what has always been done in the past. He has to do what God wants to be done in the current location. The location is not there by accident but a divine opportunity to freely give oneself to the savior.
“ A revitalizer who is going to help change the culture must tap into the spiritual power only found in plugging the people into prayer ”
2. Everyone has an ability to help. Moses realized he could not build the tabernacle on his own. A revitalizer must recognize that he cannot reestablish the church with hard work and effort alone. It takes a team to transform a dying work to live. Like Moses, revitalizers are called to encourage, share, and expose their people to God’s talents. Even those who say, “I am physically unable to help” can provide prayer and financial resources in reestablishing the church. 3. Everyone gives God glory through what they have. Revitalizers must pause and view the church with fresh eyes and ask God what gifts he placed in the people to help revitalize the church? The revitalizer cannot do it on his own, but with God, all things are possible. Moses understood this principle, and we see (Exodus 35:4-19) he begins to call all gathered to give what God has commanded them. He did not demand it; he leads them to a place where they had to answer God’s call on their life.
Serving in an undersized struggling church is not easy. Serving as a revitalizer in a church that is holding fast to the past, is even harder. With the four ‘everyone’ principles, the revitalizer can realize that God has already provided a plan in scripture to help sow into hard soil; no reinvention needed. As Moses was faithful to the call, a revitalizer must hold fast to the call, location, and people he has been directed to serve, and with God’s help, revitalization will come.
Desmond Barrett is lead pastor at Summit Church of the Nazarene in Ashland, Kentucky, and has done extensive research in the area of church revitalization. He is a church revitalizer, consultant, coach, and mentor to revitalizing pastors/ churches.
Walk—Don’t Run By Steve Sells On August 27th 1960, the Ventures performed the song “Walk - Don’t Run” on the ABC-TV program “Dick Clark’s Saturday Night Show.” The song lyrics obviously speak of a couple that had been in a loving relationship then one of them decided for some reason to “run” away and end the relationship. I analogously use the title of the song to depict what, I think, is happening in many churches today. There seems to be a culture of “running” away from churches that do not change easily rather than “walking” with the church slowly to bring the needed change. I remember early on in my ministry as a pastor when I ran into difficult situations and hard-headed people who refused to change in order for spiritual growth to occur, I was sorely tempted to “run” and never look back. Sad to say I gave into that temptation one time, but I learned quickly that if God had placed me in that church setting, no matter how difficult, he expected me to stay and lead, not “run” and seek greener pastures. I needed to learn to “walk” with the difficult church and difficult people and not “run.” How can a pastor learn to “walk” with a church that has an aversion for change rather that “run” from the status quo? First, the pastor must understand why change in the church disrupts the work of the church? The fact is everyone has an aversion to change. Nobody is in love with change and everyone fights against change at one level or another, but it is inevitable that change must occur for growth to take place. Change brings uncertainty to the minds of people and that uncertainty makes them uncomfortable. The way many deal with it is to immediately reject any and all change. Furthermore, many fear change because they think they might lose whatever is associated with that change. A good example is when change takes place in the church some power or position of authority may be lost. People who have been in control (patriarch or matriarch) will always reject change because it threatens their long held position of authority and power. Second, it is important for the pastor to know when the change is necessary. In other words, you don’t change things on an impulse. You make changes when the pain of staying in the current state outweighs the cost of changing. This means you deal with one change at a time and never get in a hurry.
Third, the pastor must gain the trust of the congregation. That means that you cannot really begin to bring about change until you have solidified your role as the pastor. You gain trust by living the kind of commitment and lifestyle that you desire the congregation to live. The more the congregation trusts you as their pastor the easier it will be to bring much needed change. This may take a while. The ability of a congregation to trust the pastor can often be tainted by a previous pastor who broke the line of trust and caused problems in the congregation. Give the people time to learn to trust you as a leader. Fourth, even though the change may not be presently possible the pastor should be preparing for it when it does become possible. Some questions must be answered by the pastor as preparation is made for the change. Why do we need this change? Who will it impact? What will be the likely benefits if the change happens? What will it cost us in dollars and possible fallout of members? What do I do if nothing changes? What problems will I face as we seek to make the change? These are only a few questions that the pastor needs to have answers for before he goes public with his challenge to the congregation to make the change. Fifth, the pastor must be prepared to lead through the change. Change always fails when pastors are not visible throughout the change process and consistently encouraging the congregation to accept and incorporate the
change into church life. It takes a special kind of leader to initiate and follow through with the change. There is a special kind of stick-to-itiveness that is necessary. Don’t ask people to make any changes in the church that you are not willing to stick around and insure a measure of success. The most important element in bringing change to the local church rests in its leadership. Some pastors begin to deal with changes before the congregation is ever asked to become involved. The pastor must effectively communicate the reason for the change, how the change will impact the work of the church, and how people can become a part of making that change. Sixth, the reason for the change must be deeply rooted in the church’s mission and core values. The congregation must come to understand that the change coincides with the entire purpose of their church and without the change the church will fail in its God given objectives. This matters to most people, however, there are those who will still reject the change because they have no desire to be spiritually motivated. Seventh, the pastor must learn the fleeting art of being patient. Sometimes past failed efforts of initiating change make the leader as well as the people reluctant to attempt change again. Regrettably, this will slow down the process of making change in the church and will add much more time to even initiate any such change. In circumstances such as these the pastor must be open and allow the peo-
ple to express their concerns while engaging them in cooperative thinking. There should be a time of relaxed and casual interaction with an effort to understand and ease resistance to the proposed change. All of these efforts should be bathed in prayer for healing, forgiveness, and renewal of past failures because of ineffective previous leadership. This will call for a special portion of humility on the part of the pastor. Some of the ideas of the leader may be changed, altered or excluded in the process and this calls for a real sense of humility, but the change will have a greater chance of being implemented. If a pastor makes a major change but then leaves after the church follows his leadership and makes the change, he has not been faithful in his leadership to the Lord or the church. To state it simply, remain steadfast. Stick with the plan. Don’t get discouraged and don’t get into a defeated mode. Personal prayer, reflection, and Bible reading are essential in the life of pastors and church leaders, and even more so during times of initiating change. If God leads you to a place of ministry and shows you the changes that need to be made in the future then plant your life there and stay there until God releases you. Changes the pastor makes will only last if the pastor has a lasting commitment to provide a loving and Christ like leadership. The fact is, change is hard, messy, painful, upsetting, and almost always shunned. The pastor/leader must develop a church culture of change in the congregation in order to prepare it for the future. With an all-inclusive approach, a prayerful and humble heart, change can happen and it can birth new life into any local congregation. So, pastor when you seek to lead a church to change… Walk Don’t Run!
Steve Sells is the president and CEO of Operation Transformation church revitalization ministry in Salisbury, North Carolina. Steve has served in ministry for 43 years in North Carolina and Georgia. Dr. Sells is the co-author of the book With Greater Power. He seeks to help churches of all sizes experience new health and growth.
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The Pastor’s Furniture By Joel Breidenbaugh There are few things I hate more in life than moving. I don’t mind helping someone else move and I’m too cheap to pay for people to pack our own things. The idea of emptying every drawer in my home and picking up every piece of furniture and hoping for a few family members and friends to stick around long enough to help causes me to shudder. I distinctly remember helping my parents move when I was 16. Lots of people pitched in on that Saturday but as the afternoon turned to evening, they started dropping like flies. But we had to be out of the old house so we kept working and making 10 minute trips between the houses. We finally called it quits around 4 am and that’s the only time I ever remember my Dad telling my brothers and me not to worry about getting up for church in a few hours because we needed the sleep. I’ve moved seven times as an adult as my wife and I moved from college to seminary and then to the church field. While I looked forward to the next adventure in ministry, I dreaded the process of moving. For me, once we got all the furniture in the new home, the most grueling part of the move was over. But a new house isn’t a home until everything has its own place and you begin to make some memories there. Putting furniture in its place may require a few moves around the room. If you are married to a woman like my wife, it may even mean moving some furniture from one room to another just to see what it looks like. When discussing ministry recently with a seasoned pastor, he likened the various roles of a pastor as centering around three pieces of furniture—the pulpit, the desk, and the couch. He’s right about that and I want to take some time to
flesh that out and discuss the value of each piece of furniture. It may mean you have to move the furniture around or no longer use it to collect papers or clothes! The Pulpit I’m convinced the most important piece of furniture for a pastor is the pulpit. I’m not arguing for a massive piece of wooden furniture for a simple stand can suffice. But at the sacred desk is where he delivers a word from God each week. The pastor can touch the most lives at any one time from the pulpit. He can encourage, inspire, motivate, challenge, rebuke, and lead his people from the Bible when he preaches. The wise, prepared pastor is always ready to “preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2). So why do some preachers place so little value on the pulpit (preaching)? Why do they put off their study and preparation until Saturday afternoon or early Sunday morning? I realize they may struggle to preach, but that shouldn’t stop them from doing their best to bring a fresh word from the Lord to the people He has entrusted to their care. Using the pulpit effectively will allow you to lead your church biblically and timely. You can insert any number of illustrations or applications for your church to carry out the biblical mandates. During the Protestant Reformation, one of the changes the Reformers made inside the church was to replace communion at the center of the sanctuary with the pulpit. In Roman Catholic life, the pulpit (and lectern) is placed at the sides of the room so the focus can be on the Eucharist. Of course, the
Lord’s Supper has meaning only because we have first heard from God’s Word. Thus, it was right to move the pulpit back to the middle. If it isn’t central to your ministry already, make sure the pulpit is in the right place—front and center. The Desk Although the pulpit with its task of preaching is the most important part of the pastorate (see Acts 6:2, 4), the pastor will usually spend most of his week at his desk. Now, to be sure, much sermon preparation happens at the desk but the desk symbolizes something other than preaching for it has to do with administration and leadership development. Whether you pastor a church with multiple staff members or are a solo pastor, you will have a good deal of administration and leadership development to do in order to engage others in the work of ministry (see Ephesians 4:11-12). The desk symbolizes all those places in ministry where your pastoral administration and leadership development are done—staff meetings, deacon/elder meetings, counseling, discipling, mentoring, meeting with members, and people from the community looking for partnership or assistance. Most pastors surrender to God’s call to the ministry because they sense the call to preach and speak from the pulpit. Few realize how valuable the desk is for their ministry until it’s too late. It’s best for you to fine tune the skills needed at your desk so you can help others do their part in the church and the kingdom. The Couch Even though many churches have a couch in their building, that’s not the couch in mind for the pastor. The couch represents meeting with people, usually in their homes to build relationships. Some pastors are naturals at this—they make friends and develop relationships with ease. Others have to work at it, either due to their introvert nature or because they have trouble connecting. But don’t underestimate the significance of the couch because pastors who fail to capitalize on relationships often find themselves looking for a new place of ministry. I spent my first 12 years of ministry in rural and small town settings. I loved visiting people in their homes and did it often. Not only would my wife and I get invited over to eat, but we’ve been invited back to those settings multiple times over the years. My last 12 years of ministry have been in a suburban setting at two different churches. While I have visited some people in their homes over these years, I have found very few people are willing to have me over for a visit. They may meet me at a restaurant or in my office. They may even come to my
home when we invite them over, but the invitation to me is rarely reciprocated. I don’t know if that’s because people in the suburban setting live busier lives with kids in sports. They don’t have time to clean their homes and they’re afraid what a guest might think. Or it may have something to do with my growing family the last several years. What used to be an invitation to my wife and me is now an invitation to a family of seven with four of those being teenagers! Thus, they may not want to try to be hospitable to so many of us. Even if building relationships in certain settings is harder, that doesn’t lessen the importance of doing so to maximize your influence in your ministry. Just because you spend the majority of your week at your desk and prepare for the pulpit, don’t overlook the value of the couch. Final Thoughts Most pastors are particularly strong in one area and get the most out of that piece of furniture. For me, I am strongest in preaching because that’s what the Lord has gifted me to do. A few pastors have mastered the use of two pieces of furniture. I’ve known pastors strong at administration and relationships. I’ve also known some who could preach extremely well and connect with people individually. While some pastors think they have all three pieces of furniture in the proper place with honed skills, the reality is we are all weaker in at least one area. I don’t know if I can think of someone who has it altogether with those three pieces of furniture. Take some time to strengthen that weaker area of your ministry to increase your impact. If the Lord allows me to live a normal life, I probably have at least two more moves in the future. Surely my wife and I will downsize in the next decade or so when we no longer have most of our children at home. I’m big on stewardship and I’ll have a hard time justifying a big home with a big pool with little use. I’ll probably also have to move the last few years of my life, either into an assisted living place or with one of my children. I’ll have gotten rid of most of my stuff by then, but I’ll still need a few pieces of furniture. While a pastor may move to different size churches throughout his ministry, he will always need to care for the pulpit, the desk, and the couch. May we do so for the glory of God and the good of His people. Joel Breidenbaugh PhD, is the Lead Pastor of Gospel Centered Church in Apopka, Florida and is an Assistant Professor of Homiletics for Liberty University John W. Rawlings School of Divinity.
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How to Share the Gospel in 5 Minutes or Less By Harry Fowler
A big key for a church to experience revitalization â€“ Develop a lostness mentality. And I have found that this does not come naturally. Over the years, I have attended several witness training workshops. There was the Four Spiritual Laws developed by Bill Bright, leader of Campus Crusade; there was Evangelism Explosion developed by Dr. D. James Kennedy; and there was Faith Training developed by Southern Baptists. As pastor, I used all of these and each was quite successful. However, I found that each one had their strengths and weaknesses. Lay people would get all excited and pumped up to share their faith, but the enthusiasm did not last long. Over the years I said to myself, there must be a way to share the gospel that is simple and effective.
So, I developed the Salvation Bookmark. I wanted a tool that is effective, easy to use, and one that you can leave with the person. In many cases, a bookmark can be distributed anywhere. In one year, I have distributed over 100,000 in a variety of places. Jails, prisons, funeral homes, doctorâ€™s offices, restaurants, schools, colleges, churches, homeless shelters, thrift stores, ministries, childrenâ€™s homes, and public places just to name a few places.
Over the years I have led many camps, retreats, and mission trips. It always seemed to be my responsibility to share the Gospel to follow up with those accepting Jesus. I developed a page with verses and art. As the years passed, I felt a need to develop a simple card that could be used easily. The result was this card as shown in this article.
The following three passages plainly give us our evangelistic orders.
I have found most church members do not like to witness and it does not come naturally. They are afraid they will be asked a question that they do not know the answer. They are afraid of a memorized spiel and they will forget somewhere in their presentation.
Acts 1:8 (KJV) But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
While most pastors may have a heart for evangelism, it is hard to teach laypeople that evangelism is their responsibility. I have always heard that evangelism is more CAUGHT than TAUGHT.
Matthew 28:19 (KJV) Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost;
Matthew 9:37-38 (KJV) 37 Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; 38 Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.
9. Admit that we are sinners. 10. Ask Jesus to come into our heart and forgive us. 11. Find a church to grow in our faith. 12. Love, grow, serve.
Reaching people for Jesus has always been a real interest of mine. When I was born, my grandmother and grandfather took me home from the hospital. My mother was an alcoholic and unable to care for me. My dad was in service. WWII was going on. I never saw my dad until I was 20. Mama kept in contact with me as she would visit and check on me. My aunt and uncle lived in the house I lived in. A family next door had three children about my age. My church and teachers took a special interest in me. I did not realize I was different. I realized God’s calling on my life into the ministry at 15. Beth and I married at age 19. I yielded to the ministry call at age 22 and started college. My first desire as a minister was to share Jesus with my Mama.
Practical and Effective Ways to Use the Bookmark 1. Several times I distributed the bookmarks in a worship service and built my sermon around it. I always give the invitation to accept Jesus as your Savior. 2. In my church, Englewood Baptist Church, we have a weekday school for ages one through five. Bookmarks are distributed to all families. 3. At EBC, when children accept Jesus as their Savior, they must attend a new Christian orientation. Bookmarks are given to each child. 4. At EBC, bookmarks are given to all children attending the Upward Basketball program. 5. At EBC, bookmarks are randomly distributed. 6. Bookmarks are distributed at large church gatherings and events. 7. Bookmarks are given out community door to door blitz.
Mama and my third stepfather lived in Denver, CO. Beth and I decided to visit them. My only purpose in going was to share Jesus with her. On the last day of my visit, we were sitting on the coach. I will never forget that day. I looked at her and said Mama, I want to tell you how Jesus came into my life. I shared how Jesus had died for my sins, I believed that He was God’s Son, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. I asked her if she would like to be saved. I never will forget her response. Son, do you think god would forgive me? I said Mama, sure He will. I looked over to my stepfather and he said that he wanted to be saved too. They both prayed with me that Jesus would save them. What a day that was! A few months later they came to visit us in North Carolina, and my mama and my stepfather were the very first two people I baptized as a gospel minister. I have shared this experience in many revivals and sermons over the years. I developed a love for sharing the gospel with everyone. Throughout my ministry I have baptized many people and especially older people. From my background and my love for witnessing, I developed the Salvation Bookmark. The Bookmark is Simple and to the Point 1. God loves us and wants to save everyone. 2. All have sinned. 3. The wages of sin is death. 4. Jesus died for our sins. 5. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shall be saved. 6. Believe that Jesus is God’s Son. 7. Believe that Jesus died on the Cross to save us. 8. Believe that Jesus rose from the dead.
Good Points of the Bookmark 1. You do not have to memorize a long presentation. 2. You can leave the bookmark to whomever you are talking with. They can read it later if time would be more convenient. 3. You can put them in stores and people would pick up one who you would never get to talk with. There are two recordings that are less than five minutes long that are free. Please pass them along and use them in your ministry. Facebook/Harry Fowler YouTube/HarryFowler Bookmark Ministry firstname.lastname@example.org harryfowlerresources.com
Harry Fowler has been a Southern Baptist minister for 55 years. He earned his BS from East Carolina University, an MDIV from Southeastern Baptist Seminary, and a DMIN from Fuller Seminary. He founded Youth on Missions, was a church planter, pastor, and interim pastor, and has authored four books and taught church growth conferences in numerous states.
Are You Sent … Or Are You Invited? By Rob Myers They say that Pele of Brazil was the greatest soccer player to ever live. He had several tricks that he often used and no matter how well prepared the offensive was, they always fell for the move. As a young missionary kid (American) playing soccer, or as the rest of the world calls it “futbol,” my coach from England demonstrated the move, to our Bahamian High School team. Here’s the first part of Pele’s trick. He would dribble the ball with speed directly at the opposing player, then in one smooth move, he would kick the ball forward on the right side of the player and run around the left side of the player to meet up smoothly with the ball on the other side without breaking stride. Mr. Kelty, our Coach, called me out and had me try it on him. To my chagrin, he quickly stole the ball from me while the other players laughed at my “American” skills. The next player then tried and failed, and the next, and the next, until he had worked his way to the rather cocky best player on the team; who by this time was rolling in laughter on the ground. He then proceeded to steal the ball from him as well. After we had failed as a team, Mr. Kelty showed us the secret to the “move,” which if done right could not be stopped even if you knew the secret. Step one: approach the opposing player fast and direct on; Step two: right as you get in front of the other player, without stopping, you kick either to the right or the left of the player, and as we learned earlier, you run to the other side of the player to meet the balls path, BUT, as you pass the player on the opposite side, you must roughly brush the opposite side of the player as you pass him. This sets up a psychological confusion within the person. The opponent’s eyes are following the ball to the one side but their mind then hesitates while your body brushes by the other side. For just a split second the person hesitates torn between the optical stimulation and the brushing body contact going the other way. By being able to go to either side (another element which added tension), I could now pass Mr. Kelty, even though he knew what I was doing! We drilled this until it was second nature. Our opponents knew what was happening but could not deny their inner human tendencies to fall for the trick. That year our team won the Island Championship! Hold onto this thought… In this magazine we are talking about what to do, other than quit, when you come into a pastorate where you are trying to revitalize a group of people in your church (and sometimes the majority) who don’t want to be revitalized. In this
situation, there are two kinds of stimulation occurring and it has to do with the frozen chosen’s view of pastoral calling and Jesus’ view of calling. How were you called to the church you were serving? Most of us interviewed, then prayed to God and determined that this church is where God wants us to be. We rightly accept God’s Call, but the people think you accepted their invitation. Think about the consequences of this line of reasoning. If you accept their invitation you are theirs. I was studying the other day in the book of Mark, chapter 6:6-13. As you examine this passage, which I recommend, you will see that it is about training the disciples to do the ministry they would do for the rest of their lives. The idea of a community invitation is far from the mind of Christ. Communities don’t invite you to do your ministry, God Almighty sends. The pastor does not get his orders from the church council, deacon board, or board of elders. The Disciple/Pastor gets his orders from God! The folks in the flock need to understand this. This is not a dictatorship, or tyranny; but it is a prayerful Theocracy. Well what’s the trick move? The phase one move is to bring them all to prayer, which they will do because it is never wrong to pray. Then execute the move to the other side by doing a study on what the Bible teaches us about sending before the prayer meeting. Lastly, brush them with the Holy Spirit in the prayer about obeying God’s Word! Then shoot the Goooooaaaaaaalllllll! Chew on this little gem from God and be the sent one that God intended you to be. Tell them God did not wait for an invitation to die on the Cross, he did not wait for an invitation to send out his disciples, and we are not going to vote on whether or not to do the “Go” of the Great Commission. Rob Myers is the Pastor of Miami Baptist Church a turn around church located in the multi-lingual community in South Florida. Rob has been in ministry for more than 39 years. He has been in church planting and pastoral leadership for 36 of those years, which includes 15 years as the Senior Pastor of Miami Baptist Church. His is Adjunct Professor of Indiana Wesleyan University and President of Baptist World Charities. Rob has an earned Doctorate in Ministry Leadership from John Wesley University, a M.Div. from Southwestern Seminary and a B.A. From Palm Beach Atlantic University.
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In 2016, a young teenager named Lucas Hunt prayed for help to display Easter signs in his hometown of Asheboro, NC. Also, he prayed that these efforts would have a giant impact on the Kingdom. A few weeks later a board member at his church, Connie Frazier, sought the Lord’s direction concerning an Easter project for their congregation. Lucas and Connie were unaware of each other’s prayers and desires. Then, God spoke very clearly to Connie instructing her to design a Thank You Jesus yard sign that would be distributed nationwide. Thank You Jesus signs were embraced and the wave of gratitude took hold. Lucas’ prayers and vision, support from Lucas’ parents and Connie’s design and business background led to the creation of the Thank You Jesus signs. This project, with its roots in a small rural church, has turned into a 501(C)3 that receives royalties from the artwork to invest in sharing the Gospel. The investments include grants to spiritual non-profit organizations that seek to share God’s love and the many reasons why we Thank Jesus. Over 250,000 signs have been sold along with car magnets, gar den flags and bracelets. Hundreds of people have been led by the Lord to purchase and display the signs as a ministry of sharing God’s goodness through Jesus Christ. Become part of the Thank You Jesus movement as it spreads throughout the country!
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July/August 2020 Church Revitalizer Magazine